|Intl. Notebook||Apr 5 2019|
Smithsonian.com published an in-depth story yesterday about Austrian born Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr, and how her technical genius helped bring the world Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and cell phones. Hah! Get with it Smithsonian. We talked about this under discussed aspect of her life years ago.
Yesterday's piece comes in tandem with the Smithsonian's Washington D.C. based National Portrait Gallery acquiring a rare original Luigi Martinati poster painted to promote Lamarr's 1944 thriller The Conspirators. We have no idea what it cost, but certainly a pile of money, since Martinati was not just a great artist, but one who tended to focus more on portraiture in his promos. You can see what we mean just below, and by clicking here and scrolling. As for Lamarr, we'll doubtless get back to her—and all her interesting facets—later.
|Vintage Pulp||May 16 2018|
|Hollywoodland||Mar 19 2018|
With hindsight, it’s clear Russell was in a death spiral, but in the Tinseltown of that day the situation was perhaps not so obvious. In August 1957, Russell was found unconscious in her home, passed out after a drinking binge. Even in Hollywood, she had now crossed the line from being merely a party girl to having a problem. She was persuaded to join AA, but couldn't stop drinking, and in August 1961 was found in her L.A. apartment, having died from liver damage, aged 36, another beautiful star that flamed out. All that and more, in thirty-plus scans below.
|Femmes Fatales||Dec 12 2017|
|Hollywoodland||Nov 12 2015|
Above and below are assorted scans from an issue of Screenland published this month in 1940. The issue we posted previously was from 1923. In the intervening years contributor Delight Evans had become editor, and as a result had become one of Hollywood’s most powerful starmakers. Evans was uniquely talented and got her break when, as a fifteen-year-old, she had a story purchased by Photoplay. That was in 1915. By 1917 she was working for Photoplay in Chicago, and quickly ascended to an associate editor position there. At least one online source says she was an editor at Screenland by 1923, but even for someone that gifted twenty-three is a bit young to be helming one of America’s biggest magazines. We have an issue from December 1923 and it was Frederick James Smith in the corner office. But Evans was in charge by at least 1934, which we can confirm because we have an issue from that year too. When did she actually take the reins? No idea. This is where it would be nice to click over to a Wikipedia page or something, but she doesn’t have one. A trailblazer like this—can you believe it? But we shall dig. Evans needs some online exposure, so we’ll see what we can do. Twenty-one scans with a galaxy of stars below.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 28 2013|
We had no idea when we watched 1942’s White Cargo that the movie had caused such a stir, but in its day it was more than just a film—it was a cultural phenomenon. The public quoted the dialogue, comedians referenced it in their acts, and journalists used the name of Hedy Lamarr’s character Tondelayo as a descriptive. So what was the movie about? Basically it’s Americans learning that Africa will corrupt them, and Africa plus Hedy Lamarr will corrupt them absolutely. In the original novel Hell’s Playground, Tondelayo was black, but because the American censorship regime known as the Hays Code banned sexualized interaction between black and white characters, she was changed to Arab for the movie. So there’s Hedy Lamarr done up in shoe polish and a sarong she borrowed from Dorothy Lamour, driving the American colonialists batty withdesire. Most transcendent movie characters have a memorable entrance, and when Lamarr emerges from the shadows and torpidly delivers her first line—“I am Tondelayo”—as the camera lingers on her preternaturally glowing eyes, it’s certainly not something you’d easily forget. Nor would you forget her sinuous dance number or the way she slithers in and out of various scenes like an Egyptian cobra. We don’t have to get deeply into the plot. It’s boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, boy is ruined by girl as all the other boys say, “Told you so, dumbass.” It’s pretty funny stuff, but highly charged for the time. Think of it as 1942’s Fatal Attraction—a sexually themed cautionary tale that everyone saw and had an opinion about. More than seventy years later—if you can get past the shoe polish, the ridiculous dialogue, and the needless moralizing—it’s still a fun movie. Is it good? We wouldn’t go that far.
|Hollywoodland||Mar 12 2012|
This National Enquirer published today in 1967 features cover star Hedy Lemarr promoting her 1967 autobiography Ecstasy and Me: My Life As a Woman. The title is taken from the 1933 Austrian film Ekstase, in which she appeared nude, shocking audiences of the time. Enquirer describes her book as shocking, as well, and indeed there are some surprising revelations. An example: while still living in her native Austria, she ran away from her husband and hid in an empty room in a brothel. A man came into the room and she had sex with him rather than let her husband find her. Lamarr claims to have had hundreds of lovers, male and female, and depicts herself variously as both a nymphomaniac and a kleptomaniac. But all of this comes with a caveat—her ghostwriter, the notorious Leo Guild, wrote various celeb biographies that played fast and loose with the truth. That said, even Guild was not imaginative enough to have fabricated everything in Ecstasy and Me.
