Helmer, 17th Earl of Pembroke, 14th Earl of Montgomery
The 17th Earl of Pembroke and 14th Earl of Montgomery, or Henry Herbert as he was known in his occasional filmmaking career, died Oct. 14 in Wiltshire, England. He was 64.
Born in 1939, Herbert attended Eton, and at 14 was a page to the Duke of Kent at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Instead of taking the conventional aristocratic path, Herbert entered the film biz and, after working as a runner at 16 on Anthony Mann’s “The Heroes of Telemark,” was soon directing rock ‘n’ roll documentaries featuring Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix. Herbert won an award for doc on blind children “What Color Is the Wind?” at the Chicago Film Festival.
In 1966 Herbert married Claire Pelly, whom high society photographer Cecil Beaton refers to as a “beatnik-looking girl who was at first greatly-disapproved of,” in his recently published diary.
Neither did Herbert choose to dress like an Earl. The rangy young Herbert preferred the uniform of the counter-culturalists; flared velvet trousers and kipper ties.
When his father died of cancer in 1969, Herbert succeeded to the titles at the age of 29. His ambitions as a TV and film director were sacrificed in part to the onerous duties of the upkeep of his ancestral Wilton House and its rambling 2,000-acre farm. Wilton was opened to the public in 1951 and has become a profitable business for the family. The country house has served as a location for numerous pics, including political scandal drama Profumo affair drama “Scandal” (1989).
To some extent, Herbert did manage to juggle his calling and his obligation. Film credits include “Malachi’s Cove” (1974); Koo Stark starrer “Emily” (1977); and “Forbidden Passion” (1984), a costume drama starring Michael Gambon as Oscar Wilde.
Herbert helmed numerous episodes of Brit TV dramas in the late ’70s and early ’80s including “Bergerac,” “Shoestring” and “Danger U.X.B.” Herbert’s last foray in the biz was as exec producer on Don Boyd’s “Lucia,” the tale of a small opera company on tour.
He is survived by his wife, Miranda, and seven children.