Lucasfilms (the production arm owned by George Lucas, he of American Graffiti and Star Wars fame) puts out these nifty, short documentaries which air on History Channel. I just finished watching one earlier this morning (they're part of History's Cable in the Classroom, which last, I think, from 5:30am to 7:00am), and it was all wrapped up in about 30 minutes.
Mata Hari - Not Who You Think
I think most people have heard of Mata Hari, the female spy from World War I. I suspect that many (including me) don't know much about her background, just that she was an alluring spy that lost her life by firing squad.
"Mata Hari" is (if I remember correctly) a Malaysian term that means something like, "early dawn." (It's not always easy to remember these things this early in the morning, lol.) This ties in, though, with Mata Hari's early life.
She was born with the first name of Margereta (Dutch, I believe). In the space of one year, her father's business went bankrupt, he abandoned the family, and her mother died. Still quite young, she apparently got by on her wits and her beauty. She eventually saw an ad in the paper for a gentleman asking for a young lady to take as his wife.
She accepted, got married, had two kids. Her husband was in the army, and they moved to the Dutch East Indies. This is where Mata Hari came up with her name, from the natives who lived there, their sinuous dances...
Mata Hari soon became bored with her routine, but not before another tragedy struck her: One of her children died.
One thing led to another; her husband and she soon divorced. She moved to Paris.
But of course she needed to survive, somehow. She wasn't married anymore, so she started on a PR campaign, during which she came up with the Mata Hari moniker. She sent her picture to the newspapers, writing up the copy, and soon she was a scantily-clad dancer, often donning bellydancer-type gear, with plenty of veils, and plenty of exposed flesh.
She became a rich dude's mistress during what became known as La Belle Epoque. Thus, she was able to live in the lap of luxury, which was all she really wanted (do you get the feeling that she really, really liked men? ;-)).
And Then Came the Spying Bit
But how she got entwined into spying was, well, she certainly didn't do it for ideology. She did it because some dudes offered her a ton of money. She was a double agent, but neither side knew, at least for a time. She was first approached by the Germans, who offered her 20,000 francs. Later, she was offered a million frances (would I kid?) by the French.
When the French suffered a number of defeats during World War I, I think the government was looking for a scapegoat. Yup, you guessed it. There are still transcripts available that give out with all the info I've outline above.
Fascinating stuff, and like I said, all wrapped up in 30 minutes. I also watched an interesting documentary on Puccini, how his operas were groundbreaking, in that they weren't about aristocratic people (La Boehme means "The Bohemians") but about everyday people.
And that's your history lesson for today. :-)
Love and kisses,
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