What made the 1940s so glamorous

Film of the week: "Ingenious Goddess" Celebrated Hollywood star and misunderstood inventor

The beginning of "Ingenious Goddess" is adorned with a sentence by Hedy Lamarr, which has it all: "Every girl can look glamorous, she just has to stand still and look stupid." Or is it a lot more complex in the end? And then what? What if you have reached Star Olympus "glamorous" or "stupidly looking"?

Hedy Lamarr wanted to leave something behind. But the woman who was a star in the Hollywood factory in the 1940s, for example in the monumental ham "Samson and Delilah", only became - as noted in Alexandra Dean's film "Ingenious Goddess", one of the numerous biographers - only after judged her face: "She was totally judged by that face."

"In life I play more than on the screen"

Alexandra Dean tells the story of the Jew Hedwig Eva Maria Kessler, who grew up in a privileged family in Vienna, well and chronologically. A freedom-loving young woman even in her young Viennese years. Hedy Lamarr: "There was a word for what I was: 'enfant terrible'."

In Austria she played her first film roles alongside Heinz R├╝hmann and Hans Moser, among others, with the orgasm and nude scene in "Ekstase" from 1933 she made scandalous film history. She married a wealthy industrialist, fled the marriage - heading for Hollywood - and was signed by MGM tycoon Louis B. Mayer. The Lamarr label: "Most beautiful woman in the world". A star was born, but trapped in the studio system. As was customary at the time, that meant shooting one film after the next, doing justice to the image. Hedy Lamarr's likeness became the model for the cartoon Snow White and the comic Catwoman.

But Alexander Dean adds a previously largely unknown side to this friend in her documentary: Hedy Lamarr was also an inventor. She invented a fail-safe telecommunications system during World War II, which was supposed to contribute to the defeat of the Third Reich, and handed her patent to the American Navy, but was rejected. You should rather sell "kisses for war bonds". So did Hedy Lamarr, the Jew who wanted to make her contribution to the fight against the Nazis, "the job". Their invention disappeared into oblivion. "I think I play more in life than on screen," she said.

Hedy Lamarr's star biography becomes an educational piece

"Ingenious Goddess", Alexandra Dean's film about Hedy Lamarr, is initially one of those documentary films that have become standard in the meantime, confronting an unmanageable number of interviewees - biographers, friends, Lamarr's son, daughter, granddaughter - who are committed -Statements reveal the hectic flow of talking heads. So far, so bad.

To put it soberly: Two or three years ago no rooster would have crowed after this film: Another story about an old Hollywood star with his undiscovered side? Well. But: yes, and? But today, in - or already after? - the #MeToo debate is our view of the film industry and the mechanisms of abuse and exploitation much more curious and nuanced. This is where Hedy Lamarr and her star biography become a lesson.

The 1940s Hollywood studio system, in which Hedy Lamarr became a superstar, meant extreme addiction for actors when their films made money. For Hedy Lamarr, too, who shot one film after the next, the stimulant methamphetamine, which is addictive after just a few injections, was part of everyday life. Hedy Lamarr: "Someone blew me away and gave me an injection a lot. I thought it was vitamins, but it wasn't."

Even her son didn't understand who Hedy Lamarr was

Many actors have never recovered from addiction to these drugs. That seems to have been the case with Hedy Lamarr as well. Anthony Loder, the son of the actress, gives a sober picture of the star mother when he says in the documentary "Ingenious Goddess": "She had so many faces - not even I understood who Hedy Lamarr was."

Beyond the image they gave in public, the actress was broken. Alexandra Dean's documentary does not paint a one-dimensional picture of a victim of the dream factory that Hedy Lamarr exploited while she made it famous. Lamarr was a strong woman, but in the end she failed in her attempt to use the male-dominated world of science - as an inventor - or the Hollywood - as an actress - for herself and her interests. Because she always remained part of the glamor system and probably wanted to stay that way. As early as the 1940s, Hedy Lamarr underwent continuous cosmetic surgery. The images of her destroyed face in old age are unbearable to see.

In her documentary, Alexandra Dean shows the extreme poles of adaptation and resistance that made up the life of Hedy Lamarr. And this contradiction, which in the end has not been resolved, makes the documentary "Ingenious Goddess" extremely exciting, especially in #MeToo times.