Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Helpmann

Robert Helpmann.

I know a little bit about him.

He's gay.

He's some kind of performer. Maybe he's a dancer? Ballet, perhaps?

He was featured in that movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I don't think I've ever seen the whole movie. I remember my family watching it when I was a child. I think I popped in every so often and saw bits and pieces. I have vague memories of a creepy scene with an adult getting attacked by children. Was that Helpmann?

Now I shall go talk to Lord Wiki....

He says that baby Robert was born on 9 April 1909. That's three 9's in his birthday. Numerology speaking, that could mean something.

I guess Helpmann would have the same astrology sign as Nicola Roxon. They're both Aries.

What's his numerology number?

The birthday website says it is 5.  Five is about freedom.

Helpmann was actually a believer in numerology. No wait. I read it wrong. His friend was a believer in it. She convinced Helpmann to change his name from Helpman to Helpmann so he'd avoid having thirteen letters in his name. But I guess he had to believe in it a little. Right? Otherwise, he would have told her to get lost.

Oh! Guess who the friend was. Anna Pavlova. Her name brought Australians one of their most famous desserts.

Cool. I love this trivia.

Helpmann was born in Mount Gambier, South Australia. Someone who used to read my blog lives there. He hasn't been around for a long time. I seem to lose readers....or at least commenters. I hope it's because they've become busy and/or found new hobbies. I hope I haven't scared people away. I hope I'm not hated as much as Sandilands.

Mountt Gambier is five hours south of Adelaide. It's also about five hours from Melbourne. It's kind of inbetween both places.

Lord Wiki says Mount Gambier has this place called Blue Lake. The water in the lake actually changes colors. In winter, it's grey. In summer, it turns cobalt blue. Awesome! It looks really beautiful.

Helpmann went to boarding school in Adelaide...Prince Alfred College. Nick Xenophon went there too.

From early on in childhood, Helpmann wanted to be a dancer. Lord Wiki says this was in the 1920's and his desire was seen as unusual. Oh give me a break. It still has a stigma attached to it. Jack took ballet lessons when he was five. He was the only boy in the class.

I fortunately don't remember him getting any nasty comments though. Still, it's not common or readily accepted for boys to do ballet.

Helpmann took dance classes, but was taught to do female dance moves. His teacher had no experience with male dance moves.

Helpmann had a younger sister and a younger brother.

He liked dressing up in his mom's clothes.

He didn't like school.

His parents were supportive. Good!

In 1926, Helpmann joined Pavlova's dancing company. I guess he'd be about seventeen then. His dad had met Pavlova when he was on a business trip in Melbourne. I guess he helped his son get together with her.

So far, his parents seem really cool....very supportive. I might be missing part of the story though.

Lord Wiki says there wasn't much dance opportunity in Australia, so in 1933 Helpmann went to London. He joined the Royal Ballet, and did that until 1950.

In 1949, the Royal Ballet toured the United States. Helpmann had one of the the lead roles in Sleeping Beauty. I guess he did a great job with that. Lord Wiki says it was one of the highlights of his career.

In the 1940's, Helpmann started to do less dancing. I guess maybe he was getting too old for it. He started doing other stuff such as producing and acting.

He performed in Hamlet...as Hamlet.

He also started doing movies.

He appeared in a movie called The Red Shoes.

Here's a clip from the movie. I'm not sure if it includes Helpmann.

Lord Wiki says it's about a woman who can't stop dancing. That sounds like an interesting premise.

In 1951, Helpmann was in a movie called The Tales of Hoffman. It's a film based on an opera.

In 1973, Helpmann starred in Don Quixote. He'd be about sixty-four then.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came out in 1968. Roald Dahl helped write the screenplay. I didn't know that. The original story was written by the guy who wrote James Bond...Ian Fleming. His book didn't include Helpmann's character. Dahl created that.

This character, the Child Catcher, has received a lot of acclaim. Empire Magazine listed it as one of the scariest characters in film. I used to love Empire! On some TV program about the 100 scariest movie moments, a Child Catcher scene came in at #37.

From what Lord Wiki says, I'm thinking the Child Catcher is the one who is later attacked by children. Although it seems he quite deserved it.

I do think Disney has some of the scariest movies. Do any of you remember Watcher in the Woods or Something Wicked This Way Comes? I love both those movies, but they're SCARY!

I need to watch some scenes from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Here's one.

So children are not allowed? Is this like the opposite of Children of the Corn?

