Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tales from the Vienna Woods: Hedy Lamarr, Part I

TALES FROM THE VIENNA WOODS: HEDY LAMARR, PART I -- Her life could have been a movie in and of itself.  At Studio of Style, there's nothing we love more than the real-life adventures of Hollywood stars -- and the life of that great beauty known as Hedy Lamarr was certainly filled with intrigue, plot twists, riches-to-near-rags moments and even scandal.  We hardly know where to begin on this one, kids!  Born in 1913 in Vienna, Austria, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (her name would later be changed in Hollywood) was already a veteran of acting in movies by her teens -- starring in German films in Berlin with such directors as Max Reinhardt who dubbed her "the most beautiful woman in Europe" (Reinhardt would later go on to direct both on Broadway and in Hollywood). By 1933, more filmgoers began taking interest in her because of the full-frontal nude shots and facial closeups (supposedly during sexual orgasm) in the Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy -- which, understandingly, caused notoriety (nudity -- heavens forbid!).  Also in 1933, at age 19, Lamarr married Vienna-based arms manufacturer Friedrich Mandl who was 13 years her senior -- a controlling man who tried to buy up as many copies of the film Ecstasy as possible to stop people from ogling his nude bride and seeing her orgasmic face (Lamarr would later say that the director was actually poking her in the bottom with a pin to get her to make those "orgasmic" expressions -- ouch!). The times being what they were (and with Lamarr being of Jewish heritage and Mandl being part-Jewish), it is interesting to learn that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini would often attend Mandl's grand parties at the couple's historic castle Schloss Schwarzenau -- all in the name of looking for arms deals. Trying to stifle her acting career, Mandl would take Lamarr to his business meetings with technicians and scientists -- all of which fascinated the mathematically-inclined Lamarr (information that she would use to her advantage later on). Of further interest is the fact that Mandl would later marry the daughter of German diplomat and resistance fighter Eduard Brucklmeier who would be hung by the Nazis in 1944 for his part in the daring plot to assassinate Hitler (the real-life Valkyrie -- and it was no movie for Brucklmeier!).  Knowing her fate if she were to stay in Nazi-infested Europe, Lamarr fled to Paris with jewels in hand and a head full of munitions and weaponry knowledge.  There she obtained a divorce from Mandl and went on to London where, as a more promising fate would have it, she met the reigning czar of Hollywood studios Louis B. Mayer -- and this was just Part I for Lamarr (and that would be plenty for one lifetime, wouldn't you think?).  But wait, there's more! Part II of our report will be coming soon -- so stay tuned!  P.S. -- Ex-husband Mandl would eventually end up in Argentina where he would become an advisor to dictator Juan Perón and also work with renowned French designer Jean-Michel Frank who was at that time the director of a company that manufactured Mandl's furniture designs -- oh, the many, many layers and degrees of separation to this story, kids!