Where Are They Now? Actress Hedy Lamarr

About the actress Hedy Lamarr, history and biography of the Hollywood filmstar.

Headline--1938: HEDY LAMARR

At the Peak: The 1938 film Algiers was memorable for several reasons. There was a fine performance by Charles Boyer--who uttered the famous line, "Come with me to the Casbah"--and it introduced Americans to Hedy Lamarr, a young woman of extraordinary beauty, and one of the important screen stars to emerge during the late 1930s.

Born in Vienna as Hedwig Kiesler, she had been appearing in European pictures, usually in bit parts, since she was a teen-ager. Her one starring role had been in Ecstasy, an arty Czech film which showed her floating on her back in a pond and frolicking through some woods--all in the nude. A few years after that, she met Louis B. Mayer in London. Though struck by her appearance, Mayer was aware of the Lolita-like image Ecstasy had given Miss Kiesler. Never a man to buy a scandal knowingly, he was reluctant to offer her a contract. But he finally capitulated and, now known as Hedy Lamarr, she came to the U.S.

After Algiers, Lamarr appeared in one mediocre film after another. Her ability to reject good scripts--like Casablanca and Gaslight--and pick the forgettable ones--Experiment Perilous and Ziegfeld Girl--was phenomenal. Nevertheless, because of her overwhelming beauty, she managed to prolong her career until the end of the war. As had Garbo before her, Lamarr projected a mysterious sensuality, and it was an attractive alternative to the openfaced "cuties" typified by Betty Grable.

Her last film of any importance was released in 1950. She played opposite Victor Mature in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah. Despite the critics' bad-mouthing, it was the biggest box-office success of the year, and there was immediate talk of a comeback. But it remained mostly talk and, for the next 15 years, her only press consisted of short notices that she was either getting married or divorced, both of which she did quite frequently.

And Today: In January, 1966, she made headlines once more. She was arrested in the parking lot of a Los Angeles department store. Allegedly, she hadn't paid for some items that were in her shopping bag. The next day, looking chic, she held a press conference and denied the charge, saying she had enough money to buy whatever she wanted. But when reporters visited her Beverly Hills home--from which the bank was trying to evict her--they found it badly in need of repairs. Newspaper stories mentioned windows that were broken and without drapes. A partially completed swimming pool in the back yard was, so the reports said, empty except for some mud and a discarded Christmas tree. A 10-year-old Lincoln was parked in the driveway, the initials "H.L." pasted on its dashboard in Blue Chip stamps. Eventually a jury found Miss Lamarr innocent. Not long after, she moved to New York, where she still lives.

The next year her autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, was published. It was subtitled My Life as a Woman, since it wasn't much more than an account of one exotic sex adventure after another. The book's 2 introductions, one by a psychologist and the other by a doctor, rather breathlessly recommended it as a document of certain medical interest. Reviewers were undecided as to whether the narrative was fictionalized fact or factualized fiction. It really didn't matter--the public's interest in Hedwig had long since waned.

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