Thursday, March 29, 2018

Catching up with Alexandra Dean's fine doc, BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

First hitting U.S. theaters in November of 2017,  BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY has continued to play to surprising large crowds all across the country -- particularly, I would guess, in areas where senior citizens reign supreme. We remember this gorgeous leading lady of cinema. And although the film is playing currently in a two-week run here in South Florida, TrustMovies suspects that this is already something of  a "return engagement." No matter.

The movie's worth seeing, certainly, and probably, for some people, more than once. Though the famous Ms Lamarr was most noted for her beauty, as you may have heard by now, she did and was a lot of other important things, as well.

As an Austrian Jew with a burgeoning film career in her native region before WWII (Hitler is said to have hated the landmark film in which she starred, Ecstasy), Lamarr had to flee Austria and come to America to continue to make her mark on audiences worldwide. As written and directed by Alexandra Dean, Bombshell is actually a relatively quiet and thoughtful documentary. And though Lamarr's life offered plenty of ammunition for scandal and shock, Ms Dean, shown at left, manages to keep us focused on the woman herself: who she was and what she tried to achieve.

As Lamarr herself admitted, she was best known for her beauty, but she also possessed a unique intelligence  and deep interest in how things worked -- which eventually led her, along with well-known musical composer George Anthiel, to invent a technology known as frequency hopping (now called Spread Spectrum), originally conceived to help the Allied forces during World War II, that has led to the creation of everything from fax machines to cell phones and wireless.

How this came about is but one part of this eye-opening and fascinating documentary/biography, from which Lamarr emerges as a complicated, frequently troubled woman, who proved a fine parent (early on, at least), a much-married movie star, and finally a kind of recluse, living out her last years with little income and even fewer friends -- though at last, during the short time before her death, receiving some genuine acknowledgment and tribute for her invention.

Along the way, we hear from an enormous number of "fans," from Peter Bogdanovich to Mel Brooks, Robert Osborne (who was also a close friend) to German actress Diane Kruger, plus a number of family members, children and grandchildren. What they tell us is both germane and entertaining. (That's one of Lamarr's co-stars, Spencer Tracy, above, left).

By the finale of this 90-minute movie, we've been surprised, amused and moved by this life that was so much richer, fuller and sadder than we could probably have ever imagined.

From Zeitgeist Films, now working in conjunction with Kino Lorber, the movie continues its slow and steady nationwide release. Click here  (then scroll down) to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters. Eventually, of course, there will be home video options, as well.

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