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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 06:17 GMT
Actress Hedy Lamarr dies

Hedy Lamarr: "A hell of a nice dame"


Actress Hedy Lamarr, who appeared in several Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 1950s, has died at her home in Orlando, Florida, at the age of 86.

Regarded as one of the most beautiful actresses ever to appear on screen, she caused a sensation in the early 1930s by appearing nude in a 10-minute swimming sequence in the Czechoslovak film, Ecstasy.


Lamarr was the first major actress to appear nude on screen
It brought the 19-year-old Vienna-born actress - born Hedwig Kiesler - to the attention of an Austrian arms maker, whom she married.

But when her possessive husband started working for the Nazis, she drugged a maid who was guarding her and fled to London.

After appearing on the West End stage, she went to Hollywood, where she made a series of films, one of the best-known being Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature.

Her new screen name was said to be an homage to the 1920s screen beauty Barabara La Marr.



Any girl can be glamorous - all you have to do is stand and look stupid
Hedy Lamarr
She also appeared in Tortilla Flat, in which she played a part-Mexican woman; White Cargo, playing the slave woman Tondelayo; and Lady of the Tropics.

She got a rare chance to try her hand at comedy in My Favorite Spy, a 1951 Bob Hope film.

Her career faded in the mid-1950s, when she appeared in some Italian productions. Her last film was The Female Animal with Jane Powell in 1958.

Invention

Hedy Lamarr's looks were rivalled by her intellect.

Developing the knowledge she had acquired from her first husband's arms factories, Hedy Lamarr helped to invent a communications system still used in military satellite operations, as well as mobile phones.

But her communications brainwave, first registered in 1942, wasn't put to practical use until the 1960s, after the patent had run out.

Distortions

Hedy Lamarr was married and divorced six times and had two children, and one adoptive son.

A pair of shoplifting arrests - neither of which resulted in convictions - caused headlines in her later years.

Her lurid 1966 autobiography Ecstasy and Me, filled with sexy anecdotes, became a best-seller.

But she later sued, saying the manuscript prepared by the ghostwriter was full of distortions and outright errors.

By the end of her life she was legally blind and did not venture out on her own.

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