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Movie Poster of the Week: The Illustrated Hedy Lamarr

Subject of a new documentary, the world's most beautiful—and smartest—movie star, as seen in poster art.
Above: Italian personality poster for Hedy Lamarr. Art by Sergio Gargiulo.
Once promoted as “Hollywood’s No. 1 Glamour Girl,” Hedy Lamar (1914-2000) was much more than a pretty face, as the new documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story gloriously attests. Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Austria, Lamarr was catapulted to fame as the star of the scandalous 1933 Czech import Ecstasy, in which she appeared nude (and ecstatic). In America she became one of the biggest stars of the 1940s, often called the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, a designation she thought of as a curse. But she was also blessed with a curious and inventive mind. As an amateur inventor she pioneered what is known as “frequency hopping” during World War II to prevent the Nazis jamming Allied torpedoes, a technology which has become the basis of Bluetooth and Wi-fi.
With that in mind, it might seem perverse to celebrate Hedy Lamarr’s pretty face, but in movie posters that’s all we have. As her reputation as an inventor has risen, her celebrity as an actress has dwindled: apart from Ecstasy, she appeared in few canonical films. Samson and Delilah (1949), her comeback film after a bit of a slump, may be her best known vehicle.
As I did with Lauren Bacall a few years ago, I have chosen to feature the illustrated Hedy, as she was drawn and painted over the years. Some of these illustrations may actually be photographs touched up with paint, as was the style in American posters of the 1940s, but for the most part these show how a wide variety of commercial artists and caricaturists captured that unforgettable face.
You can click on the film titles to see the complete posters.
Above: Detail from a Swedish poster for Ecstasy (Gustav Machaty, Czechoslovakia, 1933).
Above: Detail from a Belgian poster for Ecstasy (Gustav Machaty, Czechoslovakia, 1933).
Above: Detail from a French poster for Ecstasy (Gustav Machaty, Czechoslovakia, 1933).
Above: Detail from a Japanese poster for Ecstasy (Gustav Machaty, Czechoslovakia, 1933).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Boom Town (Jack Conway, USA, 1940).
Above: Detail from a US poster for I Take This Woman (W. S. Van Dyke, USA, 1940).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Come Live With Me (Clarence Brown, USA, 1941).
Above: Detail from an Italian poster for Come Live With Me (Clarence Brown, USA, 1941). Art by Ercole Brini.
Above: Detail from a US poster for Come Live With Me (Clarence Brown, USA, 1941).
Above: Detail from a US poster for H.M Pulham, Esq. (King Vidor, USA, 1941).
Above: Detail from a US poster for H.M Pulham, Esq. (King Vidor, USA, 1941).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Crossroads (Jack Conway, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from a US window card for Crossroads (Jack Conway, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Crossroads (Jack Conway, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from the cover of Lion’s Roar magazine, promoting Crossroads. Art by Jacques Kapralick
Above: Detail from a US poster for Tortilla Flat (Victor Fleming, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Tortilla Flat (Victor Fleming, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from an Australian poster for White Cargo (Richard Thorpe, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from a US poster for White Cargo (Richard Thorpe, USA, 1942).
Above: Detail from a US window card for The Heavenly Body (Alexander Hall, USA, 1944). Art by Al Hirschfeld.
Above: Detail from a US poster for The Heavenly Body (Alexander Hall, USA, 1944).
Above: Detail from a French poster for Experiment Perilous (Jacques Tourneur, USA, 1944).
Above: Detail from an Italian poster for Experiment Perilous (Jacques Tourneur, USA, 1944). Art by Paolo Tarquini.
Above: Detail from a US poster for Dishonored Lady (Robert Stevenson, USA, 1947).
Above: Detail from an Italian poster for Dishonored Lady (Robert Stevenson, USA, 1947). Art by Averardo Ciriello.
Above: Detail from a US poster for Let’s Live a Little (Richard Wallace, USA, 1948).
Above: Detail from a US three-sheet for Let’s Live a Little (Richard Wallace, USA, 1948).
Above: Detail from a US three sheet for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, USA, 1949).
Above: Detail from a British door panel poster for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, USA, 1949).
Above: Detail from a German poster for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, USA, 1949).
Above: Detail from a French 1970s re-release poster for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, USA, 1949).
Above: Detail from an Australian daybill for Copper Canyon (John Farrow, USA, 1950).
Above: Detail from a US poster for Copper Canyon (John Farrow, USA, 1950).
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story opens today in New York and in Los Angeles on December 8.
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

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