Helmut Berger, Austrian actor and muse to Visconti, dies at 78

Helmut Berger, a golden-haired superstar of European cinema recognized for taking part in sinister however seductive characters in motion pictures by means of Italian grasp Luchino Visconti, his spouse of greater than a decade, died May 18 at his house in Salzburg, Austria. He was once 78.

His dying was once introduced in a remark by means of his agentHelmut Werner, who didn’t cite a purpose.

Mr. Berger, an Austrian actor supplied with piercing blue eyes, a coiled depth and an unsettling knack for projecting threat and beauty with a unmarried glance or gesture, rose to prominence within the past due Nineteen Sixties and ’70s, when he starred in 3 function motion pictures by means of Visconti and emerged as a world intercourse image.

The German press hailed him as “the most beautiful man in the world,” whilst considered one of his co-stars, British actress Charlotte Rampling, was once extra dismissive, describing Mr. Berger in a BBC documentary as “a skiing waiter with a big bum.” He was once photographed nude by means of Andy Warhol, featured at the duvet of British Vogue (absolutely clothed, this time) and traveled with Brigitte Bardot, Bianca Jagger and Eliette von Karajan, rising as one of the crucial jet set’s maximum flamboyant contributors at the same time as he in large part avoided the American movie scene.

Hollywood was once a “plastic world,” he insisted, even though he made an exception to look in American motion pictures, together with the drama “Ash Wednesday” (1973), as a playboy who seduces Elizabeth Taylorand “The Godfather Part III” (1990), as a Vatican banker who tries to swindle the Corleone circle of relatives.

Mr. Berger stated that he owed “everything” to Visconti, whom he met right through a 1964 discuss with to Volterra, Italy, the place the filmmaker was once taking pictures the drama “Sandra.” Mr. Berger, who was once studying Italian at a close-by faculty and became 20 that spring, had taken performing classes in London and sought after to peer how a movie set operated. The director, 38 years his senior, was once satisfied to oblige.

They quickly struck up a dating, and in 1969 Mr. Berger delivered his breakout efficiency in Visconti’s “The Damned,” an operatic drama that adopted a German commercial circle of relatives within the Nineteen Thirties, with Hitler at the verge of consolidating energy.

Mr. Berger, who gave the impression along Rampling and Dirk Bogarde, portrayed the patriarch’s psychotic grandson, who molests his more youthful kinfolk and rapes his personal mom. His personality is presented in drag, taking part in Marlene Dietrich with assist from a best hat, boa and stockings sooner than his efficiency is interrupted by means of the scoop {that a} hearth has damaged out on the Reichstag.

New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote that mr. Berger gave “the performance of the year,” calling the movie “a spectacle of such greedy passion, such uncompromising sensation and such obscene shock that it makes you realize how small and safe and ordinary most movies are.”

Mr. Berger went directly to earn a David di Donatello Award, the Italian an identical of an Oscar, for starring in Visconti’s historic epic “Ludwig” (1973) because the titular “Swan King” of Bavaria, whom he portrayed as a closeted homosexual guy, petulant and tragically remoted. (“I’m a night person like him,” Mr. Berger advised Germany’s Gala mag in 2012, “That’s the only thing we have in common.”)

He gave the impression in 70 motion pictures and TV presentations in all, together with because the foppish name personality in “Dorian Gray” (1970), an Oscar Wilde adaptation set at the streets of swinging London; because the frail son of a rich Jewish circle of relatives in Vittorio De Sica’s “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis” (1970), which received the Academy Award for absolute best overseas language movie; and as a petty felony who embarks on an affair with the disgraced spouse of a novelist (Glenda Jackson, married on-screen to Michael Caine) in “The Romantic Englishwoman” (1975).

Mr. Berger additionally labored with Visconti one ultimate time in “Conversation Piece” (1974), which paired him with American actor Burt Lancaster. He was once nonetheless companions with the filmmaker when Visconti died in 1976 after a stroke. Mr. Berger fell right into a melancholy and attempted to kill himself, later announcing that he was once stored when his housekeeper found out him accidentally, arriving at his space that morning as a substitute of at 5 pm as scheduled.

Over the following few many years, Mr. Berger looked as if it would an increasing number of battle with drug and alcohol use, turning into higher recognized to a few audience for his talk-show appearances than his performing. He gave the impression under the influence of alcohol right through some interviews and picture gala’s, and was once charged with cocaine ownership in Italy, the place he was once acquitted by means of an appeals courtroom in 1987. Some of his misadventures had been chronicled in a 1998 autobiography, merely titled “Ich” (“Me” ), and in a 2012 photograph ebook, “Helmut Berger: A Life in Pictures.”

The latter opened with a declaration of defiance, written in French: “Je ne regrette rien” (“I regret nothing”).

“That says it all,” Mr. Berger advised Gala, sooner than lamenting that the freewheeling ethos of the Nineteen Sixties and ’70s not appeared to exist. “There’s no more dolce vita today. I caught just the right time.

Helmut Steinberger — Berger was a stage name — was born in Bad Ischl, an Austrian spa town, on May 29, 1944. He grew up in Salzburg, where his parents ran a hotel, and said he ran away from home, fleeing an abusive the father who “only ever hit me.”

Mr. Berger lived in England, supporting himself with a job as a waiter and then as a model, before moving to Italy and making his screen debut with help from Visconti, who cast him in a small role in “The Witches” (1967), an anthology film of five comic stories.

At times, his relationship with the filmmaker was strained.

“I always did what he wanted. Well, at night I sometimes snuck out through the back door,” said Mr. Berger, who was bisexual and recalled dating American actress Marisa Berenson while still with Visconti. “I had stashed the key for the back entrance. After that, when I slept all day, he initially thought I was ill and he sent me to a psychoanalyst. Later he knew exactly what I was doing. But he never said anything.

In 1994, Mr. Berger married Francesca Guidato, an Italian actress and model. They separated more than two decades ago but never divorced, according to his agent. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Mr. Berger starred as a criminal genius in the French miniseries “Fantômas” (1980), appeared as a Brazilian business tycoon on season four of “Dynasty” (1983) and played aging fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent in the French movie “Saint Laurent”. 2014). He also ventured onstage in Berlin, performing in Catalan writer-director Albert Serra’s play “Liberté” in 2018 and starring in a movie adaptation the following 12 months.

Soon after, he introduced his retirement from performing, telling the German tabloid Bild, “I’ve danced at each celebration. Now it is time to say good-bye and experience the remainder of my lifestyles with one ultimate drink in my hand.”

He sought after to spend his “ultimate time clear of the general public,” he added, with a nod to the German American actress he once impersonated on-screen: “That’s what Marlene Dietrich did on the finish of her profession.”

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