Few stars were classed as beautiful, talented or alluring as much as 1930s and 1940s screen icon Hedy Lamarr.
The Austrian-born actress was often cast as a glamorous, seductive temptress and starred alongside some of the greatest actors of the Golden age, including Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey and James Stuart.
Aside from an almost ethereal beauty, Hedy was undeniably intelligent, co-inventing a device that would jam Nazi radar signals during WWII. Yet these talents would always come second to Hedy’s beauty. Billed and stereotyped as “the most beautiful woman in Hollywood”, the camera’s attraction to her would eventually be her downfall, with few people ever getting to know the ‘real’ her.
After the hit that was ‘Samson and Delilah’ in 1949, Hedy’s career stalled and after a series of film-related mistakes throughout the 1950s, she disappeared from the public eye. In 1966 she was due to make her comeback in ‘Picture Mommy Dead’, yet she was replaced with Zsa Zsa Gabor after being arrested a week before on a shoplifting charge.
In the late 1960s, Lamarr vanished yet again until the early 1990s, when she was accused of shoplifting once more, this time for $21 worth of merchandise from a drug store. After claiming it was all a misunderstanding, due to poor eyesight and absent-mindedness, the media jumped upon her vulnerability and accused her of being destitute and alone.
Towards the end of her life, Hedy was indeed almost completely cut off from the world. Refusing to leave the house and ashamed of her looks, she was almost blind and rarely saw her friends or family. She died in her sleep on January 19th 2000 and left, by all accounts, more than $3 million to her daughter, defying the press one final time.
Once questioned “what would you change about yourself?” Hedy replied “my nail varnish”. She hated snobbery and lived by the motto “never take life too seriously”.
Turns out, maybe she was right…