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Rewind

Boom Town (1940)

By Luisa F. Ribeiro | Posted

To the extent that she's remembered at all, golden-age-of-Hollywood starlet Hedy Lamarr (who died Jan. 19 at the age of 86) is undoubtedly recalled for her jaw-dropping exotic beauty—her dark cloud of hair off-setting sparkling green eyes provided a welcome contrast to the era's platinum-blond fixation. With such breathtaking good looks, her acting chops were strictly secondary (and in some travesties, such as 1949's infamous Samson and Delilah, nonexistent). But while the former Hedwig Kiesler might never have spouted Shakespeare (in her Austrian accent) onscreen, she proved more than just a pretty face in several films. Too many are unavailable on video, but happily, some of her best work (all of it in beautiful black and white) has been transferred to tape. In 1940, Lamarr, under contract to MGM, made a memorable fourth wheel in Boom Town, as a savvy business adviser hoping to lure wildcat oil man Clark Gable away from Claudette Colbert—until Spencer Tracy intervenes. Two years later Lamarr had one of her strongest roles in a watered-down adaptation of John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat, in which she plays Sweets Ramirez, a poor cannery worker filled with romantic dreams and in love with ne'er-do-well John Garfield. In 1944, on loan to RKO, she shone in the creepy Victorian-era melodrama Experiment Perilous, playing the distressed wife of anxious Paul Lukas. While it's impossible to overlook Lamarr's looks in her films, she showed repeatedly that, with the right role, she could rise above superficial glamour and demonstrate that her beauty was much more than skin deep.%,

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