A Woman Ahead Of Her Time
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle reviews Hedy Lamarr: A Life Drawn, by William Roy and Sylvain Dorange and out now from Humanoids…
Hedy Lamarr: A Life Drawn
Writer: William Roy
Artist: Sylvain Dorange
Before this afternoon all that I knew about Hedy Lamarr, or Hedwig Kiesler as she was known at the beginning of her career, was that her pioneering work with frequency shifting during World War Two helped to pave the way for the development of Wi-Fi and that her highly litigious nature was lampooned by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. Sadly, especially for someone who has spent so much time captivated by the magic of the silver screen, I had no idea that she was one of the brightest stars and most in-demand actresses of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Lamarr was, by all accounts, notoriously difficult to work with toward the end of her time in front of the camera and was almost as famous for her salacious movie debut, her tell-all “biography” which left nothing to the imagination and no stone unturned and her multiple marriages. Hers was a reputation forged in the heat of the gossip-driven studio system that dominated Hollywood in the first half of the twentieth century where rumour and conjecture fuelled by jealousy and hatred printed and disseminated by the scandal sheets of the day became public “knowledge”. While she was many things and was certainly no shrinking violet, Lamarr was far more complicated and lived a far more interesting life than her populist Hollywood image would have you, me and everyone else believe and in A Life Drawn, William Roy and Sylvain Dorange attempt to, at least partially, set the record straight about this most grossly misunderstood of actresses.
Taught that she could be anything that she set her mind to by her, for the time, liberal parents and growing up in the inter-war period in Austria, Lamarr was caught between the worlds of intellect and beauty. Voraciously clever, she became enamoured by the film industry during her teenage years and found fame and notoriety at an early age. Forced to flee Austria by the oncoming Nazi storm and a husband whose insane possessiveness kept her a prisoner, she rebuilt her career in her adopted home after she became a contract player for Louis B. Mayer. Charting her rapid rise to stardom and her forays into the world of invention, A Life Drawn portrays the story of a fiercely intelligent, independent woman who refused to be subjugated by a male dominated system, but who ultimately became a victim of the fallacy that she was nothing without her looks. Dorange’s period-influenced, sumptuously detailed art is the perfect counterpoint for William Roy’s prose, and together they paint a captivating picture of Lamarr’s intriguing life. As with any story, how factually accurate it is, is open to debate as the only person who knew the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, was Lamarr. But I’d like to believe that is as close to the truth as it’s possible to get, as it’s a fascinating tale from a time when the struggle for equality between the sexes was in its infancy and is a glorious celebration of a woman whose contribution to the advancement of film and technology is all too often forgotten and overlooked. Thoroughly recommended. Tim Cundle
Hedy Lamarr: A Life Drawn is out now from Humanoids