Guide to the Papers of Robert Helpmann


MS 7161

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Robert Helpmann
Papers of Robert Helpmann
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 7161
3.5 metres (23 volumes, 3 boxes)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The papers provide a record of Helpmann's artistic career from the age of twenty three. There are 37 small personal diaries (1950-86) and 23 cuttings books containing correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, invitations, and theatre programs arranged chronologically by theatrical production (1933-82). There are also photographs and press cuttings about films, ballet and the Arts generally (1977-86).

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], MS 7161, National Library of Australia, Papers of Robert Helpmann, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The papers were donated by Sir Robert in 1986 and Mr Chris Brown in 1993

Biographical Note

Robert Helpmann was a dancer, choreographer, and actor. He was born in South Australia in 1909 and died at the age of 77 in 1986. He danced with Anna Pavlova during her Australian tour in 1926 before joining J C Williamson's company. He was premier danseur with Sadler's Wells 1933-50. He produced several ballets, choreographed the ballet Red Shoes, and created The Display for the Australian Ballet. Helpmann was artistic director of the Australian Ballet from 1965 to 1976.

Item Descriptions

Class [unnumbered]. Original consignment

Series [unnumbered]. 1933-38 - Folio 1

Press clippings and photographs of ballet companies and ballet productions. Included are Vic - Wells, Sadlers Wells, Wise and foolish virgins, Job, Giselle, The haunted ballroom, The open air theatre, Fete Polanaise, Casse Noisette, Lu Lac Des Cynes, Stop press 1, The rakes's progress, Douanes, Carnaval, The gods go a-begging, Siesta, Apparitions, The sleeping princess, The northern tours, Prometheus, Les Rendezvous, Nocturne, A wedding bouquet - words by Gertrude Stein, Checkmate, Midsummer nights dream (with Vivien Leigh) and The taming of the shrew.

Series [unnumbered]. 1933-43 - Folio 2

Photographs which commemorate ten years on the stage for Sir Robert Helpmann. The photographs are arranged by ballet, and are listed in the front of the volume with details such as the character portrayed, the date of the first performance, the theatre and the season. Included are Acis and Galatea, Apparitions, Aurora pas de deux, Baiser de la fée, Barabau, Carnaval, Casse-noisette, Checkmate, Comus, Coppélia, Cupid and Psyche, Dante Sonata, Douanes, During the ball, Facade, Fete Polonaise, Giselle, Gods go a-begging, Hamlet, The haunted ballroom, The jar, Job, The Judgement of Paris, Le lac des cygnes, Little serenade, The Lord of Burleigh, Les Masques, Neopolitana, Nocturne, Nursery suite, Orpheus and Eurydice, Les patineurs, 1860 Party, Pomona, Prometheus, The prospect before us, The quest, The rake's progress, The rendezvous, Le roi-nu, Siesta, The sleeping princess, Le spectre de la rose, Les Sylphides, The wanderer, A wedding bouquet, Wise and foolish virgins, The wise virgins and The birds.

Photographs of plays include The insect play, A midsummer night's dream, The taming of the shrew, Stop-press, Swinging the gate, Precipice and One of our aircraft is missing.

Series [unnumbered]. 1938-43 - Folio 3

Typescript copies of newspaper clippings together with illustrative photographs of the productions Gizelle, Apparitions, Nocturne, Coppelia, Aurora, Cook's man, The wanderer, Le roi nu, The prospect before us, A midsummer night's dream, Dante Sonata, Les patineurs, The haunted ballroom, Wedding bouquet, Comus, Hamlet, The rake's progress and The birds.

Series [unnumbered]. 1940-43 - Folio 4

Press clippings relating to ballets and theatrical productions including Dante Sonata, The prospect before us, Comos, Hamlet, One of our aircraft is missing, The rakes progress, The birds, The quest and Lu lac des cynes.

Series [unnumbered]. 1944 - Folio 5

Press clippings and photographs of Hamlet and Miracle in the Gorbals.

Series [unnumbered]. 1946 - Folio 6

Press clippings, clippings from telegrams received, and photographs of Sir Robert Helpmann's ballet Adam Zero.

Series [unnumbered]. 1947 - Folio 7

Press clippings and photographs of The white devil and He who gets slapped.

Series [unnumbered]. 1947-49 - Folio 8

Programs and press clippings of The merchant of Venice, Hamlet, A midsummer nights dream, Job - Covent Garden (1948), The miracle of the Gorbals - Covent Garden (1948), The wedding bouquet - Covent Garden, Don Juan - Covent Garden (1949), Coppelia - Covent Garden (1949), The Olympians - Covent Garden (1949), Cinderella - Covent Garden (1949) and Swan Lake - Copenhagen (1949).

Series [unnumbered]. 1948-53 - Folio 9

Press clippings, programs and photographs of Red shoes (1948), Tales of Hoffman, (1951), Don Quixote (1950), Sleeping beauty - Milan (1950), Dante sonata (1950), Job (1950), Adam Zero (1950), Madam Butterfly (1950), Oslo (1950), The prospect before us (1950), Box for one (1953), The shoeman (1953) and Peter and the wolf (1953).

Series [unnumbered]. 1950-52 - Folio 10

Press clippings, photographs and programs of Caesar and Cleopatra - St. James (1951), The millionairess (1952), Murder in the cathedral (1953), Golden city (1950), The wedding ring (1952) and Antony and Cleopatra - St. James (1951). The volume also includes many press clippings and photographs of Katherine Hepburn.

