Brigitte Helm Poster


Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trivia (24)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 17 March 1906Berlin, Germany
Date of Death 11 June 1996Ascona, Switzerland
Birth NameBrigitte Eva Gisela Schittenhelm

Mini Bio (1)

After her role in Metropolis (1927) she made a string of movies in which she almost always had the starring role, easily making the transition to sound films. Her last film was Ein idealer Gatte (1935) (An Ideal Spouse) in 1935.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dave Steup <orfila@aol.com>

Spouse (2)

Hugo Eduard Kunheim (April 1935 - 1986) (his death) (4 children)
Rudolf Weissbach (1928 - 1934) (divorced)

Trivia (24)

She was Josef von Sternberg's original choice for the starring role of The Blue Angel (1930), which went to Marlene Dietrich.
By the time she died in 1996 she had been long forgotten, unlike her Jazz Age rival Marlene Dietrich.
Supposedly director James Whale's first choice for his The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). She refused to come to America.
Due to the coming of sound films and her disgust with Adolf Hitler's takeover of the German film industry, she retired to Switzerland in 1935 and never made another film. She lived out the rest of her life in quiet solitude, repeatedly refusing to talk about her film career anywhere at any time.
Only German actress to date mentioned in the "In Memoriam" section during the telecast of The 69th Annual Academy Awards (1997).
Daughter of a Prussian army officer. She had an ambivalent attitude towards acting on screen and was somewhat coerced into an audition, after her mother sent photographs of her to Fritz Lang's wife, screenwriter Thea von Harbou. Though Metropolis (1927) made her a star, she did not enjoy the experience of working under Lang and afterward refused to make another film with him. Helm was subsequently typecast as vamps and icy femmes fatale, an image cemented by A Daughter of Destiny (1928). Her career went into decline after the coming of sound.
Helm incurred the wrath of Nazi Germany for "race defilement" in marrying her second husband Dr. Hugo Kunheim, an industrialist of Jewish background.
She gained her acting experience in school productions, but never thought of pursuing a theatrical training. After her Abitur (the final school exams), she wanted to be an astronomer, and was clearly serious about everything modern.
She didn't have the glamour of Dietrich or the divine aspects of Garbo, but Brigitte Helm was none the less one of the cinema's immortal icons. She was the virginal Maria and the hypersexed robot Maria in Fritz Lang's monstrous Metropolis (1926), one of the great classics of German silent films.
The course into the film business wasn't proceeded by herself, it was her mother who pressed ahead with her daughter's career.
At the height of her success, she told one critic that her whole film career was a matter of indifference to her and that she would much rather be a housewife: to cook, bring up her children and look after her husband.
When Fritz Lang shoot the film "Die Nibelungen", Brigitte Helm's mother had written to Thea von Harbou, in which she suggested to her, how talented her daughter would be. Such letters arrived the film makers at thousands and normally landed in the wastebasket. But a picture of Brigitte Helm, which was enclosed to the letter, triggered Thea von Harbou. Brigitte Helm didn't know anything of this and one day she stood quite unexpected in the film studio where she should play something to Fritz Lang.
Her mimicry and gestures were much affected by Expressionism: as the saintly Maria she makes wide eyes, clasps her hands to her breast and puckers up her mouth for a chaste kiss. As Maria the robot she is only a sexual body and object of desire, the personification of sin, a "witch" of lust and an erotic mad image of the night.
UFA wanted to typecast her as a man-eating vamp: she twice had to play "Alraune", the legendary woman born of the seed of a murderer artificially placed in the womb a whore, who drives men to their deaths. By 1929 she had already attempted to refuse all vamp roles. She took UFA to court and lost; the trial cost her a fortune and after that she acted mostly in order to pay off her debts.
Brigitte Helm signed a ten-year contract with the UfA and acted nearly exclusive in leading roles.
She had planned to marry and didn't want to play in films moreover. In 35 she got married with the industrial Hugo Kunheim with whom she lived dissociated in Swiss Ascona till her death.
In the 1960s film historians began researching into her life. A British journalist got as far as her house in Ascona but she wouldn't let him in.
Although she was established as a movie star long ago she didn't renew her contract with Ufa which was expiring in 35. After a conversation with the chief of production Ernst Hugo Corell, who tried to bring her round, she kept her decision. Perhaps an other reason for her decision was the negative press reports which went round because of several traffic accidents she caused and as a result of it a short prison sentence.
With the transition to the sound film she was able to continue her film career successfully, in addition she also played in France and England, where she appeared among others in foreign versions of her German movies.
Her son told a film historian categorically when the latter asked to talk with Brigitte Helm about her films, "If I arrange that, she will disinherit me." She was done with cinema, once and for all.
According to Otto Dietrich's book The Hitler I Knew, Adolf Hitler himself saw that manslaughter charges against her from an automobile accident were dropped.
She married the industrialist Hugo Kuenheim and had four sons from this marriage.
She received a German journalist at the end of the 1980s only on the condition that the conversation was entirely about fashion and the fashion designer Werner Mahrenholz who had emigrated to England.
It is true that Birgitte Helm wasn't engaged for "Die Nibelungen", but the course was set for her first film appearance in "Metropolis". This film was constituted simultaneously the climax of her career and became a worldwide success. In it she played a double role whose persons didn't differ physically, therefore a differentiated performance was demanded which could characterize the good Maria and the evil Maria.

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