Hedy Lamarr celebrated in new book
Author Stephen Michael Shearer will be at D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla to discuss his new book "Glamour and Style: The Beauty of Hedy Lamarr" on March 31. This is a coffee table companion book to his biography, "Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr," about the classic Hollywood star and inventor.
In the 1938 film "Algiers," Hedy Lamarr made her Hollywood film debut. She enters the scene in an evening gown as bullets fly in a darkened Algerian alley. She emerges from the shadows and walks up to the camera. She needed no words to dazzle audiences with her flawless beauty.
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Louis B. Mayer put her under contract and added her to the stars he collected at MGM so he could boast "More stars than there are in heaven!" He promoted her as "the most beautiful girl in the world" and paired her with actors such as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and William Powell. The Vienna-born actress was often cast in what Hollywood at the time considered "exotic" roles in films such as "White Cargo," "Lady of the Tropics," "Tortilla Flats" and "Comrade X."
Before arriving in Hollywood she had already caused a sensation starring in the 1933 Czech film "Ecstasy" (under the name Hedy Kiesler) in which she briefly appeared nude.
While audiences around the globe saw her as this luminous star of the 1930s and 1940s, few at that time knew that she was also an intelligent woman and inventor. The actress is famously quoted as saying, "Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”
Author Stephen Michael Shearer chronicled Lamarr’s life in a 2010 biography called "Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr" in which he explored her glamour and intelligence.
"Of all the film stars, Hedy Lamarr has left us a double legacy, not only a canon of film work, but also perhaps one of the most important scientific inventions of the 20th century," Shearer said.
The invention she and avant garde composer George Antheil patented was a “frequency hopping, spread-spectrum communication system” designed to make radio-guided torpedoes more effective.
In honor of Lamarr, International Inventors Day occurs on her birthday Nov. 9.
But because so much of Lamarr's professional life was about the image she presented, Shearer has now created a visual companion to his biography called "Glamour and Style: The Beauty of Hedy Lamarr." The book celebrates her gorgeous appearance and famous designers who clothed her through an extensive collection of photos. There are also many family photos that Shearer got permission to use from Lamarr's children.
But even in this exploration of glamour and style, Shearer takes the time to include a chapter on her invention and to look beyond the image of a movie star.
"But the reason that I wrote 'Beautiful' and the reason I wanted this book about Hedy Lamarr is that there's image of beauty in context of the time period, and Hedy Lamarr was a woman in a basically male-oriented society of '30s and '40s, even into the '50s," Shearer stated. "And the fact that she had an intelligent mind, an active, creative mind, brilliant mind, she was stifled throughout those decades because she was a woman. And not only was she a woman, but she was a beautiful woman. And how stifling and how frustrating that had to have been for her during that era not to be heard."
Shearer’s book celebrates Lamarr’s dual legacy of brains and beauty. He will be at D.G. Wills Books on Thursday, March 31 to discuss his book, Lamarr, and to sign copies.
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