Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

 

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A detailed life story in a film telling us much that many don't know.

 
Bombshell The Hedy Lamarr Story

  

Although the Austrian-born Hedy Lamarr is reckoned one of the great beauties of the screen, her fame has dimmed compared to that of other stars such as Dietrich and Garbo imported by Hollywood from Europe. Perhaps you have to be a nonagenarian to rhapsodise today about her youthful impact and in this documentary by Alexandra Dean one such is on hand to do just that: Mel Brooks. Add that following her appearance in Samson and Delilah, Cecil B. de Mille's 1949 smash hit, her acting career quickly waned (she made her last film in 1958) and it could seem that Lamarr is an odd choice for a biopic. But Dean, doubtless much encouraged by Lamarr's two sons and grandchildren who appear in this movie, had special reasons for wanting to make this film.

 

The fact is that in addition to being an actress Lamarr had considerable brain power. Indeed it is now recognised that her invention of frequency-hopping technology developed during the Second World war as a radio guidance system for Allied bombing played an important role in that war. Furthermore, it has gone on to make a key contribution to later inventions such as wi-fi. The Lamarr family are keen that this should be known and their wish chimes with present-day attitudes recognising the importance of glamorous women not being denied recognition for anything beyond their looks.

 

Bombshell brings this information forward while also revealing the sad irony that Lamarr's invention never led to her receiving any financial reward for it.  This is a film that emphasises those aspects of Lamarr that could now be seen as making her a role model for other women (her advice to think big is quoted at the end of the film). Nevertheless, there is no covering up here of the downside of her life. Despite also trying her hand as a producer, her film career was hardly a triumph overall, and even less so her six ill-fated attempts at marriage.  What is more, her reliance at different times on drugs and on continuing plastic surgery would play a part in  making her difficult and in her later years (she died in 2000 aged 85) something of a recluse. Nevertheless, her family now remember her with affection and this fast-moving survey of her life makes good use of recently rediscovered audio tapes made in 1990 for Fleming Meeks of Forbes magazine. Hearing Lamarr herself when already well into her seventies speaking so lucidly and without self-pity is further testimony to the fact that the woman who had become notorious in 1933 for her nude scenes in the Austrian film Extase was possessed of such capabilities and such intelligence that her failures become all the sadder. Alexandra Dean is to be congratulated for giving us this rounded portrait.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Anthony Loder, Denise Loder DeLuca, Mel Brooks, Peter Bogdanovich, Diane Kruger, Michael Tilson Thomas, Jeanine Basinger, Wendy Colton, Fleming Meeks, Richard Rhodes, James L. Loder.

 

Dir Alexandra Dean, Pro Adam Haggiag, Katherine Drew and Alexandra Dean, Screenplay Alexandra Dean, Ph Buddy Squires, Ed Lindy Jankura, Penelope Falk and Alexandra Dean, Music Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock.

 

Reframed Pictures/ Submarine Entertainment/Artemis Rising/American Masters Pictures-Dogwoof.
88 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 9 March 2018. Cert. 12A.