One of her first starring roles was in the dialog-light film Ekstase, which featured a long scene of Lamarr fully nude. While The Hays Code made a repeat performance in America impossible, the reputation as a dark and glamorous Ms. Fanservice did follow her. Subsequent films included an adaptation of John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat and the Cecil B. DeMille film Samson and Delilah, which was said to be her personal favorite of all her films and arguably the film for which she is best remembered. Sadly, her career went into decline after that particular high point (it was the highest grossing film of the year for Paramount; pretty much the Lord of the Rings of 1949) and a decade later she retired from Hollywood.
Lamarr was also very mathematically talented; her most notable non-movie achievement was inventing, along with composer George Antheil, a form of radio frequency hopping that is the basis for components of wi-fi and cordless phones today. Or as Cracked.com put it, she's the world's sexiest Mad Scientist.
Speaking of Blazing Saddles, one of the Governor's lines to the character Hedley Lamar in that film — "This is 1874! You'll be able sue her!" — proved ironically prescient: Lamarr did end up suing Mel Brooks' production company for $10 million for invasion of privacy. (They ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed amount.)
Fun fact: DC Comics' most famous anti-heroine, Selina Kyle a.k.a Catwoman, is said to have originally been based on Lamarr. Anne Hathaway took this into account and loosely based her portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises on Lamarr.
Films in which Hedy Lamarr appeared include:
- Geld auf der Straße, as the Girl at the Night Club (1930)
- Ecstasy, aka Ekstase, as Eva Hermann (1933)
- Algiers, as Gaby (1938) — She was the girl whom Pepe le Moko would have asked to come with him to the Casbah, if he had ever actually said the line.
- Lady of the Tropics, as Manon deVargnes Carey, aka Kira Kim (1939)
- Boom Town as Karen (1940)
- Comrade X, as Golubka, aka Theodore Yahupitz and Lizvanetchka (1940)
- Come Live with Me, as Johnny Jones (1941)
- Ziegfeld Girl, as Sandra Kolter (1941)
- H.M. Pulham, Esq., as Marvin Myles Ransome (1941)
- Tortilla Flat, as Dolores Ramirez (1942)
- White Cargo, as Tondelayo (1942)
- The Heavenly Body, as Vicky Whitley (1944)
- The Conspirators, as Irene Von [sic] Mohr (1944)
- Her Highness and the Bellboy, as Princess Veronica (1945)
- The Strange Woman, as Jenny Hager (1946)
- Dishonored Lady, as Madeleine Damien (1947)
- Let's Live a Little, as Dr. J.O. Loring (1948)
- Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah, as Delilah (1949) — Opposite Victor Mature. This was the film that prompted Groucho Marx's famous quip: "I never go to see a picture where the guy's tits are bigger than the goil's."
- Copper Canyon, as Lisa Roselle (1950)
- My Favorite Spy, as Lily Dalbray (1951) — Opposite Bob Hope
- The Story of Mankind, as Joan of Arc (1957)
- The Female Animal, as Vanessa Windsor (1958)
Tropes associated with her roles:
- Fake Nationality: Everything from Russian to Mexican to South Sea Islander.
- Femme Fatale: Most notably in Algiers, in which she lures Charles Boyer to his doom. And of course Delilah in Samson and Delilah.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: In her autobiography she wrote "my face has been my misfortune" - as her beauty was valued more than her intelligence.
References in Fiction
- Dr. Kleiner from Half-Life 2 has a de-beaked headcrab named Lamarr as a pet. Later in game, you can hear him say "There's only one Hedy".
- The Big Bad in Blazing Saddles is named Hedley Lamarr and is constantly being called Hedy, much to his chagrin.
- The Legends of Tomorrow episode "Helen Hunt" has the evil plot of the week be to bring Helen of Troy to 1937 Hollywood, where her legendary beauty causes her to be cast in Lamarr's place, derailing the rest of her life so that her frequency hopping technique and all the other technology built on it will cease to exist.
- In Little Shop of Horrors Audrey II offers Seymour "a date with Heddy Lamarr" in exchange for some food. Seymour declines.
- She's played by Alyssa Sutherland in Timeless in the episode "Hollywoodland", where she helps out the protagonists deal with Citizen Kane being stolen.
- Whitney Frost, the Big Bad of Agent Carter Season 2 is heavily inspired by her. Her backstory is that she was a scientific genius who eventually became a movie star. Lamarr herself is also mentioned in the series.
That's HEDL-- ...er, wait, actually it is Hedy!