From Metropolis to Gold:
Portrait of a Goddess
by Peter Herzog & Gene Vazzana. Corvin Press.
Hardcover. 90pages. £12.95.
Brigitte Helm only recently departed from this life in June 1996
at the age of 88, making the number of surviving silent cinema stars even less than it
already is. I say this to emphasise the reason why we should amend, catalogue and record
their experiences before it is too late to accurately compile what is to many an important
part of film history.
Helm had retired from the screen in the mid-Thirties when Germany's reputable film
industry began to be dictated to by the Third Reich. Despite offers from Hollywood,
Brigitte steadfastly refused to leave her beloved Germany where her friends, family, and
her artistic reputation were established. After her last film EIN IDEALER GATTE (An Ideal
Husband) in 1935, Brigitte married a wealthy industrialist, gave birth to four sons, and
lived a life of luxury in both Germany and Switzerland, never once regretting her decision
to leave her film career behind.
During her ten year film career, Brigitte
Helm appeared in 37 films, her first as Maria in Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926). Several accounts exist as to why Fritz Lang chose
her for the part, but it isn't hard to imagine Lang's attraction to this 17 year-old
beauty and her classic Greek profile. Soon after UFA. studios created several roles for
her as a voracious vamp, including her role as the demonic Alraune (1928) alongside Paul
Wegener, a role that she reprised during 1930
in sound with Albert Basserman. She continued as similar characters for THE YACHT OF SEVEN
SINS, THE WONDERFUL LIES OF NINA PETROVNA and went to Paris to star in Marcel l'Herbier's
L'ARGENT (1928). It was only when the silent era was at an end that these types of roles
Included within Herzog &
Vazzana's tribute to Brigitte are transcripts from two brief interviews the actress
granted near the end of her career, together with her filmography and an unnecessary
transcription of the restored, but mutilated Giorio Moroder version of Metropolis. Worthy of the price tag alone however,
is the generous collection of stills reproduced here in fine detail and an inside cover
that parades 36 portrait stills of this attractive woman.
From Metropolis to Gold was
printed in 1994 and is as far as I know the only book length study of Brigitte Helm which
ironically only came to my attention just a few weeks after learning of her death. A
timely release indeed, but I would have snapped this one up straight from the off anyway.
Brigitte Helm Filmography
Available in the US click