Here’s a fascinating notion: that sultry Hollywood sex goddess Hedy Lamarr invented radio technology employed by every mobile phone in use today.
The tech in question is the notion of spread-spectrum frequency hopping, a concept devised by Lamarr during World War II after learning German U-Boats had sunk a cruise ship and drowned 90 British schoolkids.
Lamarr grew up in Vienna – as Hedwig Kiesler – the daughter of a banker with an interest in all things technological. his interest rubbed off on his offspring, but rather than pursue a techical career – probably impossible in that era – Lamarr became an actress.
Hedy Lamarr in the Conspirators (1944)Source: WikiMedia
Her plan: to create a radio guidance system for torpedoes that could be used to sink submarines. She foresaw high flying aircraft firing off torpedoes and steering them toward enemy warships.
To prevent the signal from being jammed by the target, Lamarr figured that the communication between aircraft and torpedo would rapidly jump from one frequency to another. Jamming would affect the signal only briefly before the signal frequency changed and both controller and controlled weapon would be communicating again.
Lamarr and Antheil’s mechansim, from US Patent 2,292,387
According to author Richard Rhodes, who details the story in a new book, Hedy’s Folly: the Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful Woman in the World, Lamarr knew of a pianist and mechanics boffin named George Antheil. his contribution to the story: devising a way to keep the radios within the aircraft and the torpedo synchronised while the frequency changed.
Lamarr and Antheil received US Patent 2,292,387 for a “Secret Communications System” in 1942. Antheil worked out that a consistent, pseudorandom frequency hop sequence could be generated using the engine from an automatic player-piano.
Lamarr and Antheil pitched the plan to the US military but the notion proved impossible to realise with the technology of the time, and so it was never put to use attacking enemy submarines.
But the concept of frequency hopping would later find use in wireless networking, allowing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and cellular communications where the technique is used to overcome interference. It’s the basis of the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone system. ®
Hedy’s Folly: the Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful Woman in the World is published by Doubleday & Co, and is available in e-book and hardback.
The 1930s screen siren co-invented a system that made Wi-Fi and GPS possible Clarence Sinclair Bull/John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
Hedy’s Folly:The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr,the most beautiful Woman in the WorldBy Richard RhodesDoubleday; 261 pages; $26.95
The first thing most people recall about Hedy Lamarr is that she was “the most beautiful woman in the world.” It’s a label that MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer attached to the Austrian native after she came to Hollywood in 1937. (Around that time, young Hedwig Kiesler was given the screen name Lamarr, not knowing it was the surname of another Mayer ingénue who had become a heroin addict and died about a decade earlier.) Mayer’s hyperbole plagued Lamarr for much of her life. she often played down her beauty, saying anyone can be glamorous if they “stand still and look stupid.”
Yet Lamarr also received plenty of credit for her brains. In 1941, when she co-invented a jamproof radio guidance system for torpedoes at the age of 27, the New York Times wrote, “so vital is her discovery to national defense that government officials will not allow publication of its details.” The system pioneered the spread spectrum technology that later made wireless networking and Global Positioning system devices possible. Lamarr’s scientific prowess has since been celebrated in books, articles, a Boeing ad campaign, and recognition from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Her Nov. 9 birthday is designated as National Inventors’ Day in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.
Hedy’s Folly, Richard Rhodes’s biography of Lamarr, doesn’t fail to trade on her Hollywood glamour, inserting her “most beautiful” appellation in the subtitle and illustrating the cover with an image of the actress seductively straddling a torpedo. Whether it’s Natalie Portman doing neuroscience research at Harvard University or Geena Davis flashing her Mensa card, there’s something irresistible about a pretty face with a big brain. but few wore the juxtaposition quite as uncomfortably as Lamarr. she described her face as her “misfortune” and indeed succumbed to the perils of beauty—the shallow roles, six marriages, and brittle self-esteem that prompted her to strip naked in the 1933 film Ekstase and shun public appearances later in life.
Rhodes, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his book The making of the Atomic Bomb, is less focused on Lamarr’s unsettled private life than on her contribution to science. Specifically, he tries to dissect the story behind the frequency-hopping radio encryption technique that was awarded U.S. Patent No. 2292387 in August 1942. The technology was not hers alone. she teamed up with George Antheil, an American avant-garde composer, writer, and novice inventor she’d approached to see if some of his glandular research could help enlarge her breasts. In this case, at least, vanity led Lamarr to something meaningful.
