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“Just put it on”

Aug 11, 2020 | JMW News

“Just put it on” or how Hedy Lamarr’s traditional hat found its way into the Jewish Museum Vienna

One of our main concerns at the Jewish Museum Vienna is to keep Jewish Viennese personalities and stories from being forgotten. We particularly devote ourselves to the female perspective as well. After exhibitions on Jewish women artists, photographers, Helena Rubinstein and the Viennese salonières, Hedy Lamarr was another important protagonist for us. Today she can be considered in many ways as a pioneer for emancipation and self-determination. The preparation of an exhibition starts with the idea, in this case, of introducing Hedy Lamarr and the many roles of her life to a wide audience, especially since young people hardly know about the actress, inventor and beauty icon who came from a Viennese Jewish family and began a spectacular career in Hollywood at the end of the 1930s.

Through a dear friend, Dr. Otto Dietrich, I became acquainted with Georg Misch and his exciting documentary “Calling Hedy Lamarr.” He brought us into contact with Anthony Loder, the son of Hedy Lamarr. Through his mediation we were able to gain Anthony Loder as the main lender. I traveled to Los Angeles and drove from my accommodation with my friend Ruth Block to Charnock Road, where Anthony Loder’s house sits on a hill. Surrounded by a few small dogs, Anthony led me first into his study and then into the garage that had been converted into the “storage room.” Piled high in both rooms were memorabilia, photos, documents, magazines and newspaper clippings documenting his mother’s life in all of its facets. Making a selection was not easy. I began to dig through stacks of magazines, countless portfolios of set photos, letters, documents, press photos and, above all, private pictures of Hedy Lamarr that spanned her entire life. Fortunately, the dining table in the Loder house offered enough space to pile up the various stacks of potential loans. Between all the “flatware,” as letters or documents are called in museum jargon, several objects were also to be found in the chaotic mess. A black stuffed toy poodle that had lost a lot of its hair over the decades turned out to be a perfectly functioning music box.


Image (c) wulz.cc

When looking for objects, the focus was primarily placed on the view to Vienna, to Austria. And in the midst of Loder’s tohubohu I discovered a traditional hat worn by Hedy Lamarr, a must for the exhibition. It was an excellent match for the many photos showing Hedy Lamarr in dirndls or traditional clothes. Anthony Loder gave me permission to take this hat to Vienna. He handed me an old Samsonite for the transport to Vienna: “You can pack everything inside,” Anthony said. The suitcase was full in no time, but with the best will in the world, there was no place for the hat. So what was to be done? “Just put it on,” Anthony replied. “Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously!” And so, with Anthony Loder’s consent, I made my way back to Vienna in cinematic style. Anthony, however, was not amused for another reason. He thought I would stay at least a week to organize all of Hedy Lamarr’s documents for him… In any case, Hedy’s traditional hat arrived safely and soundly to Vienna and is now a centerpiece in the exhibition “Lady Bluetooth. Hedy Lamarr.”


Image (c) Danielle Spera


Image (c) wulz.cc