Hedy Lamarr's Simple Tastes (1942) 🇺🇸
The “Extasy” Girl
by Kirtley Baskette
She may be a fabulous legend to millions — but to those who know her best, Hedy’s a thorough-going homebody who gags on champagne and caviar!
One day five years ago a black haired girl walked into a publicity office at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, her blue eyes round with bewilderment, her alabaster brow wrinkled with doubt.
Hedwig Eva Maria Keisler [transcriber’s note: Hedy’s family name was “Kiesler”] laid a newspaper under her press agent’s nose, pointed to a story about herself and inquired innocently,
“What does this word mean, anyway — this word ‘Glamour’?”
Since that day Hedy Lamarr has had plenty of opportunity to find out.
No star in Hollywood has ever been showered with more of the stuff Webster calls “deceptive and alluring charm.” No star has ever become such a model for feminine copy-catting or masculine sighs. Not in years has a name signified so completely seductive allure, sophistication, exotic luxury — all the out-of-reach fascinations of the movie world — as has the name Hollywood tacked on Hedwig Eva Maria Keisler of Vienna.
What Helen Wills was to tennis and Sally Rand to fans, Hedy Lamarr for five years has been to the fabulous feminine legend of Hollywood — Miss Number One. Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Fred Allen bandy her name about as a stock catchword for socko bowl-’em-over sex and beauty. Artists paint her famous features into magazine illustrations. Shopgirls, society girls, Judy O’Gradys and Junior Leaguers — even other movie stars — ape Lamarr’s make-up and manners. The army, navy and marines tack her sultry features on barracks walls and forget k.p. and fatigue. No one is immune to the Lamarr legend.
The day Hedy married Gene Markey, Clifton Fadiman stopped the quizzing on “Information, Please.” “Gentlemen,” said the scholarly Cliff in melancholy tones, “we will now observe a minute of silence. Hedy Lamarr has just been married!”
A Petty drawing, a Powers model, a Gibson girl — Cleopatra, Salome, Madame Pompadour — all the womanly witchery of the past and present lives in the Hedy Lamarr legend — through good pictures, through bad pictures — it makes no difference.
And yet —
The same Hedy Lamarr who stands for all this in public, privately is the girl who gags on champagne, who hates nightclubs, who sits at home with her dates, who has the most prosaic romances in Hollywood, who thinks every girl should have a husband and babies, who likes fudge sundaes at drive-in restaurants, who has never done anything spectacular or glamorous in her Hollywood life!
Hedy’s manner of living, her personal tastes, her friends, her men all shy completely away from the popular picture of a charmer like— say, Marlene Dietrich. In private, Hedy just isn’t the type. On the contrary, she is one of the plainest, most, conservative, naive and untheatrical stars Hollywood has ever peeked at.
Hedy herself says, “I have a peasant’s tastes.” She set about proving that from the minute she first arrived in the land that thrives on acts and poses. Oddly enough, Hedy was then a fugitive from very real and super sophistication as the wife of the Austrian millionaire munitions king, Fritz Mandl.
Hedy ran away— literally— from the most luxurious Continental life a woman could have. From a mansion and servants. From dining on the delicacies of Europe off solid gold service, surrounded by ambassadors, princes and the rulers of states. She had more fabulous clothes than she could wear, more luxuries than she could enjoy. She couldn’t stand it, so she ran away, came to Hollywood and immediately let down her long dark hair.
She has kept it down.
Hedy’s first house was a cottage atop Benedict Canyon overlooking Beverly Hills. She stocked it with chickens, ducks, rabbits and all sorts of barnyard life. She got a crush on slacks and stacked what fancy clothes she had left from the millionaire days. They’ve stayed stacked ever since. When occasionally she drags some of them out, she’s a sensation.
The other day Hedy showed up at M-G-M in a pert and obviously expensive hat. Immediately it set all the fashion hawks and clothes gossips chattering. They simply had to know what great designer had whipped up a creation for Hedy. Obviously it was the latest thing. Hedy was pried with questions. Her eyes expanded.
“This hat?” she said, “New? Oh no— I got it six years ago in Vienna.” Then she took it off and carried it home. She’s never had it on since.
Actually Hedy is a hat hater. They make her feel uncomfortable and spectacular just as do all extravagant clothes creations. One of the greatest headaches Adrian had before he left M-G-M, was luring Hedy Lamarr into his swank salon for glamorous drapings. Knowing her weakness for the hokey-pokey man, candies, ice creams and such simple girlish fare, Adrian used to work a trick. He’d call the Good Humor man and have him stand by the salon door tinkling his chimes. That put Hedy in such a happy humor she could be talked into stepping inside for a few gimps and gussets.