Their focus soon shifted to a weightier project. Lamarr, an amateur inventor herself, had been thinking about ways to transmit signals over multiple frequencies, thus thwarting enemies’ attempts to jam radio-guided missiles by homing in on a single frequency. The Jewish-born actress, horrified at Nazi Germany’s sweep of Europe, knew that the system would work only if the transmitter and receiver were both synced to the same sequence of frequencies. The two were able to adapt a technology Antheil had developed for his 1924 composition Ballet Mécanique, which called for 16 synchronized player pianos. he essentially adapted a piano roll to coordinate the frequencies. but the Navy officials who reviewed the new torpedo mechanism decided it was too bulky. Spread spectrum communication finally came into use three years after the patent had expired, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Most books about Lamarr tend to focus on her dubious choices and wasted potential. perhaps the real lesson to draw from her life is that innovation can come from anywhere. all too often, a world that craves new ideas also tends to dismiss those capable of producing them.
Rhodes manages to shed light on the strange partnership that led a screen siren and an eclectic composer to produce what was later recognized as a groundbreaking technology. Lamarr’s limited acting skills may have fostered a fame that was never much more than skin deep. but Hedy’s Folly is a reminder that neither time nor gravity can diminish the allure of a beautiful mind.
Brady is senior editor at Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.
Driving down New Highway, which skirts the perimeter of Farmingdale, Long Island’s, Republic Airport, on the still-warm, crystal-blue Labor Day morning in 2006, and glimpsing the tails of the World War II B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress, and B-25 Mitchell bombers, I had once again realized that the Collings Foundation’s annual Wings of Freedom fleet rotation, more than any other year, had transformed the general aviation field into an early-1940s pocket of time, a hub of medium and heavy bomber operations.
The aircraft intended for my mission, the North American B-25 Mitchell registered 130669 Tondelayo and wearing its drab olive-green livery, had been the third parked on the ramp of the American Airpower Museum, both an historical and symbolic position relative to the two heavier, longer-range aircraft which had been preceded it.
Resulting from a 1938 Air Corps requirement for a twin-engined, medium-range bomber which could fulfill niche roles its larger, quad-engined counterparts had been unable to, and tracing its lineage to the B-10, the B-12, the B-18, and the B-23, the B-25 itself, named after the US Army Air Corps Officer General Billy Mitchell, had been infused life as a self-funded project by North American Aviation in the form of the NA-40-1. The 19,500-pound prototype, featuring a narrow fuselage with a green house cockpit; a straight mid-wing; two, 1,100-horsepower R-1830 piston engines; an angular, twin vertical tail; and a tricycle undercarriage of single wheels, had first flown in January of 1939, but a power deficiency had necessitated the retrofit of 1,350-horsepower R-2600s. although the modified version, designated NA-40-2, had offered superior performance, it crashed after a two-week test program.
Its NA-62 successor, which had been extensively modified, featured a wider fuselage which in turn increased the now lower-mounted, constant root-to-tip dihedral mid-wing span, 1,700-horsepower R-2600-9 engines, square-geometry vertical tails, and a 27,000-pound gross weight. Approved in September of 1939, this version, designated the XB-25, first flew in prototype form on August 19 of the following year.
Initially delivered to the Army Air Corps, the aircraft demonstrated directional stability deficiencies, resulting in the outer wing mounting redesign with the tenth aircraft off the production line, which reduced the engine-to-wing tip dihedral and gave it its characteristic gull-wing profile.
The B-25 Mitchell, in production form, appeared with an aluminum alloy, semi-monocoque fuselage, constructed of four longerons, which produced a 53.6-foot overall length. The cantilever, all-metal, mid-mounted wings, comprised of a two-spar, fuselage-integral center section housing integral fuel tanks and two outer, single-spar sections with detachable wing tips, featured sealed ailerons with both fixed and controllable trimming tabs and dual-section, hydraulically-operated, trailing edge slotted flaps divided by the engine nacelles. Spanning 67.7 feet, they sported a 609.8-square-foot area. Powered by two 1,700-horsepower, Wright-Cyclone two-row, 14-cylinder, air-cooled R-2600 piston engines housed in aerodynamic nacelles which traversed the wing chord and turned three-bladed, constant-speed, 12.7-foot, full-feathering, anti-icing Hamilton Standard propellers, the aircraft could climb to 15,000 feet in 11.3 minutes and attain a maximum speed of 303 mph at 13,000 feet. The cantilever twin vertical fins and rudders, fitted with fixed and controllable trimming tabs, had been modified with rounded tops and yielded a 16.5-foot aircraft height. The tricycle, single-wheeled, hydraulically-actuated, aft-retracting undercarriage, the first such configuration employed by a US bomber, featured aerodynamic door covers over all three wheel wells in both the extended and retracted positions, while the main wheels were equipped with hydraulic brakes. The aircraft, with a 21,100-pound empty weight, had a maximum gross weight of 33,500 pounds.
Several versions had been produced. The first of these, the B-25A, incorporated pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, while its successor, the B-25B, introduced two electrically-operated Bendix turrets, each of which replaced the midship and tail guns and featured two.50 caliber machine guns. Entering service in 1941 with the 17th Bomb Group at McChord Field near Tacoma, Washington, the aircraft, whose production run totaled 120, also featured a separate photographic station between the upper turret and the tail and a shortened, 54.1-foot length.
