Film & TV

The Fabulous Legacy of Hedy Lamarr

Eccentric, visionary, and truly sublime, Hedy Lamarr lived through the twentieth century as if she were a character in a spy novel.
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Temptress

She was a good Viennese Jewish girl who arrived in Hollywood thanks to incredible circumstance after having to flee the clutches of her pro-Nazi, merchant husband. The young woman with jet black hair and an alabaster complexion also knew that Mitteleuropa was much too narrow to make a career and be free. After the scandalous film Ecstasy (1933), in which she became the first actress to simulate an orgasm on the screen (and in close-up), the marketing department of MGM Studios would promote her as "the most beautiful woman in the world." With her inimitable Austrian accent, she regularly booked roles of temptresses and exotic goddesses. Her short films became huge successes, starring alongside big-name actors like King Vidor, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable. Her beauty became famous itself: the character Snow White in Disney's 1937 animated film was modeled after her. She was also famous for her many celebrity lovers and vertiginous collection of mink. According to Kenneth Anger, she was not a very social person. Many of her conquests complained about her homebody tendencies; she was an inventor in her spare time and loved nothing more than tinkering at home.

"Of her conversation I can remember nothing: when she spoke one did not listen, one just watched her mouth moving and marveled at the exquisite shapes made by her lips," says comedian George Sanders about Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000). Film critic Pauline Kael described her as "inhumanly beautiful"

Too good to be true

Eager to participate in the war effort, and upset by the torpedoing of European refugee ships, Lamarr worked closely with George Antheil to develop an undetectable mode of guiding torpedoes through a system of coding transmissions. Once brought to fruition, they filed a patent submitted to the Pentagon in 1942. This paved the way for future global positioning satellites (GPS). 

Psychology sessions

A feminist documentary co-produced by Susan Sarandon (Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story) portrays Lamarr as an icon and leader in the fight against misogyny. The actress was known to encourage women to pursue paths in the traditionally male-dominated field of science. Her tell-all memoirs published in 1966 have been reissued and depict Lamarr as a freak, detailing her orgasms with both men and women and detail intimate sessions with her psychologist. 

This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Jalouse

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