Ecstasy And Me, by Hedy Lamarr

September 27, 2017 6:56 pm by Crocodile

Ecstasy And Me
By Hedy Lamarr

I’m not sure if this was the very very first tell-all celebrity autobiography, but it’s among the earliest and it has to be the absolute pinnacle of the form. Hedy Lamarr’s life was incredible, her attitude is the very definition of insouciant, and the book is fun, sexy, and indulgent, with just enough melancholy to keep things sweet. It’s great.

Hedy’s life was honestly crazy- a true riches to rags story full of sex, love, intrigue, spy shit, and other famous people. A very strong personality and a fascinating person. I wrote a little about her already, back in the first issue of Mothers News, let that suffice as a synopsis, or at least a teaser:

In 1937, excellent movie star and “most beautiful woman in the world” Hedy Lamarr convinced her Austrofascist husband that it was “a real good idea” for her to wear all her best jewelery at once to a party. Then, with the help of a look-alike maid, she drugged him and ran away to America. By this time she was already famous for a scandalous movie called “ECSTACY”, in which her throes of passion were caused off camera by the director poking her in the butt with a safety pin- Hollywood was a cinch. She was in dozens of big movies by famous directors, up to 1966 which brought us the Andy Warhol film “Hedy”, about her arrest earlier in the year for petty shoplifting. 1967 saw the release of her excellent autobio, full of buckwild stories she later denied as the work of a ghostwriter, and who knows? Who talks behind their own back? Somewhere in there (with the help of avant garde composer George Antheil) she invented the idea of spread spectrum communications technology, a key element in wireless communication. She was arrested again, for shoplifting, in 1991, age 78.

I wrote this before I got the book, and so to follow up: this book is definitely ghostwritten. And not only that but it borrows liberally from a 1965 article in Screen Facts magazine. Also contains personal letters and (almost certainly fabricated) psychiatric transcripts– no one would put that kind of stuff in their autobio, regardless of how insouciant their character. Hedy sued the publisher and lost.

Cy Rice later wrote a WC Fields biography and Leo Guild is the “King of the Hacks”, a paperback garbage slinger from the golden age of such a thing, who later took the admirable and revealing pen name “Arthur N Scram“.

I realize this is dangerous ground, but the lawsuit really energizes and reinforces the book in a strange way. Suing the publisher of your own autobiography, which you never read (!), is something the Hedy of the book would do. Also it makes whoever the real Hedy Lamarr is seem even more romantic and mysterious. Alsoooo I’m pretty sure the facts and situations are mostly real, just the vibe is too prurient or something. If it really bums you out you could think of this book as a dream someone has about her, or like an artifact from her life, but not necessarily the story of her life. Or an attempt at translating the fire of her being into a language spoken mostly by garbage. There’s a better (more well-researched) biography of her, with the less-catchy title “Beautiful: the Life of Hedy Lamarr” but from the reviews it seems just as prurient but also kind of boring? Nobody needs that.

In recent year’s Hedy’s life story has been re-written to focus on the engineering side. Without belittling the point, the feeling I get is that her inventions were just another facet of her fascinating character, but not the center point. It’s sort of like if the world suddenly discovered that Beethoven invented the precursor to ketchup– it would be weird and worth knowing but you wouldn’t come out with a play about him called Hot Dog Daddio or whatever. Or you might but the play wouldn’t be very good. He’s Beethoven, a feverishly hot instance of humanity- whatever else you want to add to the narrative is ultimately just more of the same. Ditto Lamarr. Besides that, “I invented the cell phone” is a depressing narrative.

Sorry I guess I’m not really talking about the book at this point. The book has a perfect cover in black white and yellow, a scheme you may remember from bees, the Pittsburgh Pirates, or a sign for a karate shop in your town. Book has not one but two punchy titles, “Ecstacy and Me” and “My Life as a Woman”. Unattributed cover quote designed to move units: “A Shocker”. 256 pages, paperback. According to the newspaper clip posted above, the hardcover was almost 400 pages, they must’ve double spaced it and added in a bunch of maps or something. The back cover’s a little torn up, which is maybe why this was just $1, from the bins outside the kitchy record store here in Providence (now closed). Original retail price was $.75 in 1967, that’s $5.53 in 2017 money, not bad. This is copyright 1966, and it’s the fifth paperback printing, all of which were in in 1967.

Sorry I’m putting up so much text this time but I have to include this preface, the first of two prefaces written by psychologists. It’s an all-timer.

In conclusion, this book is a fun and I would even say titillating read, and Hedy Lamarr is dynamite. Reading this book did not result in “resultful therapy” or much less “instant emancipation”, but it did make me feel good and I guess sort of less uptight? A little?

If I’ve teased you too much and you want like, “just the facts”, her wikipedia entry (link) is pretty good.

                                                                                                 

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