Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actor and inventor, whose work has been reportedly incorporated into Bluetooth technology. Lamarr has been a part of films like Ecstasy, The Strange Woman, Samson and Delilah, My Favourite Spy and The Female Animal among others.
Not many know that the Hollywood actor was an inventor of repute and was even inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Touted as one of the most beautiful women to have ever lived, Lamarr’s death in 2000 opened up two well-kept secrets about the actor’s life to the public, according to The Guardian. The two secrets involved the oft-discussed topics of science and sex. A recently-released documentary called Bombshell by Alexandra Dean sheds light on the fascinating life led by the stunning star.
Lamarr was not born Hedy Lamarr, but as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914. She was raised in a well-to-do family. Her father was a bank director and her mother was a pianist. Early on, she was discovered as an actor and started working in showbiz. Later, she went on to star in the controversial film Ecstasy, where she was featured in the nude, and in throes of orgasm for a few scenes of the film.
Lamarr, after acting in some plays, decided to tie the knot with Mandl, an Austrian military arms merchant, who was apparently one of the richest men in the country. However, her marriage to Mandl didn’t survive as she reportedly felt trapped with him.
Lamarr’s Hollywood career took off when she was introduced to Louis B. Mayer, co-founder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios. Having mainly starred as the typical beauty, she featured in a string of films with stars like Judy Garland, Robert Young and Calrk Gable. After leaving MGM in 1945, she starred in the Oscar-winning film Samson and Delilah.
But her beginnings as an inventor took roots in her me-time. It’s said that Lamarr was not particularly fond of parties and preferred spending her time creating something new than socialising with the rich and famous. She didn’t have a formal training but had invented a tablet that could dissolve into water to create a carbonated drink. She also invented a traffic stoplight.
Not many knew about the actor’s skill and talent as an inventor, but record-setting pilot, business tycoon and director Howard Hughes was one of the few people who knew about her ‘hobbies.’ They were quite close and had even dated each other briefly.
Along with her composer friend George Antheil, Lamarr created a frequency-hopping signal during the World War II, that could not be tracked or jammed. It was basically a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes.
“We began talking about the war, which, in the late summer of 1940, was looking most extremely black. Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state. She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons and that she was thinking seriously of quitting MGM and going to Washington, DC, to offer her services to the newly established Inventors’ Council,” Antheil was quoted as saying.
Lemarr, despite having lent her hand to some incredible inventions, is today barely remembered as an actor of a few known movies.