Family & Companions
The tall, attractive, glamorous Berenson sometimes seemed to be more famous for her status as an international figure of beauty and a member of the jet set than for her screen appearances. Yet she was a serious actress who was often consigned to decorative parts in American productions while international films gave her better opportunities.
There was always society column interest in Berenson and her sister, Berry, as they were the granddaughters of designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and the grand-nieces of art historian Bernard Berenson (some sources insist they are merely cousins). Berenson's face often graced the pages of VOGUE and in one memorable fashion spread she recreated the famous Josephine Baker jungle woman photo, wearing little more than a belt made of hanging bananas. A shy woman despite her pedigree, Berenson was first seen on film as the woman lost by Dirk Bogarde in "Death in Venice" (1970). She gained recognition in portraying Natalie Landauer, the Jewish department store heiress who comes to Liza Minnelli first for English lessons, then sexual advice, in Bob Fosse's "Cabaret" (1972). In 1975, she was Ryan O'Neal's wife in Stanley Kubrick's visually-stunning "Barry Lyndon" (1975), but subsequent roles in English-language films tapered off and Berenson was more often seen in newspapers and magazines with her friend Diane von Furstenberg, and with Andy Warhol, as well as the Studio 54 and Regine's set. Her marriage to Jimmy Randall was covered extensively by Rona Barrett as well as by Warhol.
Yet, Berenson wanted to act. She appeared on stage in Williamstown and Los Angeles in Philip Barry's "Holiday" in 1980, playing a slightly spoiled heiress. Berenson often turned to TV in the USA for the chance to work more frequently. She was one of the Polish members of the Auschwitz band in "Playing for Time" (CBS, 1980). Berenson appeared in an episode of "Who's the Boss?" (ABC), as an executive who romances Tony. She even appeared in an "ABC Afterschool Special."
By the 90s, Berenson was based in Paris and, with demise of the social whirl of which she had been identified in America, her name was less frequently in the columns. Oddly, or perhaps, ironically, this seemed to give her career a boost. She was cast by Clint Eastwood in "White Hunter, Black Heart" (1990) in a role vaguely based on Katharine Hepburn, played a key role in the Arts & Entertainment six-part 1991 series, "The Hollywood Detective" and was the villainous Katarina in the 1992 Lifetime remake of "Notorious." Berenson also began acting in French and even Dutch films; in 1995 she was Mrs. Schweitzer in "Le Grand blanc de Lambarene," a French biopic about Albert Schweitzer, the French-Alsatian physician who devoted his life to working in the Gabon hinterlands. Two years later, she had a cameo as a wealthy woman who offers a ride to "Tonka," an Indian refuge in France, and played a Sapphic hairdresser in "Elles/Women."
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Film debut in "Death in Venice"
Co-starred as Jewish heiress in "Cabaret"
TV acting debut, "Tourist"
Made L.A. stage debut in "Holiday" at the Ahmanson Theater
TV miniseries debut, "Sins"
Co-starred in "Hollywood Detective" series (A&E)
Played Mrs. Albert Schweitzer in "Le Grand blanc de Lambarene"
Co-starred in "Elles/Women" (released in USA in 1999)
Acted in the Broadway revival of "Design for Living"
Co-starred in "Colour Me Kubrick," the true story of a man who posed as director Stanley Kubrick