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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Selling Wildlife That Was Lamarr

One of Many Glamour Captures Clarence Bull Made of Hedy Lamarr
 for Lady Of The Tropics

Metro Tames The Ecstasy Girl

This Rotogravure Appeared in Sunday Papers on 4/2/39
Here is what might be a first time for writing about a show I've never seen, but am hoping Warner Instant will get around to HD-streaming. Lady Of The Tropics was a Metro star vehicle, released 8/39, and starring Robert Taylor with import Hedy Lamarr, she of sizzling Ecstasy that was handled but with tongs by art housing and daredevil venues lying across track of local censure. How hot was Ecstasy? So much as to be spoken of in whispers, being early among appeal to "raincoat trade," that is, (mostly) men buying furtive admission to see what fuss was about. Answer to latter was HL gamboling nude and posed for orgasmic close-ups, the sort Hollywood could dream of, but dare not execute. Speaking to dare and taking of it, MGM set about mainstreaming the "X" out of ecstasy Lamarr conveyed in that Euro wallow no Loew's house could/would touch. Use of "Lady" in Tropics title was hedge against criticism and assurance that Lamarr under Metro tutelage would commit no wrongs (recall post-Code occasions where Jean Harlow or Mae West would declaim, "I'm a lady!"). Still, there was Ecstasy's reputation as lure, a diluted Lamarr still hotter than tigresses tame since a US Production Code sealed cages.


Lamarr aura was not unlike Garbo's when first shipped from Sweden, except Hedy at a start had looks and not much else. But what difference did skill (or lack of) make to a Clarence Bull turned loose in MGM photo galleries to render a latest Love Goddess? Appeal for tired business (and family) men was explicit. Hedy Lamarr was not a sort of woman you slept beside, but we could dream, and that was impulse movies served best. "Papa's Not Home" indeed, and what went through his and a million minds as they breathed exotic perfume that was Hedy Lamarr? She was at the least an Esquire spread given movement, or better, a French postcard to walk and talk. Her face alone seemed a violation of Code policy. The ad at right was designed for trades, the "Cool Loew's" cleverly adapting it to direct-pitch Lady Of The Tropics, but what if Mama saw the daily Bugler first and decreed Papa stay home and mind Junior? The kid might swallow a safety pin or drank ammonia, after all. This was tightrope a showman walked when hotwiring direct to patron desires.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

I've heard claims that Ecstasy as it exists is substantially reedited from the original. Seemed pretty coherent to me, not to mention sexually matter of fact in a way that would fit right in with modern art-sex things like Blue is the Warmest Color. Far from being mere titillation (pun unavoidable), I think it's one of the better foreign films of the 1930s, at least second team if not Rules of the Game level.

7:28 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I always liked "Ecstasy" too, Michael, and plan one day to write a post on it. From initial US release through numerous reissues and revivals, this film generated some really unique and terrific ads, many of which I'll want to upload to Greenbriar eventually.

8:13 PM  

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