4 July 2012 | beyondtheforest
Hedy Lamarr's Last Film
At one point in the film, a character professes to Hedy Lamarr, who plays an actress: "I always thought you were a better actress than the roles they gave you." The character might as well have been speaking about Lamarr herself, because this film typifies the substandard material that the actress was handed throughout most of her career.
While there were some highlights in Lamarr's career, such as the wonderful H.M. Pulham, Esq., The Strange Woman, and Dishonored Lady, there was also a lot of fluff. It seems Lamarr was always treated as a glamorous beauty rather than a great actress, although she was smart and talented.
The Female Animal was one of those fading star vehicles that Universal seemed to specialize in at the time (others included Female on the Beach with Joan Crawford, and The Price of Fear with Merle Oberon). By 1958, Lamarr had not been the leading actress in a film for a few years, but she was still youthful and beautiful. It's curious that she was not offered more roles, although back then the shelf-life of a glamorous star was even shorter than it is today.
The Female Animal is a somewhat trashy and sordid melodrama. It is perhaps the only film I have ever seen in which Hedy Lamarr was not the object of desire. Here she plays a more aggressive woman who is not ashamed to take in a house boy. The idea that Lamarr, even at the advanced age of 45 (*eye roll*), would need to pay for handsome male companionship is beyond absurd. She was still very sexy and could have probably had her pick of men. I agree with the other reviewer who said, to some effect: "Hedy past her prime was any other woman's peak." She is widely considered the most beautiful actress of all-time (interchangeably with Gene Tierney).
The film overall leans more toward camp classic than art house. You have drunk ladies, aging starlets out "hunting" for young studs, and of course glamorous Hedy, who has trouble speaking some of her lines. It's all kind of a mess, but it somehow hangs together, and it's a lot of fun. Jan Sterling is entertaining in a supporting role.
The ending redeems the film. Lamarr gives a rather poignant speech about determination, and we are reminded of what a remarkable actress she was. We think about how sad it is that her career was cut so short by...ageism.