German 43: Exiles and Émigrés

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Photo of Hedy LamarrLamarr, Hedy

(Vienna 1914–Orlando, Florida 2000)

Born as Hedwig Eva Kiesler. Actress. At an early age, she left home to train as an actress with Max Reinhardt in Berlin. Back in Vienna, she had many stage appearances and rather small roles in the cinema until her scandalous nude scene in Ekstase (dir. Gustav Machaty, 1933) made her famous and film history. Upon it followed her marriage to Fritz Mandl, an industrialist, who out of jealousy attempted—in vain—to buy up all prints of the film. The film also brought her to the attention of Louis B. Mayer who offered her a contract. Eager to leave her pro-Nazi husband and anti-semitic Austria, she accepted. Upon hiring her for his studio, Mayer dubbed her "the most beautiful girl in the world" and renamed her Hedy Lamarr. With Algiers (dir. John Cromwell, 1938) she celebrated a grandiose debut in Hollywood. Yet her subsequent roles were often confined to portraying her beauty rather than allowing her to demonstrate her acting skills; thus her static, statuary roles are reminiscent of a model, or, as one reviewer had it, "a goddess of marble." After turning down the lead role in both Gaslight and Casablanca, she starred in The Conspirators (dir. Jean Negulesco, 1944), a film reminiscent of the latter film for its cast of Paul Henreid and Peter Lorre, and its theme. During the war, she developed a patent for radio guidance device for US torpedoes, a technology still used today for mobile phones—a most unusual achievement for a Hollywood star which brought her yet another label—"the beauty and the brain." In 1949, she appeared as Delilah opposite Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah (dir. Cecil B. DeMille), Paramount Studios' biggest movie to date, yet after that her career declined and she was to make only six more films between 1949 and 1957.

GERMAN 43: Exiles and Émigrés
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