Hedy’s real taste in clothes runs to dark tailored things. Black and blue are her favorite colors. She acquired the black taste as a Vienna schoolgirl when she wore black dresses with white collars, an adult variation of which she often affects today. She hasn’t many evening gowns left (she arrived in Hollywood with a trunkful, but has given a lot of them away), but what she has are on the plain side and exquisitely fashioned. Hedy is no half-way-measure girl when it comes to clothes or anything else. She either likes to be togged out in the most formal fashion or else she wants to be completely relaxed. She doesn’t own one “afternoon” dress.
Hollywood once gasped when she showed up at a fashionable Beverly Hills party wearing a big sparkling diamond in her black hair. The town also did a double take when it saw her strolling down the shopping district in slacks. But that’s Hedy. She does what she likes, and she usually does it well. Right now dirndls are her favorite off-set costumes. And it doesn’t matter a whit to Hedy that dirndls had their American vogue some five years ago. She’s just as relaxed about her hair.
The other day Hedy arrived for a studio portrait sitting wearing pigtails. “How in the world,” pleaded the exasperated bulb squeezer, “do you expect me to get any glamour into a shot with those queues of yours?”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” replied Hedy. “Wait a minute and I’ll fix them.”
“I’ll call the hairdresser,” offered the photographer. Hedy shook her head, untied the ribbons and tumbled her hair into the familiar loose center-part. That’s all there was to it.
neat as a pin...
In fact, Hedy has never changed the style of her hairdress or her make-up since she came to Hollywood, except for picture parts. In private she wears the style which glamour girls from Brenda Frazier on up and down have snitched. The only time she fooled with it was when a friend mentioned her fairly high forehead. Hedy cut herself some bangs that night and regretted it the next day. The bangs bothered her. “I couldn’t think,” she recalls. So she brushed them back and went around with a ragged hairline for weeks rather than feel a speck unnatural. That’s Lamarr. Comfort before glamour any day.
That’s not to imply she’s the least bit sloppy. Not a bit of it. In fact, anything lax or out of order gives Hedy the jitters. When she powders her face, she slips on a shower cap so the white dust won’t fuzz up her hair line. She’s extra fussy about how her lipstick sets (although the kind she uses she gets at the five-and-dime); even the cut of her slacks and lounge suits has to be just right. Anything or anybody even slightly out of kilter makes Hedy restless until she has set it to rights.
There used to be a little neighbor girl near Hedy in Beverly Hills who had long straggly hair. Often she’d run up to Hedy’s and hang around. That was okay with Lamarr, but the child’s tangly tresses almost drove her mad. One day the kid arrived when Hedy was snipping something or other with some scissors. “Whenever I have scissors in my hand something is going to be cut!” Hedy admits. The girl’s hair met her eye.
“Come here, dear,” said Hedy, sweetly. Then — snip, snip, snip. Before she realized what she was up to, the objectionable hay was gone, and the girl looked neat and natty with a very special Lamarr bob. Of course, the minute she’d done it, Hedy was filled with remorse. She thought the child’s parents would be up there after her with the police any minute. Oddly enough, they were tickled to death. “We’ve been trying to sell Annie on the idea for weeks!” they said. “I don’t suppose she’d have let anyone but Hedy Lamarr do it.”
It may be the Teutonic blood coming out in Hedy, this housewifely desire for neatness and order. Anyway, she has redecorated every house she has ever lived in in Hollywood, rented or otherwise, and the one she now owns has gone through two. or three transformations. Not even Jean Harlow’s old dressing room, Hedy’s headquarters at M-G-M, has escaped. It gets a workover every few months, or rather, every few minutes. For one quality of Hedy’s is that when you, talk to her she’s never relaxed. She’s always walking about or leaning over fixing something. _
When Hedy was making “H. M. Pulham, Esq.” not long ago, King Vidor, the director, found himself stumped for some “business” for a certain scene — the one where Bob Young packs to leave. He had plenty for Bob to do, but Hedy’s action was lining up pretty flat. They called off the shooting while Vidor racked his brain, and his pacings led him into Hedy’s set dressing room. Absently talking over the headache with her, Vidor suddenly leaped to his feet and shouted, “I’ve got it!” And he had. All the time he’d been gassing with Hedy, she had been nosing nervously around the room, fixing this and that. So that’s what she did while Bob Young packed in the next scene of “Pulham.”