As a side note, we should mention that Lamarr, along with George Anthiel, invented and patented an advanced frequency switching system that they envisioned for usage guiding torpedoes (the constant switching of frequencies would make them difficult to jam, thus more likely to reach their targets). Now, if you read other websites, most of them praise Lamarr as a military genius, and it’s true she had a highly developed technical mind, but the system she helped pioneer actually grew out of an idea to remotely control player pianos. In fact, the guidance system used eighty-eight frequencies, which is of course the number of keys on a standard piano. We think knowing that she applied a musical idea to military usage gives a somewhat fuller appreciation of how ingenious she actually was, rather than just picturing her as some kind of Oppenheimer type.
Ingenious or not, the U.S. Navy declined to purchase Lamarr and Anthiel’s system, but the moment the patent expired two decades later the military was all over it. We can’t discern with our limited resources whether this sudden decision to use the technology was coincidental or not, but certainly the result was that Lamarr got screwed out of probably millions of dollars. Or perhaps even more, when you consider that her and Anthiel’s frequency switching is closely related to that used today for global positioning systems and Bluetooth. Since Lamarr claimed in her book to have blown through more than thirty million dollars in her life, the fun and creative ways she might have spent a massive military windfall makes the mind boggle. We’ll get back to Hedy Lamarr a bit later, because she certainly deserves a more detailed treatment.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||Jan 16 2012|
In our continuing search for rare magazines of high entertainment value (if sometimes dubious quality), we stumbled across the above gem—the first issue of the self-described sexploitation film graphic Flick. Published in the U.S. out of Libertyville, Illinois, it was basically just reviews of x-rated films in tabloid form. The publishers admit in their introductory editorial that the tabloid market is glutted, but insist America needs a magazine that helps porn consumers separate the wheat from the chaff. They do it with utter seriousness and, as a bonus, also throw in some musings on film history, with discussions of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, Jean Harlow, and Hedy Lamarr, who all had pre-Hays Code flirtations with screen nudity.
It might be difficult to imagine actors appearing nude on screen during the 1920s and 1930s, but the idea back then was that, because the medium was considered an art form, motion picture nudity was no different from nudity in sculpture, photography or painting. Theda Bara's and Jean Harlow’s screen nudity was merely implied, but Hedy Lamarr went all the way in her 1933 Czech-made romance Ekstase, aka Ecstasy, in which she ran starkers through the woods, giving audiences a gander at her backside and breasts. She was known at the time as Hedy Kiesler, but it’s her.
There’s also a non-nude love scene containing what some critics believe is the first cinematic depiction of an orgasm. As you can imagine, Ekstase was controversial. Only four-hundred prints were ever made, and most of those were butchered by censors. By the 1940s, the only complete copy known to exist was in Russia. It had first been Hungarian property and had been exhibited in Budapest in ’33, but because the Hungarians had fought alongside Nazi Germany and helped conquer swaths of Russian territory in the early 1940s, when the Russians reversed those gains and occupied Budapest in 1944, they sort of helped themselves to a few choice cultural treasures.
Elsewhere in this inaugural Flick you get reviews of the adult films A Hard Man’s Good To Get, Sisters in Leather, College Girls, and Jack Hill’s first full-length effort Mondo Keyhole. The editors remind readers that their magazine is a collector’s item. At the time—January 1970—they probably imagined it would be quite valuable in forty-one years. Well, we got it for $4.00. But just for the hell of it, maybe we’ll hang onto it for another forty-one years. You never know. By the way, if you’re curious, you can actually see that famous Hedy Lamarr nude scene here. It is not a complete version, though. We doubt a complete one exists. See ten scans from Flick below.
|Hollywoodland||Oct 20 2011|
In this photo, actress Hedy Lamarr and her husband John Loder get a good look at the two men who robbed their Los Angeles home in August 1946. The couple lost $19,000 worth of goods, consisting mainly of Lamarr’s $5,000 chinchilla coat and $12,000 diamond ring. No info on which pimp the thieves sold the items to.
|Femmes Fatales||Oct 17 2011|
Above, Italian actress Rosanna Schiaffino, who was known as “the Italian Hedy Lamarr” and appeared in the notable films Piece of the Sky and La sfida, seen here in three pages from the Spanish magazine Triunfo, 1963 and 1964. Schiaffino died today in 2009.