Wednesday, 15 January 2014

From Ecstasy to cell phones

Hedy Lamarr: Beautiful, talented, genius and a glamorous movie star, jump started her career in a film Ecstasy, as a lonely nude swimmer whose clothes were accidentally carried away by her runaway horse.
Hedwig Eva Kiesler was born in 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. She was the daughter of a banker Gertrud (Lichtwitz) and Emil Kiesler. A school dropout Hedy attended acting classes at the theatre director Max Reinhardt in Berlin. She began her career as actress in 1930 in Czech and German films.
Her role in the controversial (for the time) movie Ecstasy, Extase, L’Extase, Ekstase or Symphonie der Liebe (1933) in which she appeared nude and even simulating orgasm caused the scandal and sensation throughout the world. No wonder, the film was even banned by the US government at the time. By the way, measured by the modern standards, the film was so benign it wouldn't be PG rated at all. Especially not in most of the EU countries.
Hedy soon married Fritz Mandl, a wealthy ammunition dealer and a prominent half-Jewish Austrofascist with close ties to Nazis. He attempted to buy all the prints of his wife's scandalous movie, but in vain. Eventually, the Nazis confiscated his factory, claiming that he owed them taxes. His wife, Hedy, fled to England.
She married five more times and had three children.
Hedy: I must quit marrying men who feel inferior to me. Somewhere there must be a man who could be my husband and not feel inferior. I need a superior inferior man.

Note the transparent veil "covering" Hedy in the movie poster (below). There wasn't one in the movie.

The film itself was exceptionally well edited. A very modern cut.
 A link for those who are interested in seeing the low resolution excerpts from the movie Ecstasy.
Hedy: I think women are concerned too much with their clothes. Men don't really care that much about women's clothes. If they like a girl, chances are they'll like her clothes.
Oberon: One doesn't have to be genius to know that.
Hedy: If you use your imagination, you can look at any actress and see her nude... I hope to make you use your imagination.

Posters of her  movies in which her looks provoked gasps in the audience.

Hedy:Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.

Some of Hedy's movies are free to download and watch at low res  at You Tube:

Louis B. Mayer brought her to America in 1937. She became a MGM movie star. The studio changed her name to the posh "Hedy Lamarr" and filmed her in a series of exotic adventure epics. Her biggest success was in Cecil B. DeMille's spectacular block buster epic Samson and Delilah (1949), but her career declined from that point. She appeared in 36 movies. However, she was difficult to work with. She retired from the screen in 1957.

When her "autobiography" book was published, she was so angry about it, that she sued the publisher (Bartholomew House) for $9.6 million, on the grounds that ghostwriters Leo Guild and Sy Rice had made up most of the events and anecdotes in it. She said, the book was "fictional, false, vulgar, scandalous, libellous, and obscene". She sought the court to stop its publication, but lost the case.

 Brilliant invention of the clever 26 year old.: The Secret Communication System, which she with a little help of her friend composer George Antheil, received U.S. patent #2,292,387. It used 88 frequencies that changed at (almost) random intervals to disable the detection or jamming radio-guided torpedoes.
It wasn't used in WWII like Lamarr intended, but the US Navy used it only 17 years later, when the patent was expired.  Lamarr's invention was the basis for "spread-spectrum communication technologies like CDMA". Fact is that without Hedy we might not have had cell phones.
In the late 90's the illustration featuring Hedy's portrait had appeared on the CorelDraw package as an example of what their vector drawing could do. Lamarr's suit against Corel was settled out of court; Corel received the rights to use her image for five years.
Hedy Lamarr died alone and in her sleep in Altamonte Springs, Florida, in January 2000 at the age of 86.
So, what was my inspiration in all that? When I saw the beautiful illustration on CorelDraw's package. At the first moment, I thought it was featuring Vivien Leigh. Hedy and Vivien look very much alike in some photographs. I had investigated a bit through the rudimentary  www available at the time and found out I was wrong. However, I did see some of Lamarr's movies before. I really had enjoyed Samson and Delilah movie as a kid, but watching it later, I thought this swords and sandals film just didn't manage to be persuasive enough in the modern times.

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