Part of this is nervousness, because despite her placid exterior, Hedy is a little jumpy underneath. She flares up easily and melts as quickly. She has insomnia a lot (she ought to; she sleeps in a hard bed). One jovial director at M-G-M calls her “my charming chameleon” because she changes so suddenly and violently. Like her taste in clothes, Hedy is never “in between.” She’s either keyed up or relaxed. In either case she’s always curious. She’s a great parrot for American slang (and usually gets it all wrong). She’s a constant set-hopper and loves studio gossip.
yoo hoo, Ann...
One of Hedy’s best friends and greatest confidants is Ann Sothern. They have the same street numbers — 723 — on two parallel streets in Beverly Hills. They can shout at each other from back windows and occasionally do. They go to movies a lot together, both mutually admiring Bette Davis and Disney. Hedy has seen “Fantasia” five times. The chumship started when Ann separated from her husband, Roger Pryor, and had her house done over. The carpenters banging away stirred up Hedy’s insomnia. So she dropped in to see what she could do about it and discovered Ann.
Sothern had been practicing rug cutting along with the carpenter whacks, for a “Maisie” picture. When Hedy discovered she had an M-G-M star for a neighbor, she announced her surprise. “I thought you were a jeeterbug!” she said frankly.
Hedy is always naively frank in her remarks which have had Hollywood guessing for months whether or not she has a subtle sense of humor or is just ingenuous. She appeared on Edgar Bergen’s radio show a while back, and afterwards her host asked her what she thought about him. “Charlie McCarthy is very nice,” replied Hedy, “but Mr. Bergen has no personality.” They didn’t get it. When Hedy first came to Hollywood and her great fascination with ten- cent stores was duly noticed, she was also asked once if she had ever seen a five-and-dime in Europe. “No,” replied Hedy, innocently, “but I knew Barbara Hutton.” Lamarr’s sense of humor is still more or less of a mystery.
She does like making jokes on names. For instance, she called her photographer, George Folsey, “Foliage,” and she’ll occasionally come out with a pun. But by American standards the gags aren’t killer-dillers. When Bob Hope, who has been taking Hedy’s name in vain for years, finally met her at a party recently, he exclaimed, “Wow! I’m burning up on one side and freezing on the other!” Hedy didn’t even smile. “That’s too bad,” she said, seriously, as if Bob really needed a doctor quick.
This straight approach to life is just another side of always-natural Lamarr. She was stopped by a traffic cop recently during a Beverly Hills safety drive. He showed her how to lock her windows inside to foil any would be fender-hoppers and a few other hints for ladies driving alone. Hedy took it all so seriously that the next morning she went down to the police station and bundled home literature on the safety subject. The station house gang almost fell over.
Automobiles are the one thing where a little personal glamour creeps into Hedy’s life. She has a weakness for monogrammed and sporty cars. She drives a blue convertible coupé equipped with red leather upholstery and the finest radio money can buy. Radio is one of her great weaknesses. She turns it on the minute she gets in the car. When she takes a walk she carries a portable. She once sponsored a radio program “Nobody’s Children” for homeless kids. Hedy has stayed home from big Hollywood events more than once to catch “Information, Please,” Bob Hope and her favorite Sunday program, Andre Kostelanetz. She catches popular tune favorites off the air and hums them until her friends go crazy.
Music, in fact, is a major hobby with Hedy. She likes both popular and classic. The ivory capers of Art Tatum are her particular joy, because she can bang the keys a little herself (not too good, however). She has stacks of classical record albums, most of them presents from various boy friends. She doesn’t read much, outside of occasional best sellers and magazines. She likes to cut color pictures she fancies out of certain magazines, frame them with mats and hang them around the house. Occasionally she’ll embark on a piece of handwork, like the afghan she started about a year ago. But she ran out of purple yarn, so she quit. In spite of her home loving ways, Hedy isn’t too domestic.
She hates to cook, and a sandwich is about the extent of her kitchen lore. Keeping track of grocery, milk and other routine household bills is beyond her; she shoves them off on the cook. Hedy admits she’s lazy that way but blames it on the mushy Southern California climate. Still she refuses to exercise violently like most Californians do to keep awake. Hedy will swim a little, be- cause she has a little swimming pool in her yard, but anything more strenuous is usually out. She has never taken a sunbath or acquired even a freckle of tan. She doesn’t have to bother about her weight although she’s a sucker for all sorts of rich food. A daily massage takes care of that.
Hedy eats a lot of her meals in bed, being a night owl by nature and a late riser except when the studio whistle blows. She instructs the cook to leave her “a surprise” in the icebox each night. She raids it about midnight. Her favorite surprise is cold boiled artichoke.