I didn't think the scene I watched was that scary. At least I didn't find Helpmann to be frightening. I though the jack-in-the-box people were the creepy ones.

Here's a movie trailer someone made. I think they're trying to make Chitty Chitty Bang Bang look like a horror film. I found the scene they used to be a little more creepy than the last.

In 1972, Helpmann starred as the Mad Hatter in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Michael Crawford played the White Rabbit. Wow. I didn't know Crawford had a career back then.

Here's a scene from the movie.

That's pretty cool.

Jack used to love Alice in Wonderland.

In 1965, Helpmann returned to his native land. He became co-director of the Australia Ballet. Lord Wiki says Australia was conservative at the time, and had some difficulty accepting a man who was gay. They were proud that he had international fame, but they weren't sure how to handle him themselves.

I guess they liked him somewhat though. Lord Wiki says that year he was voted as Australian of the Year.

He died in 1986.

As for his love life. He had a partner for sixty-six years...Michael Benthall.  Their relationship ended when Bethall died.

I'm now done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to look at IMDb now. They might have some good trivia.

Mount Gambier has a theater named after him.

He was almost killed while filming Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The carriage he was in went out of control. Since Helpmann had quick dancer reflexes, he was able to jump to his safety.

There are awards named after Helpmann. Their website has a brief biography about him. I'll read that.

I like this quote from Helpmann. Theatre remains the only thing I understand,’ he said It is in the community of the theatre that I have my being. In spite of jealousies and fears, emotional conflicts and human tensions; in spite of the penalty of success and the dread of failure; in spite of tears and feverish gaiety – this is the only life I know. It is the life I love.

I like that. I think it can describe any hobby or profession we're passionate about. At times I want to quit blogging because of all the drama it sometimes entails. But I love it too much. In the end, the good outweighs the bad.

The awards are for live performances....dance, opera, and other types of theater.

I'm looking at the current winners.

Wicked won for best musical. Good!

The Flying Fruit Fly Circus won for best production for children. I remember hearing about them.

Here's an interview on YouTube with Helpmann.

It's cool. He talks about his UPCOMING role as the Child Catcher.

I love his voice and accent.

Here's a video of Helpmann dancing. It's some kind of surfing song.

In 1978, Helpmann was in a horror movie called Patrick. I just saw it on YouTube, and then looked it up on IMDb.

It's about a man in a coma.

The trivia page says that America cut the film. Okay, that's not too shocking. But they also re-dubbed all the Australian voices and made them American. What the hell? I swear. America really must have some law against Australian accents.

Helpmann was very angry about it. He tried to take legal action. I guess it didn't work out though. Unfortunate. He should have won.

Here's the trailer for the film. I hope it's the Australian version.

Crap. It's not working.

I'll watch this clip instead.

Poor froggy.

That's not the dubbed version. Helpmann sounds like Helpmann.

Good. Now the trailer is working.

That's awesome!

I'm intrigued by the sound the ax makes as it hits the door. (2:23). Did they use whoopee cushions in their sound department?

Anyway, I think I'm going to end this here. I have to get ready--take a shower and all that. We're leaving for the lake house soon.


  1. I'm an Aussie temporary living in Texas... I have to say that I have never heard of Helpmann before.

    His life seems to have some similarities to Peter Allen.

    I am interested to know what started the facination with Australia?


  2. Katie,

    Hi! I hope Texas is treating you okay.

    There are a lot of American celebrities I haven't heard of...so we're even.

    Some famous American died recently, and I had never heard of him before.


    I don't really understand why I'm interested in Australia, so it's hard to explain. I'm still trying to figure it all out : )

  3. He was such an over the top queen, especially when he was older. Quite amusing though. Katie must be young :)

  4. Andrew,

    Most performers are probably over-the-top queens. That's probably why they went into show business in the first place.

  5. Hi Dina, I still read your blog!

    Sir Robert Helpmann is one of Mount Gambier's most famous sons. We just had a celebration of the centenary of his birth.

    I could comment on other famous sons and daughters of Mount Gambier, but I should research that more.

    Cricketer Peter Sleep springs to mind, also Max Harris (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Harris) who you may be interested to know was involved with the Ern Malley scandal.

  6. Michael,

    It's so nice to see you again!!

    The funny thing is I totally forgot who Ern Malley was. I had to look it up. But Max Harris' name sounded familiar to me.

    I know I wrote about Ern Malley, but I forgot when. I remember writing about hoaxes when I wrote about Peter Carey...but that may have been a fictional hoax.

    I forgot.