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PUPPY VISIT DAY Photos by Sean Blanchard Photography
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria, to a banker and his wife. Hedwig, who obviously became Hedy, had a rather calm childhood, but it was cinema that fascinated her. By the time she was a teenager she decided to drop out of school and seek fame as an actress. Her first role was a bit part in the German film Geld auf der Straße (1930) (aka "Money on the Street") in 1930. She was attractive and talented enough to be in three more German productions in 1931, but it would be her fifth film that catapulted her to worldwide fame. In 1932 she appeared in a German film called Ecstasy (1933) (US title: "Ecstasy") and had made the gutsy move to be nude. It's the story of a young girl who is married to a gentleman much older than she, but she winds up falling in love with a young soldier. The film's nude scenes created a sensation all over the world. The scenes, very tame by today's standards, caused the film to be banned by the US government at the time. Hedy soon married Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer and a prominent Austrofascist (not the same as Nazi). He attempted to buy up all the prints of "Ecstasy" he could lay his hands on (Italy's dictator, Benito Mussolini, had a copy but refused to sell it to Mandl), but to no avail (there are prints floating around the world today). The notoriety of the film brought Hollywood to her door. She was brought to the attention of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a contract (a notorious prude when it came to his studio's films, Mayer signed her against his better judgment, but the money he knew her notoriety would bring in to the studio overrode any "moral" concerns he may have had). However, he insisted she change her name and make good, wholesome films. Hedy made her American film debut as Gaby in Algiers (1938). This was followed a year later by Lady of the Tropics (1939). In 1942 she landed the plum role of Tondelayo in the classic White Cargo (1942). After World War II her career began to decline and MGM decided it would be in the interest of all concerned if her contract were not renewed. Unfortunately for Hedy, she turned down the leads in both Gaslight (1940) and Casablanca (1942), both of which would have cemented her standing in the minds of the American public. In 1949 she appeared as Delilah opposite Victor Mature's Samson in Cecil B. DeMille's epic Samson and Delilah (1949). This proved to be Paramount Pictures' most profitable movie to date, bringing in $12 million in rental from theaters. The film's success led to more parts, but it was not enough to ease her financial crunch. She was to make only six more films between 1949 and 1957, the last being The Female Animal (1958). Hedy then retired to Florida, where she died on January 19, 2000.