‘Hedy Lamarr – An Incredible Life” is a graphic novel written by William Roy and the illustrations are courtesy Sylavain Dorange. I hadn’t even known of the actor/inventor Lammar until I read a book on different women who aren’t celebrated enough a while back. It barely had 4-5 pages on the Hollywood actor, but was enough to pique my curiosity. So I didn’t think twice before getting a full-fledged graphic novel dedicated to her life.
The book starts with Hedy as a little girl in 19, with a ‘cool’ dad who loves to explain her how things work. So Hedy becomes a curious child who takes joy in inventing & fixing things. But as she grows older, the theater bug bites her, and she decides to become an actor. Roy & Dorange chart her tumultuous life, first as a scandalous rising star in Austria, then as the trapped wife of a jealous Billionaire and finally her twin life as that of a typecast Hollywood ‘man-eater’ and secret inventor.
I love the colorful illustrations, however, the biggest flaw of the art is how it fails to capture Lammar’s beauty. It could’ve been a deliberate distortion of her facial feature by the artist, but just that it blunts the primary message of the story – how a woman’s intellect was overlooked because she was stunningly gorgeous. Take a look at the panel from the book below, Hedi is pictured with a house-help, and they look like siblings.
Apart from that, the art is very enjoyable, it has a dreamy touch to it, like illustrated fairy-tale books made for little kids. Although Hedy’s story isn’t exactly child-friendly. There’s a lot of sexism, prejudice and unsavory advances that the protagonist faces, although, the writer has probably toned stuff down. The book has a moving climax that wraps the life of an icon neatly, but it just feels like something was missing. Lamarr remains an enigma even after the 100+ pages you get on the actor.
If you don’t know much about Hedy, this is a good graphic novel to find out more about a figure who was misunderstood and not recognized for her true potential. She truly did have an incredible life, slices of which William Roy and Sylavain Dorange are able to capture very well.
It’s a 3/5 from me.
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