BORN 17 Mar 1906, Berlin - DIED 11 Jun 1996, Ascona, Ticino|
BIRTH NAME Schittenhelm, Brigitte Eva Gisela
CAUSE OF DEATH heart failure
GRAVE LOCATION Ascona, Ticino: Cimitero Comunale, Via Losone (C7)
Brigitte Helm was the daughter of the Prussian army officer Edwin Alexander Johannes Schittenhelm (1871-1913). She went to school in Johannaheim in what is now Werneuchen-Hirschfelde, Brandenburg. She appeared in a private performance of Shakespeare's "Midsummernight's Dream". After her mother sent photographs of her to Fitz Lang's wife Thea von Harbou in 1924, she did a screen test for Lang in which she performed parts of Maria Stuart for him. He recommended her to the UFA and she was educated as an actress until 1925. Although he had serious doubts, Lang decided to cast her in the double part of human Maria and robot Maria in his movie "Metropolis" (1927). She was completely unknown and it was the most expensive German film ever. It almost ruined UFA but it made her into a star. But she didn't like working with Lang and refused to work with him again.
She had signed a contract for ten years with UFA and played several important parts, but in 1929 she sued UFA because she was only offered femme fatale parts. She lost and had to continue acting to pay back the costs of the trial. She was briefly imprisoned because she had caused a fatal car accident, although Hitler himself may have prevented a manslaughter charge against her. After the introduction of sound movies her career declined, but she was still a star when she left UFA after her contracxt expired in 1935. Her last movie was the Dutch production "Een Ideale Echtgenoot" ("An Ideal Spouse", 1935).
She had married Rudolf Weissbach in 1928, but she divorced him in 1934 and in 1936 she married the Jewish industrialist Hugo Eduard Kunheim (1902-1986). She had never cared for her movie career and completely left the film scene, refusing to give interviews during the rest of her life. She moved to Switzerland with her husband. They had four children and the marriage lasted until his death in 1986. Brigitte died in 1996 in Ascona.