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Dead Babies: Helmut Berger And Martin Amis Leave Us

To coin a metaphor, or is it an aphorism, from Martin Amis himself, losing Helmut Berger and Martin Amis within a day of each other. Helmut passe on May 18th at the age of 78 and Martin a day later at the age of 73.

Helmut was the gorgeous Austrian actor, and Luchino Visconti paramore, Martin the middle class son of a famous writer who improved on it himself.

Helmust was about the 70s, Martin about the 80s, and they were both very attractive men. In the 80s, Martin published a whole lotta great work and by 1992 was on his way back to earth:

The Rachel Papers (1973) – B+
Dead Babies (1975) – A+
Success (1978) – B+
Other People (1981) – B+
Money (1984) – A+
London Fields (1989) – B+
Time’s Arrow: Or the Nature of the Offence (1991) – A

I actually met Martin at a book signing, and took him down for underestimating Vladimir Nabokov’s “Look at the Harlequins!” -though it was Nabokov’s novel just before it, “Transparent Things” that remains the best of his work and a novel I put up there with “Wuthering Heights”, “Harlequin” was a fine work. Not mention Martin’s own “Money”. In 1992 he remained a handsome, private school toff (but not Chris Martin toff), with a posh accent that failed to mask his roots not in the mines but in the colleges. Martin was the absolute last word on 20 something literature and while, like so many people, his later work was spotty, both later works such as “Inside Job” and “House Of Meetings” are first rate. And, writers, unlike actors, especially beautiful actors, are not married to appearances.

Helmut was about his appearance. He is almost tragic in how thoroughly time ravished him (ravishes all of us), but seeing him in the late 60s and early 70s he was stunningly attractive to everyone. Think of him as the boy in Luchino Visconti’s take on Thomas Mann’s “Death In Venice” grown up. And he could actually act very well.

Here are the three to search out…

1969: The Damned (Luchino Visconti) as Martin Von Essenbeck
1970: Dorian Gray (Massimo Dallamano) as Dorian Gray
1970: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Vittorio De Sica) as Alberto

He had a good run but Helmut as sex symbol is never much better than “The Damned” and “Dorian Gray” from his mid-20s. Between the two they turned on the ambiguity of male sexuality, they look like they are wanted and watching them grow old is about how time decays us while all movies are the picture of Dorian Gray.

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