With the aid of two servants, a nurse and a cook, the Lamarr household buzzes quietly along in the pseudo-Spanish house she recently bought. The members, besides Hedy, include her mother, a pretty and surprisingly young mother, Hedy’s adopted boy, Jamsie, Mama Keisler’s Scotty, “Cheri,” and Hedy’s canary “Gretel.” Hedy’s mother is a smart, pert looking woman who finally arrived here after fleeing Nazidom with more roundabout stops and adventures than a travel book. Hedy took her at once to see her set at M-G-M. The scene was a London bomb shelter. Mrs. K, who had spent weeks in London through Hitler’s air blitz, quickly got the heck out of there and back home. “Good Heavens! I ran away from all this, I thought,” she said nervously.
Hedy takes after her maw that way; her home is her refuge from everything. When she first arrived in Hollywood she even stayed there in bed every Friday the thirteenth, just to keep out of harm’s way. Hedy’s first movie colony friends were people who found their social fun in private homes — Merle Oberon and Alex Korda, the Charles Boyers, George Cukor, members of the quieter Hollywood set. Her trips to the deluxe night watering spots, always rare, slimmed down to almost nothing after the only two even semi-playboys — Reginald Gardiner and Gene Markey — had stepped out of her life. Neither of these, however, was the “screen siren” type of romance.
Reggie Gardiner, a great wit and party man, is far from a suave, polished man-of-the-world, amusing though he is. Gene Markey, personable, universally liked, wrapped up in Hollywood’s social goings-ons, was just another American boy who made good in Hollywood. But even genial Gene’s tastes for people and parties and public fun were too much for home girl Hedy. She adopted her baby boy right after their marriage and wanted to stick around home like a good wife and mother. That to Lamarr is what women are for; she has often stated, in fact, that every girl should be married, no matter what she is — actress, glamour girl, business woman or what. When Gene preferred to carry on his social whirl, the rift arrived. But from Hedy’s glamour aura, anyone who didn’t know ner would swear it must have been Hedy who insisted on heavy night-clubbing.
John Howard, as a Hollywood wit puts it, was “the pipe type.” A comfortable, easy-going, thoroughly adult and relaxed guy, John fitted comfortably into Hedy’s romantic ideas. They sat at her home and played records, went out to dinner and a movie or visited John’s mother. It was hardly the love affair you’d expect from the number one Venus of the screen. Yet it was all very gemütlich, and there’s no doubt Hedy was very fond of John Howard. He’s the only man on record she has ever given jewelry to. John drew a set of gold “lover’s knot” cuff links for his birthday before the romance broke up. In all the time it lasted — about a year — they went night clubbing once — at Mocambo.
Hedy’s phone rings constantly, and anxious Hollywood swains still besiege her for dates. She can’t be bothered. “Cafés are stuffy,” she says, but that’s not the reason. Hedy knows, as she has confessed to her close friends, that there are plenty of beaus who want to take her out simply because she’s Hedy Lamarr — object — publicity. She’s canny that way. She can spot a phony a mile off — and frequently has.
The way she met her recently announced fiancé, George Montgomery, is typical Lamarr. (And George, an outdoor cowboy type of guy, is certainly no masculine charmer on the smooth side.) Hedy was in the street in front of her house chatting with some street-workers above the clatter of a jackhammer drill when George tried to pass only to see the Lamarr vision in slacks bending over a manhole and definitely in the way. He pulled up and Hedy looked up — and that’s how it all started.
Hollywood society hasn’t seen much of Hedy and George — and it probably won’t. Neither likes nightlife; neither takes even a cocktail. Two less personally glamorous people you’ll hunt a long way to find. What do they do? Well, a few weeks ago Hedy and George indulged in this exciting excursion: With Hedy’s favorite hairdresser, Edie, and her hubby they drove to the mountains to week-end in a rough little cabin.
On the way they stopped at the Farmers’ Market in Los Angeles where fans ogle movie stars and loaded up on provisions — George in his mountain boots, Hedy in her favorite polo coat with a peasant scarf over her raven locks. Glamorous? — well, not exactly. But whatever Hedy Lamarr does in her private life — for some strange reason — will never make five cents worth of difference in the Lamarr legend.
Hedy Lamarr is Hedy Lamarr to the millions. She always will be — the Hedy Lamarr of “Algiers” — cool, luxurious, orchidaceous, the epitome of glamorous womanhood. That’s the funny thing about her. She could live in a poorhouse and tag about in cast-off clothes, and she’d still be glamorous. Hedy is just a woman that people can’t seem to forget.
This spring, Hedy welcomed her mom (Mrs. Keisler) and her pooch from England after a 5 years’ separation!
Hedy's converted that gorgeous red rose and yellow daffodil patch in her backyard into a humble “defense garden,” works it herself.
In her current movie “Tortilla Flat,” she sports pigtails!
Source: Modern Screen, June 1942