Is Robert Helpmann Living or Dead?

Has Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer Robert Helpmann died? Or is he still alive?

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Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer

Robert Helpmann is ...

Born 9 Apr 1909 in Mount Gambier
Died 28 Sep 1986 in Sydney
Age77 years, 5 months
Robert Helpmann
Robert Helpmann
James Murray Helpmann and Mary Helpmann nee Gardiner, with their son Robert, who became world famous dancer and choreographer, Sir Robert Helpmann. Held at State Library of South Australia, call no: B 21404

About Robert Helpmann

Sir Robert Helpmann CBE (9 April 1909 – 28 September 1986) was an Australian dancer, actor, theatre director and choreographer.


Sir Robert Helpmann died in Sydney in 1986, of smoking-related illness. His obituaries in the Australian media were suitably laudatory, but also reserved. The country paid him the highest final recognition it could by honouring him with a state funeral in Sydney, the eulogy calling him "a genius, an outstanding communicator of unique inspiration and insight. He asserted his rights to pursue a path that improved the quality of life of the nation, and defeated the common herd of detractors".

However an anonymous obituary in The Times of London, likely penned by John Grigg, the former Lord Altrincham, caused upset, particularly one paragraph which stated: "His appearance was strange, haunting and rather frightening. There were, moreover, streaks in his character that made his impact upon a company dangerous as well as stimulating. A homosexual of the proselytising kind, he could turn young men on the borderline his way." It provoked letters of protest, but formed part of a precedent for candid commentary in newspaper obituaries.