Tough broads of Hollywood

It’s a strange, scary, and confusing time right now, but we women are are nothing if not resilient. Take heart from some grand old Hollywood ’broads’ who we can look to for their grit and guts. 

Hedy Lamarr

My favourite! There is no other way to say this —she was just cool as shit! Not only a stunning beauty and movie star (whose face was the inspiration for Disney’s Snow White) but a secret brainiac and keen inventor. 

During WW2 with the aid of a musician friend, she helped devise a mechanism for a ’frequency hopping’ signal. Why? So that the radio communications could ‘hop frequencies’ and be sent without being trapped,  jammed or intercepted by the Germans. Although this wasn’t used during the war, her groundbreaking patent was acknowledged decades later by the US military, and is fundamental for both Wi-Fi and bluetooth technologies. 

Brainiac aside, what a life! Married and divorced six times she was also one of the first women to own a successful Hollywood production company at a time when womens’ only role was ‘bombshell’. In her own words …”any girl can look glamorous, all you have to do is stand still and look stupid”. 

Brains and balls – love that! 

Katharine Hepburn 

Katharine Hepburn was an independent, intelligent, free-spirited feminist and androgynist trailblazer. She was unconventional too; insisting on wearing trousers at a time it was deemed perverse for a woman to do so. Independent and clever, she took early control of her own business affairs, proving herself quite savvy in the process. 

Most famous for her enduring relationship with the married Spencer Tracy, there has always been rumours she also indulged in sexual relationships with women. She lived life unapologetically on her own terms, something we should all emulate.  

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun”. 

Lauren Bacall 

She was the husky-voiced teenager who captured Humphrey Bogart’s heart, but she was so much more. Born Betty Joan Perske, she grew up in hard times amongst strong women, raised by a loving single mum on the wrong side of the tracks in NYC. Bacall paid her own way modelling and working to support her family until she got a foothold in the movie industry. 

She embodied all that post 1950s women aspired to be – intelligent, strong, her own person, a loving mother and survivor who knew her own mind, and wasn’t afraid to voice it. 

‘You learn to rise above a lot of bad things that happen in your life. And you have to keep going’.

Audrey Hepburn

This gamine Belgian beauty was made of stern stuff. She’s best known for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and My Fair Lady, as well as being Givenchy’s muse and a UNICEF ambassador in her later years. 

What you mightn’t know was that she was also a child member of the resistance during WW2. A remarkable feat given her parents were both fascists and Nazi sympathisers. As a child in Holland, she’d deliver notes from one resistance group to another – a simple ploy as the Nazis didn’t routinely search children.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Audrey Hepburn is an EGOT … someone who’s won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. Beautiful Audrey was a citizen of the world, advocate for children and a heart strong talent. 

“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other”

Dame Elizabeth Taylor 

An elegant beauty with chutzpah! Famed for her beauty and amazing blue eyes from the time she was a child actor and movie icon from age 12. Popular culture might remember her as a much married Hollywood icon, but this feisty beauty was so much more. 

Elizabeth Taylor was a woman with guts. An old school movie star who was fiercely loyal to her friends, which included many of Hollywood’s closeted leading men at the time. She later became a gay icon herself, and, appalled at the early inaction around AIDS, she (along with others) started amFAR, the The Foundation for AIDS Research, which has raised over $550 million for AIDS research.  

Here is a woman that could endure. She endured ill health from the time she was born with scoliosis, and at twelve, suffered a back injury that would plague her for life. She also endured a near fatal bout of pneumonia, a brain tumour, a stroke, and had over 100 hospitalisations. 

“I’ve been through it all baby, I’m Mother Courage”

Words we might do well to remember now – onwards!

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