Hedy Lamarr is often remembered as “the most beautiful woman in the world” and one of the most glamorous stars to ever grace the silver screen. Her stunning looks and alluring screen presence offered her a successful Hollywood career, before personal tribulations and wide known controversy triggered an early retirement.
Filmmaker Alexandra Dean explores the tumultuous and unconventional life of Lamarr in her debut documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. Lamarr was born in Vienna, 1914 to a Jewish family who immigrated to the US at the height of the Second World War. Lamarr was discovered by famed Austrian producer Max Reinhardt and was later employed as a script reader before her beauty won her in her first motion picture. Despite appearing in various Austrian films, it was her appearance in Gustav Machatý’s Ecstasy that caused a stir, due to her infamous onscreen nudity and sexual content.
Controversy did not stop Lamarr as she later starred alongside Hollywood’s most glamorous male stars, including Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Robert Young before featuring as the lead in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah – arguably her most famous role. However, due to her growing sex appeal, Lamarr was invariably typecast and her contract with MGM resulted in negligence, causing her to inevitably break it in the 1940s.
Bombshell examines the infamy that incessantly followed the actress, both on and off the screen. Her various marriages – her most famous to Nazi member Fritz Mandl – and a child out-of-wedlock sparked disrepute in the media and she solemnly withdrew from the public eye. However, whilst the film lightly touches upon these issues, it doesn’t justly delve deep into the nitty-gritty of her liaisons. What this film does do is offer a more specialised view of Lamarr that many may know about, including her influence behind a complex wireless system that was used throughout the Second World War – and something which is still used today.
Bombshell does offer exclusive interviews with the likes of Peter Bogdanovich, Mel Brooks and Diane Kruger – who also translates Lamarr’s correspondence into English – and bids a unique perspective on a complex individual. And whilst the film does probe into the life of a fascinating figure, it doesn’t quite delve deep enough; relying too much on one exposé interview rather than various forms of supplementary archive footage.
Bombshell is undoubtedly an interesting examination of one of Hollywood’s most unconventional stars but falls short on originality, instead offering a commonplace documentary that you feel we have seen before, which is a shame given the subject’s remarkable legacy.