Helmut Griem Obituary

From The Herald, November 22, 2004: http://www.theherald.co.uk/28365.shtml

Helmut Griem BRIAN PENDREIGH November 22 2004 Helmut Griem, Internationally-renowned German actor who starred in Cabaret; born April 6, 1932, died November 19, 2004. For western cinema audiences, actor Helmut Griem represented the archetypal arrogant, duplicitous and sometimes downright ruthless German. The handsome, blond star appeared in dozens of films, television dramas and theatre plays, but is probably best known internationally for the role of the sophisticated and charming Baron Maximilian von Heune, who forms part of a romantic triangle with Liza Minnelli and Michael York's characters in Bob Fosse's 1972 film of the musical Cabaret. Griem, who has died in Munich at the age of 72, brought a human face to upper-class decadence and complacency against the backdrop of the rising tide of Nazism. There is one wonderful moment in the film where Sally Bowles (Minnelli) and Brian Roberts (York) argue over Max, and Brian, who is usually a model of quiet composure, loses his temper and shouts "Screw Max". Sally, who likes nothing better than to shock people, responds "I do," only for Brian to whip her feet from under her when he adds, "So do I". Of course, the success of the scene depended largely on the portrayal of Max. Reviewing Cabaret in Monthly Film Bulletin, John Russell Taylor noted: "Helmut Griem as Max manages just the right ironical throwaway charm and erotic confidence to convince us that he could have captivated both sexes with equal ease." Griem was blessed with matinee-idol looks, but he took on characters with often complex sexuality, an obvious comparison being with Dirk Bogarde, with whom he co-starred in Luchino Visconti's The Damned (1969). It was set during much the same period as Cabaret, with Bogarde as an industrialist and Griem as the scheming SS officer with whom he conspires. Griem again attracted glowing reviews. "Helmut Griem's SS mastermind is one of the best Nazi characterisations ever," wrote critic Glen Erickson. "He's as Aryan and plastic-looking as a Thunderbirds puppet, but makes Aschenbach both brilliant and frighteningly charismatic. We always knew that real Nazis couldn't have been goonish movie thugs." Born in Hamburg in 1932, Griem was the son of a naval radio officer. He originally hoped to become a journalist and studied literature and philosophy, but changed track, and went on to appear in cabaret in Hamburg then a wide range of German stage productions, from Goethe to My Fair Lady. During the sixties, he had Griem string of starring roles in German films and on German television, before The Damned brought him international recognition. His first English-language film was The McKenzie Break (1970), in which he played a fanatical Nazi U-Boat captain imprisoned in a camp in Scotland during the Second World War. Utterly ruthless, he is quite prepared to kill his fellow PoWs to further his own schemes and escape. He was reunited with Visconti when he played a supporting role in Ludwig (1972), Visconti's portrait of the mad Bavarian king Ludwig II. One of his biggest international films was Voyage of the Damned (1976), the true story of a ship full of Jewish refugees from Germany who are refused entry to a succession of foreign ports, just months before the outbreak of war. Griem played a Nazi agent in a star-studded cast that also included Faye Dunaway, Max von Sydow, James Mason and Orson Welles. Other films Griem made included The Desert of the Tartars (1976) and The Passerby (1982), Griem played Rommel in the television movie The Plot to Kill Hitler (1990) and also appeared in the mini-series Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), Peter the Great (1986) and in Charlemagne (1993), although much of his later work was in theatre, and he directed German productions of several great modern plays.

From EInsiders: http://www.einsiders.com/features/columns/nov04obituaries.php

HELMUT GRIEM Died Nov. 19, 2004 Handsome German leading man Helmut Griem died at age 72. Mr. Griem was able to portray evil like few others. My first recollection of Mr. Griem was in Visconti’s seedy, sleezy "The Damned." The film told the story of the rise of Rohmer’s Brownshirts in Nazi Germany. Griem co-starred as the sexy, seductive and thoroughly power hungry SS officer Ausenbach. The devil himself couldn’t be much different. One of my favorite WWII films of the 1970s is "The McKenzie Break." In his first English language film, Mr. Griem played a ruthless U-Boat captain trying to escape from an allied POW camp in Scotland. With a twinkle in his eye, Griem’s Captain Schluter doesn’t think twice about killing his own fellow German POWs as a diversion to cover his own escape! It is a fun movie due to Mr. Griem’s performance. He is probably best known to audiences outside his native land for his portrayal of Max in Bob Fosse’s "Cabaret." Max was the Baron who seduced both Liza Minnelli’s Sally Bowles and Michael York’s Brian Roberts. The famous exchange between Minnelli and York was shocking at the time. Roberts tells Sally "Screw Max!" Not to be outdone, Sally replies "I do." Much to Sally’s chagrin, Robert’s replied "So do I." Helmut Griem appeared in over 60 films and TV shows. He was also an accomplished theater actor. His other film and TV credits include Visconti’s "Ludwig," Stuart Rosenberg’s all-star "Voyage of the Damned," the sequel to Sam Peckinpah’s "Cross of Iron": "Sergeant Steiner," Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s classic TV mini-series "Berlin Alexanderplatz," the mini-series "Peter the Great" and as Erwin Rommel in "The Plot to Kill Hitler."

