11 Things We Learned About Hedy Lamarr From Bombshell

Zeitgeist Films
Zeitgeist Films

At the height of her fame in the 1940s, Hedy Lamarr was hailed as the most beautiful face in Hollywood. Her roles in films like Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and Samson and Delilah (1949) made her a household name, but the work she did off-screen reflected a completely different side of the glamorous Hollywood A-lister. She helped develop frequency hopping technology in an effort to aid the Allied Forces during World War II. Her invention would eventually become the basis for sophisticated military gear, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, but it wasn’t until 1990 that her accomplishments were recognized in a story for Forbes.

Now, decades later, the original audio recording from that Forbes interview has been unearthed. Lamarr’s story in her own words is featured in Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a new documentary written and directed by Alexandra Dean, which details the life of the icon. Here are 11 things we learned about Lamarr from the film, which is in theaters now.

1. SHE WAS AN INVENTOR FROM AN EARLY AGE.

Born in Austria in 1914 as Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler, Hedy’s urge to tinker was evident early on. According to her son, Anthony Loder, she showed an interest in technology at age five. “She took an old-fashioned music box apart and put it back together again,” he said. As she grew older, Lamarr became more curious and her inventions grew more ambitious.

2. HER FAVORITE SUBJECT WAS CHEMISTRY.

As a student at a private school in Vienna, Lamarr enjoyed mixing together materials in her chemistry class. Many years later she told Forbes journalist Fleming Meeks that she was quite good at it. But instead of furthering her education, Lamarr pursued a career in cinema as a teenager.

3. HITLER BANNED HER FIRST FILM.

Portrait of artist Hedy Lamarr.
Zeitgeist Films

Hedy received her first acting credit in the Czech-Austrian romance Ecstasy (1933). The film was controversial for its day, and Hedy’s performance caused the biggest stir: In the movie she appears nude and simulates what was likely the first female orgasm in a feature film. But the risque content wasn’t Hitler’s reason for condemning the film: He told the U.S. press he banned it because the lead actress was Jewish.

4. SHE NEGOTIATED A HIGHER SALARY FROM MGM.

As Jewish actors and actresses were fleeing the Nazis, Louis B. Mayer of MGM came to Europe with the plan to sign some of them to his studio for a cheap price. When he met Hedy he said he was willing to pay her $125 a week, an offer she immediately refused. “She said, ‘I’m sorry that’s not good enough’ and walked out," said Richard Rhodes, author of the biography Hedy’s Folly. “People didn’t usually turn down Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.” But Hedy wasn’t about to let the opportunity slip away from her. She booked passage to America on the same ship Mayer was taking. Once on board, she put on her most becoming dress and jewelry and walked through the dining hall, making sure she passed Mayer’s table on the way. “I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but all of a sudden I got $500 every week,” Hedy said.

5. LOUIS B. MAYER’S WIFE CHOSE HER LAST NAME.

After persuading Hedy to work with him, Mayer decided she needed a new name to match her Hollywood persona. His wife Margaret suggested she take the name of her favorite silent film star Barbara La Marr. The last name also sounds like the French word for the sea (la mer), adding to its romantic appeal.

6. SHE WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR SNOW WHITE.


Zeitgeist Films

The first Disney princess Snow White was modeled on Lamarr’s classic beauty. That’s not the only iconic cartoon she inspired. Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger said they referred to the actress when creating Catwoman.

7. SHE DATED JOHN F. KENNEDY.

In addition to her six husbands, Lamarr dated plenty of famous men. She even saw John F. Kennedy for a brief period before he became president. Lamarr described the conversation leading up to their date: “He said, ‘What can I bring you?’ I said oranges, because I like vitamin C.”

8. HER INVENTION COULD HAVE CHANGED THE WAR.

Even as she rose to stardom, Lamarr never forgot the war ravaging her home continent. One issue she learned of concerned the U.S. Navy. The torpedoes shot from American submarines were controlled by radio waves, but German forces were jamming the signals before the weapons reached their targets. Hedy came up with a solution: Make radio signals impossible to detect by sending them through rapidly-changing frequencies. “It was so obvious,” she said. “They shot torpedoes in all directions and never hit the target so I invented something that does.”

She dubbed her invention “frequency hopping.” She collaborated with her friend and famous pianist George Antheil to work the concept into a usable design. They successfully applied for a patent, but unfortunately weren’t able to get the Navy to take the idea seriously during World War II.

9. SHE SENT HER BODY DOUBLE TO COURT IN HER PLACE.


Zeitgeist Films

The day Lamarr was set to testify in court over her divorce from her fifth husband, Howard Lee, her son got into a serious car accident. “Stressed and traumatized to the point of breakdown, she sent her Hollywood body double to testify in her place,” Rhodes said. This angered the judge so much that he slashed her share of the divorce settlement.

