Spotlight| Hedy Lamarr

In an echoed agreement with tabletmag.com, the original Jewish “Wonder Woman” is not Gal Gadot but Hedwig Kiesler (1914-2000), born in Austria, and like a phoenix  reborn in Hollywood as Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr’s story is a familiar tragedy of a woman’s genius overlooked by beauty. Her performances on the silver screen made her a timeless icon of the era. However, her stardom was a mere shadow of her true self – a smart and innovative thinker. “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid”- Hedy Lamarr.

Known to the world as a Hollywood bombshell, Hedy Lamarr was the star of Algiers (1938),  Boom Town (1940) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941) though best known as the great seductress of Cecil B. DeMille’s biblical blockbuster Samson and Delilah (1949).  Her stunning looks and gift for acting landed the MGM star in films alongside future icons like Judy Garland and Clark Gable; although she never quite reached the same heights of stardom. Her on-screen career mesmerised the world, cloaking  her other creative gifts, which later built her a legacy far greater than her films ever did.

 

Hedy Lamarr’s mechanical brain and inventors genius was appreciated by the many men in her life, none as much as one-time flame Howard Hughes. Famous for his fixation on building the fastest planes in the world, (of course Lamarr had a hand in this too) she simply took a book about birds and another on fish, sketched the fastest creature of each and combined them. She showed the results to Hughes, who replied: “You’re a genius.”

Pursuing her double life, the actress made movies by day and labored over her inventions by night. Unlike many of her childhood friends and relations who were consumed by the Holocaust (she did manage to bring her mother to America) Lemarr was protected by the Hollywood dreamland.

As war broke out in Europe, Lemarr strenuously supported the United States war effort. She sought to invent something that would help defeat the Nazis. Together with her colleague, the avant-garde composer George Antheil, they developed plans for a radio-controlled torpedo that by switching from one frequency to another, could elude enemy detection and jamming. This frequency hopping system, went on to become one of the most significant communications developments of the 20th century. Do you shudder at the thought of life without WiFi? Then you can thank Hedy Lamarr for that. The plans subsequently became the basis for the similar “spread spectrum” technology that would ultimately lead to WiFi, surveillance drones, satellite communications, GPS, and many cordless phones. Lamarr and Antheil never made a penny.

 

Watch a clip from the upcoming documentary exploring the actress’s fascinating history as a brilliant inventor.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa_AA_byQ58

The many lives of Hedy Lamarr – one in the spotlight, one in the shadows – are the subject of a new documentary by Alexandra Dean, titled Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.  Her life is carefully recounted through news footage and interviews with the children of her six marriages, close friends and experts. The documentary focuses on a series of previously unheard tapes from an interview she gave Forbes magazine in 1990. A chance for her to tell her own story – Hedy Lemarr, the Star… No Hedy Lemarr, the inventor.

Innovation has evolved threefold since the golden years of Hedy Lamarr. Living in a world of digital, Chesamel champions innovation and discovery from all genders and walks of life. So follow Hedy’s lead and pursue your passions. Visit our mission statement to hear about our business goals and our culture.