Powered by two 1,700-horsepower Wright R-2600-13 engines, the B-25C, the third version, introduced an autopilot system and external racks which could carry eight 250-pound bombs, and a later fuel capacity increase to 1,100 gallons. Of the 3,909 build, 1,619 had been produced in Inglewood, California, while 2,290 had been assembled in Kansas City, Kansas, under the B-25D designation.
The singular B-25E and -F variants were intended as test vehicles of wing and tail anti-icing systems, while the B-25G replaced the glazed nose with an armored one, the latter containing two.50 caliber machine guns and one 9.6-foot-long, 900-pound, cradle-mounted, M-4 cannon capable of firing 23-inch, 15-pound shells. although its armament had otherwise adhered to the B-25C standard, its bomb bay could accommodate an aircraft torpedo. The variant, operated by a crew of four and featuring a 50.10-foot overall length, enjoyed a 405-unit production run.
The B-25H, with significantly increased armament, featured four.50 caliber machine guns in the metallic, armored nose, and a further four on the side, arranged in pairs; a repositioned top turret, now located in the roof of the navigator’s compartment; the removal of the ventral turret; enlarged, aft-wing,.50 caliber machine gun waist positions; and a tail gun station with two further.50 caliber machine guns. as World War II’s most extensively armed design, it could attain 293-mph speeds at 13,000 feet and had a 23,800-foot service ceiling.
The B-25J, the definitive and numerically most popular version, had been intended for precision bombing. The aircraft, introducing a bombardier who increased the crew complement to six, reincorporated the glazed nose which had now been provisioned with one fixed and one flexible.50 caliber machine gun. The largest single Mitchell order, for 4,318 B-25s, had been placed on April 14, 1943, and the aircraft, attaining 292-mph speeds at 14,500 feet, could cruise at service ceilings of 25,500 feet.
Between 1941 and 1945, the Army Air Corps took delivery of 9,816 B-25s, 3,218 of which had been produced in Inglewood, California, until 1943, and the remaining 6,608 of which had been produced in Kansas City.
The B-25 Mitchell had several post-war applications. Demilitarized, and designated TB-25, the type, based upon the B-25J, had been converted into a trainer with the installation of an observer’s seat in the nose, ahead and below the cockpit; two student seats behind the standard two pilot-instructor positions; and up to five seats in the aft cabin. Of the 400 converted aircraft operated by the US Air Force during the 1950s, the last active-duty staff transport had not been retired until May 21, 1960, although it had continued to be operated by the air forces of Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Holland, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
A photographic reconnaissance variant, the F-10, had featured a nose-installed tri-metrogon camera along with other aerial photography equipment, while other non-military roles had included those of executive transport, freighter, and fire bomber.
The aircraft operating my Labor Day flight, a B-25J registered 44-28932, had been produced in August of 1944 by North American Aviation in Kansas City, Kansas. Accepted by the United States Army Air Corps on August 3 of that year, it had served in the US in the AAF Flying Training Command Program, serving 12 different air bases until January of 1959, at which time it had been declared surplus and had been deleted from the US Air Force inventory. Converted into a fire bomber, it had combated forest fires for another 25 years.
Acquired by the Collings Foundation in 1984, and restored by Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft over a two-year period, the B-25J, the first World War II bomber in the collection, had been flown n air shows in the Boston area for a decade, whereafter it had been ferried to Chino, California, in late 2001, for a secondary restoration by Carl Scholl of Aero Trader, inc. Subsequently repositioned to Midland, Texas, it was painted by AVSource West in its current Tondelayo livery after the B-25 which had been operated by the Air Apache 345th BG of the 5th Air Force in the Pacific Theater against targets in New Guinea, the 500th BS of the 5th Air Force itself having been the fourth squadron of the 345th BG to have attacked shipping in Vunapope near Rabaul on October 18, 1943. The Tondelayo name had been inspired by Hedy Lamarr’s character in the 1943 movie White Cargo and given by the crew of Lieutenant Ralph Wallace. The three-aircraft formation, comprised of the B-25 Snafu and flown by Captain Lyle Anacker, the Tondelayo flown by Lieutenant Wallace himself, and the sorry Satchul flown by Lieutenant Paterson, had claimed three ships, but avenging fighters had attacked sorry Satchul, hitting its port engine and forcing it to ditch, and Tondelayo, damaging its right engine. Shut down and feathered, it had almost wrenched itself from its mountings because of severe vibration.
Flying over Cape Gazelle toward base, the B-25 duo, maintaining tight formation, had been targeted by some 50 Japanese fighters, sorry Satchul so badly damaged that it had been forced to head for shore and ditch and Tondelayo, despite its own critical wounds, hovering only 30 feet above the water where it had managed to shoot down five additional enemy aircraft. Limping into base at Kiriwina, the aircraft had subsequently been repaired and patched, receiving a new right wing, engine, propeller blades, and radio equipment. Its crew had been awarded the Silver Star.
