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Note

Create a duplicate that adopts given properties of the original.

In an encounter with MGM’s fabled Luis B. Mayer, you negotiated your first Hollywood contract.  It is he who provided the young Hedwig Keisler Mandl with a new name: Hedy Lamarr, the surname coined from the name of the star-crossed actress Barbara La Marr.  As in so many instances in your life, your name is based upon miscommunication.  On board the Normandie with Mayer, you suggested la mer for your stage name.[i]  He thought you had suggested La Marr!  Mayer considered Barbara La Marr to have been “the most beautiful woman in the world” (48).   No doubt he thought it would be relatively easy to discard the scandal-tagged, unwitting star of Ecstasy and re-make you in the likeness of the deceased Hollywood icon: “We are going to replace death with life,” he quipped (Barton, 62)

Star-Crossed!

Porter envisions your reaction to this re-naming once you were told the details of the life of your forbearer:

“Barbara La Marr. The world’s most beautiful woman, that’s how the studio billed her. A real wildcat. She gave birth to an illegitimate child. She committed bigamy. Depending on how you count the husbands, she was married five times. Booze and drugs destroyed her. I guess he never told you any of that.”

“No.” Her situation, already dire, was worse than she knew. Mayer had cursed her with the surname of.a doomed, self-destructive actress.” (5483)

As Christopher Young informs us, you even had to endure your name being mispronounced by those of your adopted country.

It should be HAY-dee.

In Simone, the film director Viktor Taransky waxes nostalgic for the old days when actors were the studio’s property, owned by Hollywood lock, stock, and barrel:

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In Comrade X, you were re-named to conform with Stalinist protocol:

Thompson: You don’t look like Theodore to me.

Hedy (aka Theodore): I was named at the Workers’ Council.

Thompson: Somebody didn’t have his glasses on.

Theodore: It is not glasses. It is the law. Streetcars must be driven by males.

Advised not to compromise your Hollywood image as a different form of “bombshell,” even your name appears on the patent in code. Besides, who would take a female inventor seriously in the 1940’s? Better to remain a “hidden figure.”

U.S. Patent 2,292,387 (Secret Communication System).  Granted August 11, 1942, to Hedy Kiesler Markey and George Antheil.

 

In a more humorous vein, Porter imagines a dialogue between her publicist and Mayer:

Publicist: “She could be Heidi, from the kids’ story.”

Mayer frowned. “Twentieth Century Fox is releasing a film adaptation. We can’t have people confusing her with Shirley Temple.”

The publicist grinned. “No danger of that L.B.” (Loc 2053).

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