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Helpmann, Robert (1909-1986)

Actor, Choreographer

Main image of Helpmann, Robert (1909-1986)

Known primarily for his stage (and administrative) work in drama and ballet in Australia and Britain (from 1933), Robert Helpmann contributed to eleven British feature films between 1942 and 1972.

In every one he danced or acted melodramatic character roles: e.g., most famously in The Red Shoes (d. Powell and Pressburger, 1948), for which he was the choreographer; outrageously camp as the Dutchman in One of Our Aircraft is Missing (d. Powell and Pressburger, 1942), the villain's friend in Caravan (d. Arthur Crabtree, 1946) and Prince Tuan in 55 Days at Peking (US, d. Nicholas Ray, 1963); and the crooked clergyman in The Big Money (d. John Paddy Carstairs, 1958, made in 1956). Who but Helpmann could be cast as the Mad Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (d. William Sterling, 1972)?

In later years, he returned several times to film in Australia. He was made a CBE in 1964 and knighted in 1968.

Anne Bittner, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of ...One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)...One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)

Documentary-style WWII drama about an air crew stranded in Holland

Thumbnail image of Caravan (1946)Caravan (1946)

Flaming passions, treacherous gypsies and Stewart Granger

Thumbnail image of Henry V (1944)Henry V (1944)

Laurence Olivier turns Shakespeare into rousing propaganda

Thumbnail image of Quiller Memorandum, The (1966)Quiller Memorandum, The (1966)

Berlin-set spy thriller about a neo-Nazi gang, scripted by Harold Pinter

Thumbnail image of Red Shoes, The (1948)Red Shoes, The (1948)

Powell and Pressburger's beautiful and delirious ballet film

Thumbnail image of Tales of Hoffmann, The (1951)Tales of Hoffmann, The (1951)

Visually ravishing Powell & Pressburger film of the Offenbach opera

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