Sr Robert Helpmann

Sr Robert Helpmann

Birth
Mount Gambier, Mount Gambier City, South Australia, Australia
Death 28 Sep 1986 (aged 77)
New South Wales, Australia
Burial Cremated, Ashes scattered, Specifically: Said to be in Melbourne, Australia
Memorial ID 16960086 · View Source
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Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer. Born Robert Murray Helpmann in Mount Gambier, South Australia, to James Murray & Mary Gardiner Helpmann. Robert was known as "Bobby" by those close to him. Robert was educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, but left school at 14. His Mother was the driving force behind his career. He was taught ballet by Nora Stewart, he first appeared on stage at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, in 1922 as a solo dancer in The Ugly Duckling. As a student he toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926 with Anna Pavlova’s company. His professional career began in 1927 when he joined J. C. Williamson Ltd as the principal dancer in Frasquita for its Australasian tour. The highpoint of Robert's career as a dancer was the Sadler's Wells Ballet tour of the United States in 1949, with Fonteyn and Helpmann dancing the leading roles in The Sleeping Beauty. The production caused a sensation. Although Robert was past his best as a dancer, the tour opened doors for him in the United States as an actor and director. In the 1950s Robert concentrated increasingly on directing for the dramatic stage and opera. His output at the Old Vic was prolific, and included T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral in 1953, and a succession of Shakespearean plays: The Tempest in 1954, As You Like It in 1955, Romeo and Juliet in 1956 and Antony and Cleopatra in 1957. At the same time he maintained a demanding acting schedule: roles included the Egyptian doctor opposite Katharine Hepburn in G. B. Shaw’s The Millionairess in 1952, the Devil in Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale in 1954, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1954 and, for the 1956 and 1957 season at the Old Vic, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Launce in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Saturninus in Titus Andronicus, Dr Pinch in The Comedy of Errors and Richard, duke of Gloucester, in Richard III. After a long absence Robert returned to Australia in 1955 to lead, with Katharine Hepburn, a Shakespearean company sent out by the Old Vic company with a repertoire of three plays. He performed the roles of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew and Angelo in Measure for Measure. Back in Australia three years later, he toured in (Sir) Noël Coward’s Nude with Violin, and also danced with his old ballet company (renamed The Royal Ballet) in The Rake’s Progress, Coppélia, Façade and Hamlet. In 1962 he performed again for Australian audiences in another Old Vic company, this time headed by Vivien Leigh, and played the role of Prince Tuan in the film 55 Days at Peking. In 1938, Helpmann met a young Oxford undergraduate while fulfilling an invitation to dance at the university. He was immediately drawn to the handsome and intelligent Michael Benthall, and the pair formed a relationship that was to last for 36 years until Benthall's death in 1974. In 1953 he received a Queen Elizabeth II coronation award, In 1954 he was appointed to the Royal Order of the Polar Star (Sweden) and in 1957 made a knight of the cedar (Lebanon). He was appointed CBE in 1964 and knighted in 1968, he was named Australian of the Year for 1965. He died at the age of 77 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He was cremated after a state funeral in St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral.

Bio by: Shock


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  • Created by: Medora
  • Added: 8 Dec 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 16960086
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Sr Robert Helpmann (9 Apr 1909–28 Sep 1986), Find A Grave Memorial no. 16960086, ; Maintained by Medora (contributor 46589192) Cremated, Ashes scattered, who reports a Said to be in Melbourne, Australia.