Series [unnumbered]. 1953-56 - Folio 11

Theatre programs, press clippings and photographs of Le coq d'or - Covent Garden (1954), Madam Butterfly - Covent Garden (1953), The Tempest - Old Vic (1954), After the ball - Liverpool (1954), Order of the Knight of the Eastern Star (1954), The soldier's tale - Edinburgh Festival (1954), A midsummer night's dream - Edinburgh Festival (1954), As you like it - Old Vic (1954), Australian tour with Katherine Hepburn - The merchant of Venice, Taming of the shrew and Measure for measure (1955), 25th anniversary of Sadler's Wells Ballet - Opera House (1956) and Romeo and Juliet - Old Vic (1956).

Series [unnumbered]. 1955 - Folio 12-14

These three volumes cover the 1955 Old Vic tour of Australia which featured Sir Robert Helpmann and Katherine Hepburn. They contain photographs, press clippings and theatre programs.

Series [unnumbered]. 1956-58 - Folio 15

Invitations, photographs, press clippings, manuscript letters and theatre programs relating to the productions of Not for money or The iron petticoat (1956), Egg walkabout (1956), Romeo and Juliet (1956), The merchant of Venice (1956), The two gentlemen of Verona (1957), Antony and Cleopatra (1957), The tragedy of Titus Andronicus and The comedy of errors (1957), Richard III (1957), Baalbeck Festival (1957), Coppelia - television (1957), Nekrassov (1958) and Nude with violin (1957).

Series [unnumbered]. 1958-60 - Folio 16

Press clippings, programs, photographs, certificate of letters covering the productions The rakes progress (1958), Coppelia (1958), Miracle in the Gorbals (1958), Petrushka (1958), Film: The big money (1958), Coppelia on television (1958), Baalbeck (1958), Nude with violin (1958), Box for one (1958), Dr. Coppelius (1959), The marriage go-round (1959), Aladdin (1959), Duel of Angels (1960), The Helpmann story - BBC (1960) and The sleeping beauty (1960).

Also of note in this volume are press clippings of reviews of the biography of Sir Robert Helpmann, Robert Helpmann, by Katherine Sorley Walker together with photographs of Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret and the Lebanese Order of Merit.

Series [unnumbered]. 1961-63 - Folio 17

Press clippings, programs, family and personal photographs. Of note are the number of press clippings about Vivien Leigh. Productions include Finian's rainbow (1961), Duel of angels (1961), The ghost sonata (1962), The Old Vic in Mexico (1962), The Old Vic in Argentina (1962), Coq d'or (1962), 55 days at Peking (1962), Elektra (1963), Checkmate (1963), Oxfam (1963) and Swan Lake (1963).

Series [unnumbered]. 1964-65 - Folio 18

Sir Robert Helpmann's Australian tour of 1964-65 and includes newspaper clippings and photographs of The lyre bird, Camelot (1964), Catch as catch can (1964) and Melbourne Cup, 1964.

Series [unnumbered]. 1965-67 - Folio 19

Invitations, programs and press clippings covering the Australian Ballet tour of England, 1965, Montreal (1966) (Australia Day - World Exhibition), The Quiller Memorandum (1966) and Cinderella (1967).

Series [unnumbered]. 1968 - Folio 20

Invitations, press clippings, cartoons, photographs, posters, telegrams, letters and programs covering the filming of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), The Australian Ballet tour of 1968 and Sir Robert Helpmann's Knighthood.

Series [unnumbered]. 1968-74 - Folio 21

This volume covers the death of Helpmann's mother, the Knighthood of Sir Robert Helpmann and the Adelaide Festival (1970). There are press clippings and programs for the productions of Coppelia in Australia (1969) and Don Quixote in Brisbane (1974).

Series [unnumbered]. 1969-82 - Folio 22

Press clippings, letters and programs for Cinderella (1969), Peter Pan (1971), Alice in Wonderland (1972), The rakes progress (1971), Steps, notes and squeaks (1980), Valmouth (1982), Colette (1982) and Dame Margot Fonteyn's Farewell, 1979.

Series [unnumbered]. 1978 - Folio 23

Press clippings relating to The mango tree and Patrick.

Class [unnumbered]. Consignment received 12 July 1993

Series [unnumbered]. Memorial Service (1986), diaries, photograph albums and newscuttings

The addition consists of diaries, order of service, addresses and eulogy at Helpmann's Memorial Service, newscuttings and photographs.

Inluded are 37 small appointment diaries cover the years 1950-1986. 1959 is missing.

Diaries 1950-58 (9 items) (File 1)
Diaries 1960-69 (11 items) (File 2)
Diaries 1970-79 (10 items) (File 3)
Diaries 1980-86 (7 items) (File 4)
Includes an order-of-service and typescripts of the eulogy and addresses given by William Akers and the Reverand Albert McPherson at the memorial service for Helpmann held at the Victorian Arts Centre in Melbourne on 15 October 1986 (File 5)
Overseas newscuttings (1942-43), mainly reviews of the Sadler's Wells ballet. Papers include the Cambridge Review, Liverpool Evening News, Liverpool Daily Post, The Scotsman, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Observer (File 6)
Australian newscuttings (1977-86) covering ballet, films, and the Arts generally (File 7-15)
3 photograph albums (File 16-18)