Barton's subtitle is no exaggeration. It pinpoints what movie producers and reviewers remarked about Lamarr (1913-2000) nearly every time they mentioned or wrote about her. An impeccable researcher, Barton (film, Trinity College Dublin) has written an engaging biography that also serves as a history of Hollywood from the 1930s to the 1950s. She is especially insightful about Ecstasy (1933), the scandalous film in which Lamarr appeared in the nude, establishing herself as the quintessential sexualized figure of modern cinema for nearly two decades. Lamarr performed poorly in serious roles, Barton demonstrates, but she had a gift for light comedy that Hollywood all too rarely exploited. Oddly, though she was an intelligent woman with a brilliant mind--she patented a frequency-hopping technology for radio-guided torpedoes in WW II, a technology that is still in use for cell phones today--Lamarr seems not to have cared enough about acting to demand better parts, as did her contemporaries like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Was Lamarr just disgusted with her willingness to collaborate with Hollywood's beauty machine when she had the brains to do better? Unfortunately, in the end, for all Barton's research, this conundrum goes unresolved; here Lamarr remains an enigmatic and unfulfilled person.
I'd love to get your take on this fascinating figure.