The Independent 25 November 2004
Obituary : Helmut Griem Bisexual baron in the film of 'Cabaret'

Helmut Griem, actor: born Hamburg, Germany 6 April 1932; died Munich, Germany 19 November 2004. Blond and handsome, Helmut Griem was one of the few German actors to become internationally successful. Equally at home on screen, on television or on the stage, where he played in both classical and modern roles, including musicals, he will be best remembered by mainstream audiences for his appearance in Bob Fosse's film version of Cabaret (1972). Griem played Max, the decadent, bisexual baron, described by Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) as "divinely sexy", and few will forget the moment in the film when the exasperated writer Brian (Michael York) angrily tells Sally, "Screw Max!", to which she softly responds, "I do." After a brief silence, he shakes her repose by replying, "So do I." Helmut Griem was perfect as the arrogant, aristocratic and fun-loving playboy who shrugs his shoulders with indifference when his friend Brian points out the chilling portents, as they witness members of the Hitler Youth singing their anthem, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me". Earlier, Griem had made his breakthrough as a film actor when cast by Luchino Visconti in The Damned (1969) as Aschenbach, the cruelly cynical SS officer, whose lust for power knows no bounds. Born in Hamburg in 1932, Griem planned to be a journalist, but, after studying literature, science and philosophy, he developed an interest in acting, and made his stage début with a role in N. Richard Nash's The Rainmaker (1956). For over a decade he worked mainly in the theatre, in Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin and Munich, his roles including the frustrated professor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. He made his screen début in Fabrik der Offiziere (1960), but his first important film role was in a screen version of Guy de Maupassant's Bel Ami (1968). His screen potential was fully realised in The Damned, Visconti's dramatisation dealing with the Krupp family whose steel empire assisted Hitler's rise to power. Griem was both cruel and seductive as the SS officer who insidiously gains control of the steelworks. In Lamont Johnson's tautly gripping The McKenzie Break (1970), which dealt with the rare subject of German prisoners in an Allied prisoner-of- war camp, Griem was a captured U-boat captain who organises a well-planned escape. Though again cruel and calculating (he calmly lets a hut roof collapse, killing his commanding officer and fellow prisoners, because the distraction will aid his escape), he invested the character with human qualities and subtle shadings that made his battle of wits with the prison officer (Brian Keith) intensely compelling. Griem worked for Visconti again in the spectacular but hollow biography Ludwig (1972), and in 1975 he starred in the Israeli-British co- production Children of Rage, which took a thoughtful if over-talkative look at the issues behind the violence in Palestine, as seen by an Israeli doctor (Griem) at a refugee camp. Voyage of the Damned (1976) was a star- laden vehicle telling the true story of Jewish refugees stranded on an ocean liner in 1939. He was part of another starry cast, including Richard Burton, Robert Mitchum, Rod Steiger and Curt Jurgens, in Breakthrough (1979), a splendid sequel to Sam Peckinpah's Cross of Iron (1977). Griem played Major Stransky, the ambitious officer portrayed by Maximilian Schell in the earlier film. The following year he starred in Phillip Braun's The Glass Cell, a German version of Patricia Highsmith's thriller. In 1980 he was seen on television in Fassbinder's classic mini-series Berlin Alexanderplatz, and most of his career afterwards was on stage or television. His TV roles included that of Alexander Menshikov in the mini-series Peter the Great (1986) and Rommel in The Plot to Kill Hitler (1990). In the theatre, he made acclaimed appearances in Joe Orton's Entertaining Mr Sloane, J.M. Synge's Playboy of the Western World, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night and Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden. In 1997 he triumphed as Willie Loman in a revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. He made his final television appearance two years ago in an episode of the popular crime series SK Kolsch. Tom Vallance

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