10. SHE HATED HER BOOK.

Hedy Lamarr’s 1966 autobiography Ecstasy and Me was written by a ghost writer. “Hedy’s manager was allegedly paid to get her to sign off on what turned out to be a salacious tell-all,” Bombshell producer Adam Haggiag said. “It focused on her sexuality and made her the butt of a joke.” Hedy had planned to write a more authentic version of her life story, but she died without publishing a second book.

11. SHE WAS NEVER PAID FOR HER INVENTION.

Though it was shelved at first, frequency hopping turned out to be hugely influential. The early technology can be seen in GPS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military satellites today, and the total market value of the invention is estimated to be about $30 billion. But Lamarr was never paid for her contribution. In 1969, she learned that her designs had become widespread in Navy vessels. There’s evidence that the military used her patent before it expired, but by the time she became aware of this her window to sue them had already passed. While she wasn’t compensated, Lamarr did eventually receive the recognition she deserved for her work. In 2014, she was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Her son Anthony said, “She would love to be remembered as someone who contributed to the well-being of humankind.”

George RR Martin's New Book, Fire and Blood, Is Getting Some Seriously Mixed Reviews

Jason Merritt, Getty Images
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Many fans of George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a. the books that inspired HBO's smash hit Game of Thrones, were extremely peeved the acclaimed author was taking time to write a companion book, Fire and Blood, instead of finishing up the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. But a new George RR Martin book is still a new George RR Martin book, and Fire and Bloodhas seen some brisk sales—even if the reviews have been rather mixed.

Let's start with the positive: The Sunday Times published a review in which it declared the book "a masterpiece of popular historical fiction." Writer Dan Jones wrote that, "Martin is an avid consumer and regurgitator of history: his Westeros writing pulses with influences from Plantagenet-era Britain and beyond." However, the critic does recognize the book itself is "a piece of epic procrastination."

Writing for The Times, critic Hugo Rifkind wasn't quite as kind:

"Essentially, it is all one long synopsis for about 50 books that he will never get around to writing, which itself has only been written because he can’t get around to writing the other two Game of Thrones books that his fans are waiting for. Worse still, after a doorstop of a thing, we’re still a century and a half short of GoT even beginning, which means there’s another volume of this interminable, self-indulgent crap to come."

Ouch.

Publishers Weekly didn't mince words either, writing: "Martin’s evocative storytelling style and gift for gripping narrative are mostly absent from this dry history. Fans hungry for the next Song of Ice and Fire novel will find this volume whets, but does not satisfy, their appetites."

We're sure Martin's writing is on par with his previous books, but it's just the content that people don't want. All we can really hope for moving forward is that the author is motivated to continue writing The Winds of Winter. In the meantime, if you want to form your own opinion, Fire and Blood is out now.

Sebastian Stan Still Doesn't Know If He's in Avengers 4

Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Since Avengers: Infinity War hit theaters earlier this year and pretty much ripped our hearts out with Thanos's deadly snap, Marvel fans have been speculating how our almighty heroes (and which ones) will return for the next film in the series. While audiences have yet to learn which characters from the last film will make it to Avengers 4, we would assume the MCU's stars would be clued in to their characters' fates. Though he may be playing coy, Sebastian Stan claims even he still doesn't even know whether or not he'll be a part of the as-yet-untitled film.

Marvel fans are in agreement that Bucky will be brought back to life at some point in the future. Stan is ​reportedly signed on for a nine-film contract, and will even star in a series alongside Anthony Mackie's Falcon for Disney+. But as for his Avengers 4 status, Stan is saying very little.

"When I was shooting anything, nobody ever told me what was part one or part two," Stan recently told ​Collider. "The truth is, I don’t even know if I’m in [Avengers 4]. What I shot was in part one. And anything that I shot may or may not have been in part one or part two and I still don’t know."

"There were things that we shot that were never gonna make it because it was easier to just convolute the whole thing. So in a way, you go ‘Alright, that’s cool, but ...,'" Stan continued. "But you know it’s going to deliver on a level that we probably haven’t even digested yet. Because that’s what they do best."

Stan is likely trying to stay away from spoilers and play it safe here. In fact, last year, the actor actually confirmed he would be in Avengers 4 to ​CinemaBlend. And while it's possible that the situation could have changed since, we're not quite buying it.

So good job, Sebastian Stan: you've thoroughly confused us. (But we're still pretty sure we'll see you in the next Avengers movie.)

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER