Monday's Glamour Starter --- Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr may be the only Golden Age star who did a nude scene before she hit it big in Hollywood. No, I haven’t forgotten the legendary Joan Crawford stag film supposedly done in the twenties (and I had a collecting mentor years ago who swore to me he saw the Crawford reel around 1929 in New Jersey). Hedy’s was more like an art film, a Czech art film of all things, and a good one (HERE’S the DVD). Ecstasy was issued, re-issued, and played to death in this country for decades. It was really hot stuff in its day. You can see why if you look at it now. Hedy’s memoirs were hot too. I read the paperback when I was fourteen, and it rang the bell for me. This was strong confessional meat, so much so that Hedy sued the publisher, claiming the book was an unauthorized fraud. She was probably embarrassed to see the thing in print. TV chat shows pulled in their welcome mats, and things went from bad to worse when she got pinched for shoplifting soon after. Hedy said that was a misunderstanding as well, but producer Bert I. Gordon nixed her intended role in Picture Mommy Dead, a monster-piece he’d set up for 1966 release. She gave Warner Bros. and Mel Brooks some headaches when she went to court protesting their cheeky use of her name in Blazing Saddles (remember Harvey Korman as "Hedley" Lamarr?). From there, it was forced retirement, then decades later, some late-in-life press when she was recognized for some sort of technology that eventually led to the cell phone. I guess she must have been awfully bright, because the story goes that she picked up complex data from sinister, in-bed-with-the-Nazis first husband Fritz Mandl shortly before ditching him and fleeing to the Americas. I knew an autograph dealer in the nineties, who used to send Hedy reams of stills she'd sign, send back to him, then wait for her end of the split. This was after a relocation to Florida, and that’s where she died in 2000 at the age of 86.
This nice early portrait is from Ecstasy, and the lurid ad for same is pretty typical of the way that picture was sold we provincial, forbidden-fruit seekers here in the US. Next is Hedy doing the American rite of passage as she dips a toe into fetid Hollywood waters for producer Walter Wanger. The movie they were selling is Algiers. Too bad it’s public domain, cause I don’t know of a decent DVD that’s out there, and I’d really like to have one. Anybody know of a good transfer? Finally, we have "Tondeleyo", the island temptress who inspires any number of south sea-zures in White Cargo, but don’t get your hopes up. It’s a code movie, and whatever heat it generated was by courtesy of still photographers such as the one who provided this indelible image.