Brigitte Helm


Actor
Brigitte Helm

About

Also Known As
Eva Gisela Schittenhelm
Birth Place
Berlin, DE
Born
March 17, 1906
Died
June 11, 1996

Biography

An alluringly beautiful German actress, Brigitte Helm made her best-remembered impression with her striking if sometimes overwrought debut performance as both the innocent heroine Maria and her scheming robot double in Fritz Lang's memorable, trailblazing science-fiction epic, "Metropolis" (1926). She would play many vamp and femme fatale roles over the next decade, her icy but sensuous ...

Photos & Videos

Family & Companions

Herbert von Kunheim
Husband
Industrialist. Married 1935; left Germany in 1942 to live in Italy; returned after WWII.

Biography

An alluringly beautiful German actress, Brigitte Helm made her best-remembered impression with her striking if sometimes overwrought debut performance as both the innocent heroine Maria and her scheming robot double in Fritz Lang's memorable, trailblazing science-fiction epic, "Metropolis" (1926). She would play many vamp and femme fatale roles over the next decade, her icy but sensuous quality helping making her one of Germany's most popular stars of the late silent and early sound years. Helm was the original choice for the role of cabaret singer Lola Lola in "The Blue Angel" (1930) even though her persona was not typically so earthy; when she turned Joseph von Sternberg down he subsequently turned to the more suitably cast Marlene Dietrich. Years later James Whale, recalling her Maria, considered her for the title role of his brilliant horror film, "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), but the more appropriate Elsa Lanchester finally played the part.

Helm's career, however, though not long, consisted of more than lost or rejected roles. She was an inexperienced, untrained actress when Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou discovered her, but her vivid impression in "Metropolis" certainly suggested potential. In the years that followed, Helm would develop as an actress, and her credits have historical interest for the many talented if unjustly forgotten directors with whom she worked: Marcel L'Herbier ("L'Argent" 1927), Richard Oswald ("Alraune" 1930), Gustav Ucicky ("Im Geheimdienst" 1931), and Arthur Robison ("Furst Woronzeff" 1934), among others. She made several films with one of the most important directors of the period, G.W. Pabst, the most memorable being "The Loves of Jeanne Ney" (1927), in which Helm, not in the title role, gave a creepy performance as a blind woman. One of her best performances came in a typical role as a restless, aristocratic mistress of a wealthy military officer who falls for a poor soldier in Hanns Schwarz's superb, poignant but unsung masterwork, "The Wonderful Lie of Nina Petrovna" (1929).

Helm continued making films in Germany until the mid-30s. She also made one British film (Herbert Wilcox's "The Blue Danube" 1932) and also worked in France; some of her credits are French-language versions of her German films, sometimes shot simultaneously with them. During the waning days of the Weimar Republic, Helm refused to leave Germany to accept offers from Hollywood but she ultimately became dismayed by Nazi policies regarding the film industry and the hasty departure of much of Germany's best talent. Her career slipping, Helm retired abruptly after marrying an industrialist, sat out the war quietly in Italy and for the next 60 years remained an intriguing and elusive figure, her refusal of interviews nurturing the aloof persona which had briefly entranced so many.

Life Events

1926

Debut as film actress in Lang's "Metropolis"

1927

First film with director G.W. Pabst, "The Loves of Jeanne Ney"

1932

Made one film in England, "The Blue Danube", directed by Herbert Wilcox

1935

Retired from acting when she married; last film, "Ein idealer Gatte"

1942

Left Germany and moved to Italy with her husband; later returned after WWII was over

Photo Collections

Metropolis - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from the original American release of Metrololis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang. Window Cards were 14x22 mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate information.
Brigitte Helm - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actress Brigitte Helm. These trading cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 30's and 40's and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.

Companions

Herbert von Kunheim
Husband
Industrialist. Married 1935; left Germany in 1942 to live in Italy; returned after WWII.

Bibliography