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Gustav Machatý Poster

Biography

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Overview (2)

Born in Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary [now Czech Republic]
Died in Munich, Bavaria, Germany

Mini Bio (1)

Gustav Machatý was born on May 9, 1901 in Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic). His first experience with the motion picture industry was playing piano at movie theaters, accompanying silent pictures. In 1917, he made his debut as an actor.

In the early 1920s, he emigrated to the United States, taking up residence in Hollywood, where he learned filmmaking as an apprentice to two masters, D.W. Griffith and Erich von Stroheim. After serving a four-year apprenticeship in Hollywood, he returned to Prague to make his own films. Two movies, "Erotikon" (1929) and "Ekstase" (1933) made him internationally famous.

"Ekstase" was nominated for the Mussolini Cup at the Venice Film Fesitval. Released as "Ecstasy" in the U.S. with the advertising tag-line "The Most Talked About Picture in the World," "Ekstase" featured young Hedy Kiesler in the nude. Kiesler, who would become internationally famous herself as Hedy Lamar, played a sexually frustrated hausfrau who achieves orgasm (ecstasy) in the arms of a young swain who has espied her in the buff making like one of Busby Berkeley's water nymphs, sans bathing suit.

When exhibitor Samuel Cummins imported the film in 1935, the U.S. Customs Service seized the print, acting under the aegis of the 1930 Customs Act that forbade importing obscene material. Cummins appealed to the federal courts, but the Customs agents had burned the print, and with no physical evidence, his appeal was denied.

The frustrated Cummins edited his next imported copy, cutting out Hedy's naked run through the woods and a scene of horses copulating, and adding a moralistic voice-over that said her character had divorced her impotent husband before her affair. A new ending with a baby was added, suggesting that Hedy and her young swain had married. The U.S. Customs Service allowed this version to be imported into the U.S., but the State of New York Board of Review refused to license the picture for exhibition. Cummins' Eureka Productions filed suit in federal court, but the ban was upheld as the U.S. Court of Appeals held that once a picture was imported into the U.S., it was subject to local censorship.

The film was a modest success on the art house circuit, and once Lamar became famous as an American movie star, all the nudity was cut out of the film and it received a Production Code Administration Seal of Approval in 1940 and was re-released. Even with the cuts, the movie ran afoul of local censors. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts forbade the movie to be shown on Sundays, and the state of Pennsylvania banned it outright. "Ecstasy" was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church's censorship body, the Legion of Decency, making it one of the few foreign films to win that dubious honor.

It was a viewing of "Ekstase" that introduced Hedy Kiesler to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production boss Louis B. Mayer, who despised the film but signed the beautiful Kiesler to a contract and rechristened her Hedy Lamarr. Thus, Gustav Machatý is responsible for giving the motion picture medium the actress who was described as the "Most Beautiful Woman in the World" in the 1940s.

Gustav Machatý died on December 13, 1963 in Munich, Germany.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (1)

Maria Ray (1937 - 4 October 1951) ( her death)

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