Hedy Lamarr flick leads Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival lineup

Hedy Lamarr was one of the most beautiful women in the world and served as the physical inspiration for Snow White and Catwoman.

But when she wasn’t making movies such as 1940’s “Boom Town” with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy or the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille epic “Samson and Delilah,” she was partnering with composer George Antheil to patent a frequency-hopping communication system that would serve as the basis for Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi.

It’s the equivalent of friends and family looking back at Angelina Jolie 70 years from now and revealing that the actress knew how to teleport.

Both sides of Lamarr, the actress and the inventor, are on display in “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story,” screening at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Adelson Educational Campus, 9700 Hillpointe Road, as part of the 17th annual Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival.

“It’s been a big hit at film festivals everywhere it’s played,” says festival founder Joshua Abbey. “It also is very timely because of the whole initiative to garner more respect for women in general. She was more than just a pretty face.”

And, since the movie also touches on the fact that Lamar helped revolutionize aircraft design while she was dating Howard Hughes, “Bombshell” is part of this year’s increased focus on films with ties to Las Vegas. (For more information and to purchase tickets, which are $10 per screening, see lvjff.org.)

The festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Suncoast with the documentary “Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” and runs through Jan. 28.

Manny Davis, the entertainer’s son, is scheduled to attend.

Abbey calls Davis a “Vegas historical phenomenon” who “could tap-dance circles around Michael Jackson.”

“He was a force of nature, and a remarkable human being,” Abbey continues. “And his Jewish connection, I find really fascinating.”

Asked if he thought younger audiences realized Davis had converted to Judaism, Abbey admits, “I wonder how many young people even know who he is, which is a great reason why this film is really important, to bring him to the attention of a younger generation.

“It’s time for him to come back into the public consciousness and be appreciated for his contributions, especially the role that he played in helping to put Vegas on the map as the entertainment capital of the world.”

The most local of all the films in this year’s lineup are part of a double feature: “A Place of Hope” and “Pista,” 30-minute documentaries set for 3 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Adelson Educational Campus.

“A Place of Hope” focuses on Las Vegan Henry Kronberg, a Holocaust survivor, and his quest to build the Warsaw Ghetto Remembrance Garden at Temple Beth Shalom using more than 200 stones taken from the streets of the walled-off World War II enclave.

“Pista,” meanwhile, profiles local survivor Stephen “Pista” Nasser, whose brother died in his arms a month before their camp was liberated and who has given more than a thousand lectures on the Holocaust in his brother’s memory.

“He’s 87 now, so he’s kind of winding down and doesn’t have the energy and wherewithal to continue that pace,” says Abbey, an American Film Institute graduate who directed the short. “It was very important to me to try to give him a vehicle that would enable his message to continue.”

Kronberg, Nasser and Ben Lesser, another local survivor featured in “A Place of Hope,” are scheduled to attend the screenings.

“We’re living in this very unique moment where the last of the first-generation, eyewitness survivors who were actually in the camps are still with us,” Abbey says. “So it’s more important than ever to utilize their living testimony to ensure that the message of what the Holocaust represented can never be forgotten.”

Festival screenings

Here’s the lineup for the 17th annual Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival:

“Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me” (7 p.m. Saturday, Century Suncoast)

“One Night in Anzeria” and “Ben-Gurion: Epilogue” (1 p.m. Sunday, Adelson Educational Campus) — “One Night in Anzeria” focuses on moderator Nir Caspi’s participation in one of the Israeli Navy’s deadliest operations, while “Ben-Gurion: Epilogue” is compiled from a lost six-hour interview with Israel’s first prime minister.

“Look About You” (7 p.m. Jan. 18, Brenden Theatres at the Palms) — A family squeezes into an RV to explore the many aspects of modern Israeli society.

“A Place of Hope” and “Pista” (3 p.m. Jan. 21, Adelson Educational Campus)

“1945” (7 p.m. Jan. 25, Brenden Theatres) — The drama looks at survivors who returned home to find their property had been taken and their neighbors weren’t inclined to give it back.

“Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” (7 p.m. Jan. 27, Adelson Educational Campus)

“Wanderlust: Lesley Hazleton” and “Heather Booth: Changing The World” (1 p.m. Jan. 28, Eclipse Theaters) — “Wanderlust” looks at the British-American author who was based in Jerusalem from 1966 to 1979, and “Heather Booth” chronicles her years as an activist for civil rights, women’s rights and other progressive causes.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who is an executive producer of the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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