On the surface Hedy Lamarr’s career as an actress is not very impressive. The Austrian-born film actress is mostly known for her nudity and a close-up of Lamarr (then Hedy Kiesler) feigning orgasm in the scandalous 1933 erotic film Ecstasy. Lamarr arrived in Hollywood in 1938 after MGM’s Louis B. Mayer signed her up. The publicity claimed she was “the world’s most beautiful woman”. And they might have been right. Her first Hollywood film was Algiers opposite Charles Boyer. Followed a series of increasingly forgettable films. So why a documentary about Hedy Lamarr? One thing that is not generally known is that Lamarr was also an amateur inventor. In 1942, Lamarr and her friend composer George Antheil designed a device that could help the war effort. Lamarr knew that radio-controlled torpedoes could easily be jammed, and the torpedoes diverted. With their “frequency hopping” device, Lamarr and Antheil could change the radio frequencies and help the torpedoes hit their targets. At the time the Frequency-hopping spread spectrum was rejected by the US Navy, but in 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, updated versions of their design appeared on Navy ships. It’s amazing to learn that Lamarr and Antheil’s work led to the development of GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. Lamarr made her last film in 1958, was arrested for shoplifting twice, she became addicted to pills and destroyed her beauty with too many plastic surgery. After 6 marriages, she retired to Miami Beach, Florida in 1981 and became a recluse. Today, there are the films of course and her work as an inventor has been posthumously recognized.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story
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