The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr
Total Rating: 
February 4, 2017
February 4, 2017
2017 Company and Gotta Van Productions
Theater Type: 
Crocker Memorial Church
Theater Address: 
1260 Twelfth Street
Running Time: 
90 min
Biographical Solo
Heather Massie
Blake Walton & Leslie Burby

In a gorgeous reddish-beige gown, all sparklingly jeweled, Heather Massie is the image of Hedy Lamarr. That’s not inconsiderable considering Hedy once was considered the most beautiful woman in the world. Massie takes her back to her original name, Eva, in Austria in the family with the father who taught her to be smart, not just pretty. And she was very scientifically knowledgeable at a time when those responsible for movies just wanted her to “Stand still and look stupid.”

Actually, Hedy’s mother thought her baby wasn’t too good looking, so she encouraged her to be a learner. Her father taught her science as a means for always “doing things better.” But as a teen, Hedy received notice of her looks, which got her into Max Reinhardt’s stage productions.

In her first film, “Symphony of Life,” she was tricked into a nude scene in the water where she should have a dream-come-true look. It was mistaken for sexual climax, and the film became famous worldwide as “Ecstasy.”

Back on stage in Vienna, she met and married a “munitions king” businessman. She had to escape from his regard for her as a “transaction” and dealings with Mussolini and Hitler. It wasn’t easy, but she finally got to Hollywood and dealings with Louis B. Mayer (whom Massie skillfully imitates, as she does most of the men in her life except her father). Charles Boyer launched her big-time career by asking for her to play his love in “Algiers,” a universal hit.

At MGM, big stars like Jimmy Stewart and Clarke Gable helped her get roles in big pictures like “Boom Town.” An extremely short marriage to writer Gene Markey was the first of many men she met during her career and later years when she basically retired to Florida. Her longest liaison in Hollywood was to actor John Loder, and she prolonged the relationship in order to have two children with him.

During World War II, she volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen where meeting men in uniform furthered her notion of helping with the war effort. She began working with a colleague, George Antheil, on a means of making torpedoes safer to send and more accurate. They gave their patent free under his name and her Markey name to the U. S. Navy, but it was a long time before it went into use. Meanwhile she was told the way she could help the war effort was by selling war bonds — and Massie well notes Lamarr’s success at that.

Massie’s Hedy concludes her story by citing the chief movies among many she made to 1958 and the success of her and Antheil’s Secret Communication System and its many byproducts to this day. It was not her only invention. She underwent surgeries to keep fit for movies, but after 1958 and some TV appearances, they were not always successful. It’s a good thing she’d learned not to rely on her beauty alone.

Heather Massie is as big a success as anyone I’ve seen doing a biographical monologue, complete with setting each scene with props (like Hedy’s father’s hat to represent him or a telephone) or moving from a central table to interact with the audience or going back to a lesser used side of the stage. All the technical elements of her show meld without a single hitch to verify the professionalism of the production. I suspect Hedy will go down as the most artistically successful of SaraSolo Festival 2017.

Heather Massie
Costume: Cat Fisher; Projections: Jim Marlowe & Charles Marlowe; Sound: Jacob Subotnick; Dialect Coach: Page Clements
Marie J. Kilker
Date Reviewed: 
February 2017