Sexpot screen goddess Hedy Lamarr died yesterday aged 86. Frequently billed as "the world's most beautiful woman," she made a career of provocative roles and starred in hits including Samson & Delilah, Tortilla Flat and White Cargo. Although she had all but retreated from the screen by the 1960s her looks and turbulent life made her an archetype Hollywood's legend.

Born in Austria as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Lamarr died at home near Orlando, Florida, apparently watching TV.

As Hollywood's highest paid actress, she admitted to being "difficult." She clearly found the role of sexy superstar an obstacle to being taken seriously as an actress or a person: "Everywhere I find men who pay homage to my beauty and show no interest in me," she once remarked.

But she still took the kind of roles that required to play the siren. Before she moved to Hollywood she provoked outrage and sensation by appearing nude in Ecstasy. Her then husband - one of six - unsuccessfully tried to have all the copies destroyed.

Although her later life was marred by arrests for shoplifting, her name and face continued to symbolise glamour. Only last year her image appeared on bottles of Californian wine.