cover image Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr

Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr

Stephen Michael Shearer, St. Martin's/ Dunne, $29.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-312-55098

In this authoritative biography, Shearer (Patricia Neal: An Unquiet Life) surveys the career of actress Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000), born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna. In her teens, she was cast in German films, and in 1933, after she appeared nude in Ecstasy, she was catapulted to international fame. During an Atlantic crossing on the Normandie, Louis B. Mayer offered her an MGM contract and changed her name to Hedy Lamarr. Promoted as "the most beautiful girl in the world," she appeared in more than two dozen films between 1938 and 1958. Metro denied her a loan out to do the lead in Casablanca, but her vibrant screen presence in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949) left a lasting impression on both filmgoers and Paramount; it raked in over $11 million to become the most profitable Paramount production up until that time. She faded from films in the 1950s, made numerous 1960s TV appearances and then dropped from the limelight, retiring to Florida in 1987. Providing probing and detailed coverage of her five marriages, children, various lawsuits, radio roles and shoplifting headlines, Shearer has combined extensive archival research with insightful interview quotes. The result is a fascinating biography that recreates Hollywood's Golden Age of Glamour. (Oct.)