Original lobby card
|Directed by||Gustav Machatý|
|Written by||Jacques A. Koerpel|
|Story by||Robert Horký|
|Music by||Giuseppe Becce|
|Edited by||Art Jones|
|Distributed by||Albert Deane|
|Box office||$1.5 million (US rentals)|
Ecstasy (Czech: Extase, French: Extase, German: Ekstase) is a 1933 Czech-Austrian romantic drama film directed by Gustav Machatý and starring Hedy Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler), Aribert Mog, and Zvonimir Rogoz.
Written by František Horký, Gustav Machatý, Jacques A. Koerpel, and Robert Horký, the film is about a young woman who marries a wealthy but much older man. After abandoning her brief passionless marriage, she meets a young virile engineer who becomes her lover. Ecstasy was filmed in three language versions—German, Czech, and French.
Ecstasy was highly controversial in its time because of scenes in which Lamarr swims in the nude and runs through the countryside naked. It is also perhaps the first non-pornographic movie to portray sexual intercourse and female orgasm, although never showing more than the actors' faces. The film was celebrated as the first motion picture to include a nude scene, rather than the first to show sexual intercourse, for which it has a better claim.
Emil (Zvonimir Rogoz), a fastidious and orderly older man, carries his happy new bride, Eva (Hedy Kiesler), over the threshold of their home. (He has great difficulty opening the lock on the front door, trying key after key.) She is greatly disappointed on their wedding night because he does not even come to bed. He has pinched his finger in the clasp of Eva's pearls when he attempts to remove them. He is unable to consummate their marriage due to the minor injury on his finger. Emil continues to ignore Eva for many days often retreating behind his newspaper. Eva refuses to live in a loveless marriage. She can no longer bear to be Emil's wife in name only and returns to the estate of her father (Leopold Kramer), a wealthy horse breeder. Eva seeks and is granted a divorce from Emil.
One day, Eva goes horseback riding in the countryside surrounding her father's estate. She has a swim in the nude, leaving her clothes on her horse which wanders off to find a mare locked in a nearby corral. Eva (still completely naked) chases after her horse. Adam (Aribert Mog), a virile, young foreman/engineer working in road construction in that area happens to look up and see Eva trying to catch her horse. Finally, Adam is able to catch the runaway horse. Eva is so embarrassed that she hides in the bushes when Adam approaches her. At first, Eva is ashamed of her nudity, but then she glares up at him in defiance. He hands Eva her clothes. When she tries to leave, she hurts her ankle. At first, she resists Adam's efforts to help, then acquiesces.
That night, Eva is restless and cannot stop thinking about Adam. Finally, she goes to his isolated residence which is located near the field where they met. After some hesitation, they embrace and spend the night together. In the throes of passion, Eva's pearl necklace is broken and falls to the floor. She forgets to take it with her the next morning. But the young lovers promise to meet in town at the local hotel the following evening.
When Eva returns home the next morning, she finds an unwelcome visitor. Her ex-husband, Emil, has been waiting for her all night. He wants to reconcile with her, but she tells him that it is too late. Brokenhearted, he leaves.
By chance, while driving away, Emil encounters Adam on the road. Adam helps to guide Emil through the construction. Then Adam asks Emil for a ride into town. Emil agrees. They stop at Adam's residence in order to pack his suitcase. While packing, Adam notices Eva's pearls on the floor. He takes them along intending to return them to her. While traveling to town, Emil notices Adam admiring the pearl necklace. Emil instantly recognizes the distinctive pearl necklace as those belonging to his ex-wife. Immediately, Emil becomes jealous and enraged. Adam has no idea that Emil had been married to Eva. In his anger, Emil considers driving into an approaching train at a crossing, but at the last moment thinks better of it.
That night, Emil sits alone in a hotel room while a fly tries futilely to get out through a closed window and several others are shown trapped in flypaper. Meanwhile downstairs, Adam is arranging flowers as he waits in the hotel restaurant for his lover, Eva, to arrive. The young lovers are very happy to be reunited. While they are drinking champagne and dancing, they suddenly hear a gunshot. Emil has shot himself. Everyone in the hotel runs to the door of Emil's room. Adam still does not know of the connection between Emil and Eva. She is deeply saddened by the suicide of Emil. However, she does not divulge her relationship with Emil to anyone including Adam.
The young couple were to take the train to Berlin later that evening and begin their new life together. While waiting at the train station, Adam falls asleep. A distraught Eva slips quietly away while Adam sleeps. She leaves on a different train without Adam because of the guilt that she feels over the suicide of her former husband, Emil. When Adam awakens, he realizes that Eva has left him without a word. Later, he returns to his work in construction and often daydreams of Eva. Adam imagines Eva happily holding his baby.
- Hedy Lamarr as Eva Hermann (credit as Hedy Kiesler)
- Aribert Mog as Adam
- Zvonimir Rogoz as Emil
- Leopold Kramer as Eva's father
- Emil Jerman as Eva's husband (Czech voice)
- Jiřina Steimarová as Typist
- Bedřich Vrbský as Eva's father (Czech voice)
- Jiřina Štěpničková as Eva (Czech voice)
- Antonín Kubový as Vagrant
- Karel Mácha-Kuča as Lawyer
- Eduard Šlégl as Vagrant
- Pierre Nay as Adam (French voice)
- André Nox as Eva's father (French voice)
- Jan Sviták as Dancer on the terrace
Ecstasy was filmed in the summer of 1932, with a German language script that contained only five pages. The original prepared script (two previous versions were canceled) was in Czech, so Lamarr was useful in translating from German to French. After test shooting in the only one sound equipped studio A-B ateliery in Prague, the crew moved to Dobšiná, Slovakia on 5 July 1932, where the outdoor scenes were filmed. It was not until August that shooting really started, mostly because of disputes about the French version and French actors. From Dobšiná, short shooting trips of one or two days were made to other places: Topolčianky (scenes with horses), Chust, Ukraine and railroad construction Červená skala – Margecany. The film was not finished in time and A-B ateliery in Prague were already booked out in September and therefore some indoor scenes were filmed in the Atelier Schönbrunn studios in Vienna, Austria in 6 days, which was also commercially useful, because the producer did not have to pay the import (contingency) fee when showing the film in Austria.
The world premiere of the film took place on 20 January 1933 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. In Austria, the film was released on 14 February, but due to censorship problems, German cinemas did not show it until 8 January 1935, with the title Symphonie der Liebe (Symphony of Love).
Beginning in 1936, the US distributor of Ecstasy lobbied the Hays office for ten months to get the film the Hays Code seal of approval which would allow it a wide American release. Joseph Breen called the picture "highly—even dangerously—indecent" in an inter-office memo to Will H. Hays, and told the producers:
I regret to have to advise you that we cannot approve your production Ecstasy that you submitted for our examination yesterday for the reason that is our considered unanimous judgment that the picture is definitely and specifically in violation of the Production Code. This violation is suggested by the basic story... in that it is a [story] of illicit love and frustrated sex, treated in detail without sufficient compensating moral values...
Ecstasy was not released in the United States until 24 December 1940. It went on to limited run in America without the Hays seal, where it played in mostly independent art houses. Some state censor boards such as New York approved the film but most others either only allowed it with restrictions, demanded substantial cuts, or in the case of Pennsylvania, banned it altogether.
Lamarr's first husband, the wealthy arms dealer Friedrich Mandl, reportedly spent $280,000 ($5.29 million in 2017 dollars) in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the film by purchasing every existing print.
- Variety 3 October 1945 p 13
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