Glamour: Just Stand Still and Look Stupid

Hedy Lamarr? Hedda Hopper? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr was famous for her beauty and intelligence. In the 1940s she and a co-author were granted a patent for a futuristic frequency-hopping communication system whose importance emerged two decades later. Her attitude towards glamor was summarized with a hilarious quotation:

Why, any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.

Could you please help me to find a citation?

Dear Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the newspaper column “Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood” in April 1941. Emphasis added to excerpts: 1

Hedy Lamarr’s formula for being a glamour girl: “Just stand still and look stupid.”

Only part of the target quotation occurred between quotation marks in this instance. Later versions occurred as complete sentences.

In August 1941 “Hollywood Highlights” columnist Harold Heffernan printed an instance of the comment: 2

Out of the mouths of stars: “Why, any girl can be glamorous,” says Hedy Lamarr. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Also in August the quotation was reprinted on the “Hollywood Gossip Page” of the “Des Moines Sunday Register” in Iowa: 3

This one’s credited to Hedy Lamarr: “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

In 1942 a variant appeared in the syndicated column of Paul Harrison. The pronoun “you” was changed to “she”: 4

HEDY LAMARR—“Any girl can be what is called ‘glamorous,’ All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”

In 1955 the “Speaker’s Handbook of Epigrams and Witticisms” compiled by Herbert V. Prochnow included the quotation: 5

Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid. Hedy Lamarr

In 1974 “The Filmgoer’s Book of Quotes” compiled by Leslie Halliwell included the same version of the quotation listed by Prochnow. 6

In conclusion, there is substantive evidence that Hedy Lamarr did make a pointedly comical remark about glamour. The first version communicated by Hedda Hopper in April 1941 quoted only part of the full phrase. A full version appeared by August 1941.

Image Notes: Publicity photo of Hedy Lamarr from 1944. Patent for “Secret Communication System” submitted to U.S. Patent Office. Hedy Kiesler Markey was the married name of Hedy Lamarr.

Notes:

  1. 1941 April 24, The Los Angeles Times, Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood, Section 2, Quote Page 11, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1941 August 1, The Hartford Daily Courant, Hollywood Highlights by Harold Heffernan, Quote Page 7, Column 1, Hartford, Connecticut. (Newspapers_com)
  3. 1941 August 17, Des Moines Sunday Register, Section: Magazine, Hollywood Gossip Page: They Forget Betty Grable When Brenda Walks the Beach!, Recipe, Quote Page 4, Column 1, Des Moines, Iowa. (Newspapers_com)
  4. 1942 May 25, The Daily Democrat (Tallahassee Democrat), In Hollywood by Paul Harrison (NEA Service Staff Correspondent), (One minute interviews with some celluloid celebs), Quote Page 6, Column 2, Tallahassee, Florida. (Newspapers_com)
  5. 1955, Speaker’s Handbook of Epigrams and Witticisms by Herbert V. Prochnow, Topic: Beauty, Quote Page 26, Harper & Brothers, New York. (Verified with scans)
  6. 1974, The Filmgoer’s Book of Quotes by Leslie Halliwell, Section: Glamour Girls, Quote Page 81 (Reprint of 1973 edition Granada Publishing, London), Arlington House, New Rochelle, New York. (Verified on paper)