Ecstasy (film)

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Ecstasy 1933 Lobby Card.jpg
Original lobby card
Directed by Gustav Machatý
Produced by
  • Moriz Grunhut
  • Gustav Machatý
Written by Jacques A. Koerpel
Screenplay by
  • Frantisek Horký
  • Gustav Machatý
Story by Robert Horký
Music by Giuseppe Becce
Edited by Art Jones
Distributed by Albert Deane
Release date
  • 20 January 1933 (1933-01-20) (Czechoslovakia)
  • 24 December 1940 (1940-12-24) (USA)
Running time
82 minutes
Country Czechoslovakia
  • German
  • Czech
  • French
Box office $1.5 million (US rentals)[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]


Emil (Zvonimir Rogoz), a precise, orderly older man, carries his happy new bride Eva (Hedy Keisler) 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 her wedding night; he does not even come to bed. After living in the unconsummated marriage for a while, she cannot bear it any longer and runs back to her father (Leopold Kramer), a horse breeder. A divorce is issued.

One day, she goes horse riding. She has a swim in the nude, leaving her clothes on her horse, who wanders off, attracted by a mare locked in a corral. Eva chases after it all over the countryside. The horse is finally caught by Adam (Aribert Mog), a virile young foreman or engineer of a road construction gang. Seeing him, she hides in the bushes, where he finds her. At first, she is ashamed of her nudity, but then she glares at him in defiance. He gives her back her clothes. When she tries to leave, she hurts her foot. At first, she resists his efforts to help, then accedes.

That night, she cannot stop thinking about him. Finally, she goes to his isolated residence. After some hesitation, they embrace and spend the night together. Her pearl necklace is removed and she forgets to take it with her the next morning.

When she returns home, she finds an unwelcome visitor, her ex-husband, who has been waiting for her all night. He tries to reconcile with her, but she tells him that it is too late. He leaves.

By chance, while driving away, he encounters his rival. Adam guides him through the construction and asks for a ride into town. On the way, he shows the necklace, which Emil recognizes. Emil considers driving into an approaching train at a crossing, but thinks better of it.

That night, he 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. Downstairs, Adam and Eva are dancing when Emil shoots himself. Adam does not know of the connection between Emil and Eva, and she does not tell him.

The young couple had planned to take the train to Berlin. While waiting at the station, Adam falls asleep and a distraught Eva leaves on a different train without him. A sad Adam returns to his work. Eva is shown in Adam's daydream happily holding a baby.



Ecstasy was filmed in the summer of 1932, with a German language script that contained only five pages.[5] The original prepared script (two previous versions were canceled[6]) was in Czech, so Lamarr was useful in translating from German to French[6]. 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 skalaMargecany.[6] 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.[6]


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).

In the United States, the Catholic Legion of Decency found the film morally objectionable. It condemned the film in 1933, making Ecstasy one of the first foreign films condemned by the Legion.

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,[7] 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...[8]

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.[8]

Lamarr's first husband, the wealthy arms dealer Friedrich Mandl, reportedly spent $280,000 ($5.29 million in 2017 dollars)[9] in an unsuccessful attempt to suppress the film by purchasing every existing print.[10]


  1. ^ Variety 3 October 1945 p 13
  2. ^ "Ecstasy (1933)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 February 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  3. ^ Barton 2010, p. 30.
  4. ^ Robertson, Patrick (2001). Film Facts. New York: Billboard Books, p. 66.
  5. ^ Shearer 2010, p. 27.
  6. ^ a b c d Horníček, Jiří (2002). ""Extase" by Machatý - The History of the Film's Origin and Certain Presentation Aspects. (Czech: Machatého Extase - Historie vzniku filmu a některé aspekty jeho prezentace)" (PDF). Iluminace. 14: 31. Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Gardner, Gerald (1988). The Censorship Papers: Movie Censorship Letters from the Hays Office, 1934 to 1968. New York: Dodd Mead. p. 74. ISBN 978-0396089032. 
  8. ^ a b Gardner 1988, p. 75.
  9. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2018. 
  10. ^ Feaster, Felicia. "Ecstasy". Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on 22 July 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2017. 


  • Barton, Ruth (2010). Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 978-0813136547. 
  • Lamarr, Hedy (1966). Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman. New York: Bartholomew House. ASIN B0007DMMN8. 
  • Rhodes, Richard (2012). Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0307742957. 
  • Shearer, Stephen Michael (2010). Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312550987. 
  • Young, Christopher (1979). The Films of Hedy Lamarr. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806505794. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gardner, Gerald. The Censorship Papers: Movie Censorship Letters from the Hays Office, 1934 to 1968. Dodd Mead 1988 ISBN 0-396-08903-8

External links[edit]