Reader “Kitty Collins” — (What an idea! We should all take names from our favorite screen characters.) — requested we make Hedy Lamarr our star of the week.
So here’s to you “Kitty.”
We have highlighted Lamarr in past entries, but a good star is always worth more copy. And more photos.
Who can forget that Vienna-born Hedy Kiesler made her movie debut at age 18 in a Czech-made film of the early 1930s, which then and for many years since has been considered one of the raciest films ever made?
We are referring, of course, to 1933’s “Extase” or “Ecstasy.” Directed by one Gustav Machaty, the movie tells the story of a luscious, young wife (Hedy) of a physically debilitated much-older man who cannot consummate their marriage.
The frustrated young bride goes skinny-dipping one day in the woods (there she is above seen in all her glory) and is accidentally discovered by a virile construction worker played by 27-year-old German actor Aribert Mog. The two are passionately drawn together…… Well, you get the drift.
What caught world attention were her love scenes with costar Mog (with whom she actually was having an affair at the time). To put it mildly, they were highly realistic. Both were “winging it,” Hedy later confessed.
Although female nudity had been shown onscreen before “Ecstasy,” it is said that the movie shows for the first time to mainstream audiences a woman in the throes of sexual intercourse. As a result, “Ecstasy” was condemned by moralists on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ecstasy nearly shot down her Hollywood career before it even started.
At MGM we make clean pictures, growled studio boss Louis B. Mayer. We want our stars to lead clean lives. I don’t know what people would think about a girl who flits bare-assed around the screen. Bare-assed or not, Mayer wound up hiring Hedy.
When she came to Hollywood in 1937, she had already been heralded as “the most beautiful girl in the world.” She also became in short order the most glamorous of glamour queens.
Probably her most remembered picture is 1949’s Samson and Delilah, director Cecil B. DeMille’s Old Testament extravaganza costarring Victor Mature, George Sanders and Angela Lansbury (as Hedy’s older sister, no less). And be sure to check her out opposite Charles Boyer in 1938’s Algiers, performed under her MGM contract which lapsed after the end of World War II.
We recently took a look at one of Hedy’s more popular pictures from 1944 — RKO’s Experiment Perilous, a costume drama with George Brent during which not one but at least three of the male leads repeatedly profess their abject love for her. Director Jacques Tourneur backed up the script demands by showing bare-shouldered Hedy adorned with jewelry and strings of pearls musing about her situation in the direction of camera.
Such attractive posing was also emphasized six years later when Hedy starred in MGM’s A Lady Without Passport, in which she cast as an international woman of uncertain past caught in pre-Castro Havana. Her male costar is an undercover immigration officer played by John Hodiak, who falls in love with Hedy after some extended plot preliminaries.
As bright as she was — and Hedy was unusually intelligent, especially for a Hollywood star — she made her share of boneheaded career decisions, notably turning down the choice Ingrid Bergman roles in both Gaslight and Casablanca. She endured six unsuccessful marriages, and ended her days (she died in 2000 at age 85) in financial straits.
Can anyone name another actress as brainy and as beautiful as Hedy Lamarr?