bad girl look-alikes: Mata Hari

Mata Hari

The idea of an exotic dancer working as a lethal double agent, using her powers of seduction to extract military secrets from her many lovers, and then executed was bound to fire the popular imagination. The legend was set in concrete and Mata Hari has became an enduring archetype of the femme fatale with the release of the Greta Garbo movie in 1931.

Mata Hari was the stage name of Margaretha Geertruida ‘Grietje’ Zelle MacLeod (1876–1917), a Dutch exotic dancer, courtesan, and accused spy who, although possibly innocent, was executed by firing squad in France for espionage for Germany during World War I.

At eighteen she married an older Dutch army officer and accompanied him to Indonesia where faced with an unhappy marriage to a vilent and unfaithful husband she joined a local dance company and took the stage name Mata Hari.

In 1902 she returned from Indonesia , separated froim her husband and moved to Paris where she became a circus performer and artists’ model. By 1905 she was an exotic dancer, the mistress of a millionaire industrial and posing as an Indonesian princess of priestly Hindu birth who had been immersed in the art of sacred Indian dance since childhood. Her act culminated in a striptease revealing a jewelled bra; she seldom exposed her breasts and probably wore a body stocking during her act. She had relationships with many high ranking officers and influential politians, including the German Crown Prince.

In January 1917, the German military attaché in Madrid transmitted radio messages to Berlin describing the helpful activities of a German spy, code-named H-21. The messages were intercepted by French intelligence agents who identified H-21 as Mata Hari from the information they contained Unusually, the messages were in a code that German intelligence knew had already been broken by the French. She was arrested in her room at a Paris hotel on 13 February and was charged with spying for Germany, and consequently causing the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers. She was found guilty and was executed by firing squad on 15 October 1917, at the age of foirty-one.

The case documents were sealed for 100 years but in 1985 the biographer Russell Warren Howe was granted access; he subsequently claimed that they revealed that Mata Hari was innocent of the charges.

The movies

Mata Hari (1983): Mata Hari (Sylvia Kristel) uses her contacts in European high society, along with her seductive charm, to collect military secrets during the war, successfully playing both sides against each other until her deceptions catch up with her. I don’t have the makeup credits.

Mata Hari (1981): If anyone can supply images from this Dutch mini-series featuring Josine van Dalsum as Mata Hari please email themakeupgallery.

Mata Hari, agent H21 (1964): Memorable for Jeanne Moreau’s performance as Mata Hari and François Truffaut’s script. I don’t have the makeup credits.

Mata Hari (1931): Mata Hari (Greta Garbo) is a German spy, with her eyes on a young up-and-coming officer. She spends the night with him to get at his secret documents but the secret police are only waiting to get enough evidence to arrest her. I don’t have the makeup credits.