Note: in an effort to get this post uploaded on November 9th, I will need to come in and cite sources tomorrow!!
So, I was first introduced to Hedy Lamarr in the 1974 comedy masterpiece Blazing Saddles. Harvey Korman (one of my all time favorites) played Hedley Lamarr. They often refer to him as Hedy in the movie.
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria on November 9, 1914. She was the only child of Gertrud Kiesler and Emil Kiesler. Her parents were both Jewish. Her father died prior to the Holocaust, and her mother had converted to Catholicism. Hedy’s later fame helped to rescue her mother from Nazi occupied Austria.
In the early 1920s ,Hedy was discovered by Max Reinhardt, and was trained in theatre. She landed her first starring role at 17 in the German production Geld Auf Der Strase.
It was her role in the German / Czechoslavakian film Exstase in 1933 that brought her to the attention of Hollywood. In this film, she portrayed a despondent housewife to an older, uncaring man. The film had a brief nude scene. It was the focus of her face in the throes of orgasm that got everyone’s attention.
Hedy married Friedrich Mandl, an Austrian munitions manufacture in 1933. He despised Hedy’s role in Exstase and refused to let her continue making films. Mandl was purported to be the third richest man in Austria. He kept her a prisoner in their castle. Mandl had dealings with both Mossoilini and Hitler and both were present at numerous parties held in their home.
She began to appreciate applied science while attending conferences and business meetings with Mandl. The marriage became unbearable and she eventually left both Mandl and Austria. Her memoirs state that she disguised herself as her maid and made her way to Paris in 1937.
Her first American film–Algiers–in 1938 was a huge success. She was an unknown but well-talked about Austrian actress, and people could not wait to see her. When her face first appeared on the screen, “everyone gasped…Lamarr’s beauty literally took one’s breath away.”
She went on to make 18 films between 1940 -1949. Her most famous film role was Delilah in Cecil B. DeMill’s Samsom and Delilah.
Hedy was often typecast into the sexy foreigner with very few lines and the roles bored her. She turned to science as a hobby to combat boredom.
Interested in helping the war effort, Hedy teamed up with neighbor and composer George Antheil. They patented a frequency hopping spread-spectrum radio guidance system for torpedoes. Their design worked similar to that of a player piano–it would unpredictably and continuously change the radio signals being sent to the torpedo.
They were granted a patent for their secret communications system on August 11, 1942. The United State Navy did not utilize the technology until after the patent had run out.
Lamarr and Antheil’s spread-spectrum technology is used by yours truly on a daily basis. It is the way that GPS satellites communicate, and how bluetooth, cellphones, and Wi-Fi all work.
This impressive technological achievement combine with her acting talent and star quality to make “the most beautiful woman in film” one of the most interesting and intelligent women in the movie industry.
In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Hedy Lamarr passed away from heart disease in Florida on January 19, 2000. Her ashes were spread in the Vienna Woods.
In 2014, Hedy Lamarr was given an honorary grave in the Vienna Central Cemetary.
- Geld auf der Strabe – as Hedwig Kiesler – 1930
- Storm in a Water Glass – as Hedy Kiesler – 1931
- Die Koffer des Herrn O. F. – as Hedy Kiesler – 1931
- Man braucht kein Geld – as Hedy Kiesler – 1932
- Ecstasy – as Hedy Kiesler – 1933
- Algiers – 1938
- Lady of the Tropics – 1939
- I Take This Woman – 1940
- Boom Town – 1940
- Comrade X – 1940
- Come Live with Me – 1941
- Ziegfeld Girl – 1941
- H.M. Pulham, Esq. – 1941
- Tortilla Flat – 1942
- Crossroads – 1942
- White Cargo – 1942
- The Heavenly Body – 1944
- The Conspirators – 1944
- Experiment Perilous – 1944
- Her Highness and the Bellboy – 1945
- The Strange Woman – 1946
- Dishonored Lady – 1947
- Let’s Live a Little – 1948
- Samson and Delilah – 1949
- A Lady Without Passport – 1950
- Copper Canyon – 1950
- My Favorite Spy – 1951
- Loves of Three Queens – 1954
- L’eterna femmina – 1954
- I cavalieri dell’illusione – 1954
- Shower of Stars (TV Series) – 1957
- Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (Scenes Deleted) – 1957
- Zane Grey Theater (TV Series) – 1957
- The Story of Mankind – 1957
- The Female Animal – 1958
- Friedrich Mandl (1933-1937)
- Gene Markey (1939-1941)
- John Loder (1943-1947)
- Ernest “Ted” Stauffer (1951-1952)
- W. Howard Lee (1953-1960)
- Lewis J. Boies (1963-1965)
- James Lamarr Markey (Born January 9, 1939 – adopted June 12, 1939)
- Denise Loder (Born January 19, 1945)
- Anthony Loder (Born February 1, 1947 )