“Stand still and look stupid.” Hedy Lemarr

download (2)This according to Ms Lemarr is all it takes for any one to look glamorous Now when I read this first I took a sudden dislike to Lemarr. It did seem a tad hypocritical  since did she not make it in Hollywood because of her beauty and her talent for standing around in spectacular gowns or outfits and looking, well, glamorous. An exotic beauty with pitch black hair, porcelain skin and light grey/green eyes; photo’s of her always make a person feel slovenly, under-dressed and just plain, well, anything but glamorous. So as they say in the movies, “What a nerive”

images (4)But then I discovered that Hedy was quite a bit of a character who defied a lot of stereotypes, stereotypes that are still relevant today, almost eighty years later. At 18 she was, literally and physically, in Ectasy, the first non-pornographic film to depict sexual intercourse and the female orgasm. The film tells the story of young  woman who leaves her impotent husband for the virile young farmhand and surprise surprise isn’t turned into stone or punished for such audacious behaviour.  Hedy runs about a lot in the nude and when caught skinny dipping, brazenly confronts the intruder  in all her naked glory. The film endorses and encourages women to explore their own sexual appetites, their desires. which to me seems rather forward thinking movie making even for today, let alone the 1930s!

Hedy herself fled a controlling husband by hiding in a brothel of all places! And the story even goes further in that whilst hiding she figured  she might just make the experience all the more real by getting actively involved.Or so it said in the papers. The story also goes that when in Hollywood and working for MGM her past, she was labeled the “Ectasy Girl”, and her dark different looks, she had pitch black hair and very white skin, meant she was forever cast as the archetypal seductress of exotic origins.  In her personal life she got involved with a popular’s actress’ former husband, and although they were long parted, she was still seen by the public as a husband stealer so  was never terribly popular.

images (5)But what she fought most, which probably explains her earlier somewhat bitter and/or bitchy remark, was that because she was beautiful and sexually very confident, she was never taken seriously as anything else. And here’s the rub, she was a scientist and an inventor whose work with an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping  paved the way for today’s wireless communications. In other words, she is partly responsible for that toy we all love and depend upon so much today – the mobile phone. In 1997 her work was honored with a special award for her trail-blazing development of a technique that became the key component of the wireless data system.Her image is frequently used to promote  the study of science by young girls and in 2014 she was  inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.

So I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for her to be cast only as the window dressing. And as the slightly dodgy, morally questionable,  window dressing at that. Probably we are all a little guilty of not accepting beauty with brains, of looking at some eye candy and not expecting them to have a lot going on upstairs. And I ‘m sure there are plenty who fall nicely into this stereotype, but for those, like Hedy, who don’t life, can be just that little bit more difficult, more trying. Things are changing and I think Hedy would have had it easier today, and might not have ended up a recluse whose only source of communication  with the outside world was, coincidentally, the telephone. Still I know from experience how hard it is to be viewed a certain way, to be seen as intelligent, when you are the “most beautiful woman in Europe.”  Okay so noted director Max Reinhardt was talking about Hedy, but hey, I wasn’t alive back then!

So the next time you encounter someone who is blessed with good looks don’t automatically dismiss them, wait until they open their mouths and see if they do that themselves.!

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