Celebrity News May 20, 2023
Helmut Berger, Austrian Star of 'The Damned' & '70s Sex Symbol, Dies at 78
Helmut Berger, the film star and sex symbol nearly as famous for his A-list lovers as for his racy European art films, died Thursday in Austria, The Guardian reports.
He was 78.
Born May 29, 1944, in Salzburg, Austria, he was meant to join his family business in the hospitality field, but took a detour into acting after a move to London.
Later, the openly bisexual actor resided in Rome where, at 20, he met Italian director Luchino Visconti, nearly 40 years his senior, and began a long affair and creative coupling.
Berger made his debut in Visconti's sequence in "Le streghe (The Witches)" in 1967, and became an overnight star in Visconti's "The Damned" (1969), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
In the film, he famously appears in drag as Marlene Dietrich.
Some of Berger's other most noteworthy films were a wildly queer take on "Dorian Gray" (1970), "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" (1970) for director Vittorio De Sica, the Beethoven biopic "Ludwig" (1972), "Conversation Piece" (1974) with Burt Lancaster, "Ash Wednesday" (1973) with Elizabeth Taylor and Henry Fonda, "The Romantic Englishwoman" (1975) with Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson, the controversial Nazisploitation drama "Salon Kitty" (1976), NBC's first feature film "Code Name: Emerald" (1985), and Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather Part III" (1990).
On TV, he is remembered for a short arc on "Dynasty" (1983-1984) as nasty Peter De Vilbis (who got punched out by Jeff Colby) — a role he admitted he took on strictly for the payday — and also appeared in the European miniseries "The Betrothed" (1989).
Having famously covered Vogue in 1970 with girlfriend Marisa Berenson, he posed for the likes of Helmut Newton and Andy Warhol (1928-1987). (He did not, however, pose in Madonna's 1992 "Sex" book or appear in her "Erotica" music video, as is often incorrectly noted.)
Two of Berger's late-career triumphs were playing the late fashion designer in the film "Saint Laurent" (2014) and making his surprise stage debut in the play "Liberté" in 2018.
Along with Visconti and Berenson, Berger was reportedly involved with model Francesca Guidato, whom he wed in 1994. Affairs he claimed in his 1998 autobiography include Tab Hunter, Linda Blair, Jerry Hall, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Ursula Andress, and Rudolf Nureyev — among others.