Hedy Lamarr: Shoplifting, 'Ecstasy and Me'

Hedy Lamarr biography
Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr was a major MGM star in the early 1940s. Among her movies at the studio were I Take This Woman, Boom Town, Comrade X, Ziegfeld Girl, and White Cargo. Her co-stars included Spencer Tracy, Robert Taylor, Clark Gable, William Powell, and Walter Pidgeon. As the decade came to a close, Lamarr had her biggest box office hit: Cecil B. DeMille's Paramount release Samson and Delilah, starring Victor Mature.

After her movie stardom had faded, Lamarr was involved in a few bizarre incidents. In 1965, she was arrested in Los Angeles for shoplifting. Though later cleared of all charges, she lost a small role in the B movie Picture Mommy Dead because of that incident. Zsa Zsa Gabor replaced her.

Curiously, there would be another shoplifting charge in Florida in 1991, this time for $21.48 worth of laxatives and eye drops. Lamarr's attorney explained that the shoplifting was actually a case of absentmindedness: Lamarr, 77, had been shopping with two other friends, and had in fact paid for the other items she had bought at the store. She could have contested the (absurd) charges, but preferred to plead “no contest” so she would not have to appear in court and face a barrage of tabloid reporters.

Through her attorney, the quite wealthy former actress promised she would refrain from breaking any laws for a year, and the charges were dropped. Rumors that Hedy Lamarr was a kleptomaniac seem to have absolutely no basis in reality.

Hedy Lamarr Ecstasy and Me: My Life As a WomanAnother latter-day curiosity: Lamarr filed a $21 million lawsuit against ghostwriters Leo Guild and Sy Rice. She alleged that they had turned her autobiography, the highly readable Ecstasy and Me: My Life As a Woman (1966), into a book that was “fictional, false, vulgar, scandalous, libelous, and obscene.”

Check out my q&a with author Patrick Agan, who knew Hedy Lamarr, and my brief review of the documentary Calling Hedy Lamarr.

Apparently in her sleep, Hedy Lamarr died of “natural causes” at the age of 85 on January 19, 2000, in a suburb of Orlando, Florida.

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