Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hedy Lamarr

Film actress Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Kiesler on this day in 1913 in Vienna, Austria.

A captivating brunette beauty even in her teens, banker's daughter Hedwig Kiesler was discovered by Max Reinhardt and started appearing in German films at 17. At age 20, she became an instant international celebrity for her notorious appearance in a Czech film, Ecstasy (1933), in which she spent 10 minutes swimming and cavorting in the woods in the nude. Shortly afterward she married a munitions maker, Fritz Mandl, who attempted to buy and destroy all the copies of his wife's nude scene, but the marriage dissolved before Mandl could achieve his aim.

Louis B. Mayer met Hedwig, now known as Hedy Lamarr, in London during the mid-1930s, and although he was fascinated with her, his concern about the nude scandal led him to avoid giving her a contract until finally, in 1938, he brought her to Hollywood.

She became a kind of Garbo replacement at MGM, the enigmatic European beauty, although she enjoyed few box office successes, notable exceptions being Algiers, 1938, in which Charles Boyer whispered "Come vis me to da Casbah" to her; White Cargo, 1942, as "Tondelayo"; and Samson and Delilah, 1949, with Victor Mature -- a film about which Groucho Marx observed, "No picture can hold my interest when the leading man’s bust is bigger than the leading lady’s."

Her career declined rapidly during the 1950s, and by 1965, when she was arrested for shoplifting, she was living in a broken-down L.A. house with an unfinished swimming pool in the backyard and driving a 10-year old Lincoln with the letters "HL" spelled out in Blue Chip stamps on the dashboard. Her liaison-filled autobiography, Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman, came out the next year, with introductions by a psychologist and a doctor detailing the medical significance of her narrative.

The sexual scandals and apparent instability belied and overshadowed Lamarr's role in the history of communications technology: based on two years of work with composer George Antheil, in 1942 Lamarr received a patent on a device which controlled torpedoes by radio through "frequency hopping"-- a concept which provided the basis of anti-jamming technology used on the Milstar defense satellite system and in cellular phones.

She died on January 19, 2000 in Altamonte Springs, Florida.

"Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid." -- H. Lamarr.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Dad said...

Ron/Dad I have a 10 year old lincoln. Where can I get some blue chip stamps?Mom and I always liked her and wished she had a more happy life

7:31 PM  
Blogger stubenbaines said...

Nice entry. Don't forget that today was Mae Marsh's birthday too :-)

9:57 PM  

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