There are many actresses who have fascinating life stories. However, these stories often revolve around their work and relationships in the entertainment industry. That is not the case for actress Hedy Lamarr as a new documentary reveals that her fascinating life journey involved escaping Nazi Germany and becoming an inventor.
Lamarr was once considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. During the golden era of Hollywood, this actress became an icon. She was born as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, on November 9, 1914. She began her career as an actress in the 1930s and remained a prominent star throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Some of the films for which she is well-known include ‘Samson and Delilah’, ‘I Take This Woman’, ‘Come Live With Me’, ‘Boom Town’, ‘Algiers’, ‘H.M.Pulham Esq.’, and ‘Comrade X’.
Although she is well-known for these films, it is not this aspect of her life which is most interesting. During the 1940s, it was common practice for studios to give actors a sleeping pill at the end of the day and then an upper in the morning. Lamarr was different to other actors of her time as she would go home after a day of filming and fill her notebook with ideas or experiment with test tubes.
While many people are aware of her acting talents, it is lesser known that she developed engineering concepts, such as improving traffic lights. She also dated billionaire Howard Hughes and helped him research his own ideas, including ways to make planes fly faster.
During World War II, she collaborated with composer George Antheil on the project for which she is best-known as an inventor. They wanted to help the Allied cause so they invented a radio guidance system that would reduce the risk of torpedos being detected by the enemy. Unfortunately, the armed forces rejected the ideas and suggested that Lamarr’s time would be better spent using her celebrity status to fundraise or to entertain the troops.
Her patent was later seized and used with her name removed completely from the invention. The principles of the design are still used in modern wireless technology, such as Bluetooth and Wi-FI.
Her inventions are not the only interesting aspects of Hedy Lamarr’s life as she faced professional controversy and relationship problems. Lamarr starred in the 1933 film ‘Ecstasy’. It was a movie that caused an uproar as it was the first to show sexual intercourse and a woman having an orgasm. A combination of the scandal associated with this film and the failure of her marriage led her to flee Nazi Germany and change her name.
In her personal life, Lamarr was married six times and all her marriages ended in divorce. She had three children; one from her second marriage to Gene Markey and two with her third husband, John Loder. She also had multiple high-profile relationships in between her marriages. In her later life, Lamarr struggled with addictions and became estranged from her family.
Sadly, Hedy Lamarr died in Florida on January 19, 2000, at the age of 85. Her legacy lives on in the films in which she starred and the inventions she designed. Her whole life story is recounted in the documentary film ‘Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story’, which is directed by Alexandra Dean.