All Things Hedy

HedyThumbby Brad Nelson   1/2/14
I’ve been trying to find a good Hedy Lamarr movie. She’s a favorite of mine — a mild infatuation — if only because she is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen.

So I started out with a light comedy with Bob Hope: My Favorite Spy. It was fairly boring, not particularly funny, and Hedy was nothing special. Hope needs a substantial straight man (such as Crosby) for his shtick to work well.

I then moved onto Algiers, a movie I had once seen several years ago. This movie is part Casablanca and part National Geographic Special. The sheer architect and geography of the Casbah district of Algiers are central to the story and compete with Charles Boyer and Hedy for the star of this film.

It’s actually an okay movie, one that old movie buffs will appreciate for  sure. I’m not sure how much appeal there is beyond that. But Boyer is fun to watch as the bored master criminal who just wants to get the hell out of the Casbah district but is hemmed in by the police. They can’t pursue him there, but neither can he leave. But beyond that, I don’t know that it will have the much appeal to the general movie goer. Hedy is okay it in, but nothing special.

And Hedy is nothing special physically in this either. I disliked her hair. That may seem a bit silly, but her looks are her best asset and her hair just didn’t compliment her classic good looks.

White Cargo is supposed to be a halfway decent film whose prime asset is a smoking-hot Hedy who does some provocative native dancing — so hot that apparently most of it had to be cut out of the film. But darned if I can find a copy of it anywhere.

I’ll screen Ziegfield Girl as soon as I get a chance. This musical has a strong cast with James Stewart, Lana Turner, Jackie Cooper, and Judy Garland. Tortilla Flat, with Spencer Tracy, is also supposed to be a decent film. Again, it’s been pretty hard to find, at least at a reasonable price.

WEB-hedy-lamarr-4So then I moved onto the Technicolor blockbuster, Samson and Delilah. I generally like biblical Technicolor blockbusters. But this one is a stinker. Victor Mature, to my mind, is one of the worst leading men of all time. And his acting ability seems to consist of an ever-present shit-eating grin. I don’t get his appeal. And, again, Hedy Lamarr is nothing at all special in this, so my search to prove that Hedy Lamarr was more than just a pretty face continued.

And then I ran across a fairly obscure movie titled Dishonored Lady. The bad news is that I couldn’t find a DVD copy of this anywhere. The good news is that you can watch it for free on YouTube. The quality of the print is pretty poor though, but it’s better than nothing.

This film isn’t rated very highly at IMDB.com (which isn’t saying much because of their typical rating inflation, especially regarding more recent movie). But in Dishonored Lady, it’s the first time I’ve seen Hedy really act. In most of her roles, she doesn’t have much rapport with the camera. She seems a bit uncomfortable and standoffish. But in this one, she emotes a complex range of emotions. And she’s involved in a pretty good overall story.

Hedy is the editor of a fashion magazine by day and a bit of a slut by night (or what we might now call a “modern woman,” I guess). The pressures of her job, and the wreckage of her personal life, lead her to seek psychiatric help. The doc eventually gives her confidence enough to quit her job and try to start a new life. She does a makeover of all aspects of her life, including moving to a new apartment where she meets a handsome, up-and-coming doctor, who live downstairs.

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Hedy has her ups and downs. But she is able to carry this movie with her honest and complex reaction to the tumult happening around her (much of it, of course, her own doing). This is a quiet little film with competent acting and direction throughout. I hope someone discovers a good copy of this on DVD. This really should be restored. • (1928 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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3 Responses to All Things Hedy

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t recall seeing any of her movies, but I can mention a couple of cultural references to her. The Attorney General in Blazing Saddles (played by Harvey Korman) was named Hedley Lamarr. In addition, she appears in her role as the co-inventor of a radio frequency-switcher in the novel Anarquia by Brad Linaweaver and J. Kent Hastings (an alternate history about the Spanish Civil War, which I reviewed in FOSFAX many years ago after Linaweaver sent us a copy).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, Hedy, as Glenn noted, was more than just a pretty face. Apparently the modern cell phone uses frequency-switching technology that Hedy and her partner dreamed up for use in ant-torpedo-jamming. At the time, the Navy didn’t adopt it. The patent ran out but the technology was eventually used. Hedy was given a formal scientific award for this late in her life.

      But it was indeed a pretty face. It is said that more than one famous Hollywood actress changed from blonde to brunette because of the Hedy effect. And one of my most prized possessions is a pretty decent original of a June 1, 1942 edition of Life magazine that has Hedley (that’s Hedy) on the front cover.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    A good friend lent me a copy of the Richard Rhodes authored book, “Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamaar- The Most Beautiful Woman in the World.” Although I have not read it, it is on the ondeck circle of books I’m just bound to get through sometime before the apocalypse. From what I understand, she was far more than just a pretty face…….

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