Squatting under the forward fuselage and climbing the short ladder into the cockpit section on that Labor Day in 2006, I took the right of the two observer’s seats located a foot below, and behind, the cockpit, while the four other passengers entered the aft section, located behind the bomb bay, through the ventral hatch, which had been configured with an aft-facing, three-person bench seat and three individual seats. with the ladder now raised and the dual panel folded across it to form a portion of the integral floor, the B-25J had been secured for engine start.
The two-person cockpit, sporting bow tie control yokes, featured a throttle quadrant with the two engine throttles angled toward the pilot, two propeller-pitch throttles, and two fuel-mixture throttles angled toward the copilot.
Engine start, commencing with the right, number 2 powerplant, entailed turning the master ignition switch and right booster pump on, at which point the Wright R-2600 powerplant rotated and the interior became saturated with deep, vibrating, Hamilton Standard propeller-created noise. Priming and stabilizing them with the throttle to create between 800 and 1,000 revolutions per minute, the captain applied a full-rich mixture, causing them to settle into a throaty, 1,200-rpm idle. The process was repeated with the left, number 1 engine.
Contacting Republic Ground on 121.6 for taxi clearance, and armed with the latest automatic terminal information service data, the twin-finned bomber released its brakes at 0845, the thrust created by its engines, even at idle settings, sufficient to move it forward over the American Airpower ramp and away from the World War II bomber trio. Taxiing parallel to the active runway, 32, the B-25J periodically jolted in response to brake applications, turning on to the run-up area by means of differential power, its slipstream-bombarded twin rudders aerodynamically inducing ground turns. Extending its slotted, trailing edge flaps and advancing its throttles, the medium-capacity bomber, assuredly a giant in comparison to the currently landing Piper Warrior, moved on to the runway’s threshold, just as the B-17 had commenced its own taxi roll from the ramp.
Moving into take off position and aligning its nose wheel with the centerline, aircraft 130669 received take off clearance from Republic Tower on 125.2, slowly advancing its two throttles in order to establish initial directional control. Firmly maintaining a straight acceleration roll, the 1,500-horsepower twin-row radials powering the Collings Foundation aircraft exploded with cabin-saturating noise as smooth, steady throttle advancements pinnacled them into their METO settings of 2,600 revolutions-per-minute and 40 inches of manifold pressure. Counteracting wind-induced directional variations with subtle rudder deflections, the captain began applying control column back pressure at 75 knots indicated air speed, the now ground-separated nose wheel producing a lift-generating angle-of-attack. The air speed-created pressure differential, bathing the huge, outstretched, upper wing surfaces in a steady stream of accelerated air, removed all ground restraints and allowed them to peel the gravity-defying aircraft to which they had been attached off the ground at 115 knots. Retracting its tricycle undercarriage at the aircraft’s VMC-determined 145-knot speed, and trimming itself into its initial climb, the twin-engined bomber, encased in engine slipstream, rolled into a right bank over Route 110, headed toward Long Island’s south shore.
Maintaining a 150-degree heading, the now-graceful flying bird reduced its engine rpm to 2300 and its manifold pressure to 30, moving abreast of the metallic, erector set-appearing Captree Bridge at 1,000 feet, which stretched across the deep blue surface of the Great South Bay from the island to Jones Beach and its signature lighthouse. The azure of the water, seamlessly merging with that of the sky, melded into a surreal dimension, as viewed from the 270-degree-encompassing Plexiglas nose.
The power-to-weight ratio, coupled to its aerodynamic design, had been the key to the highly-maneuverable, medium mission bomber. unlike its long-range, high-altitude, heavy B-17 and B-24 counterparts, the B-25, at half their acquisition costs, had been intended for interdiction purposes, delivering tactical blows to enemy targets closer to the front. because of its maneuverability, it had been able to fly low-level, tree-top strafing sorties, where it had remained virtually hidden, and had then dropped parachute-retarding bombs, which had enabled it to escape before detonation. although it had operated extensively in the Pacific, targeting Japanese air fields from treetop altitudes and skip-bombing enemy ships, it had been used in all theaters of operation, and had been flown by the Australians, the British, the Chinese, and the Dutch. It had been the first bomber to have been lend-leased to Russia.
The most famous B-25 mission, led by Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle and occurring on April 18, 1942, had entailed the launch of 16 aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. Of the four candidate aircraft, inclusive of the B-18, the B-23, the B-26, and the B-25 itself, the latter had been chosen because of its performance. The aircraft, B-25Bs modified at the Northwest Airlines maintenance facility in Minnesota to increase their fuel tankage from 694 to 1,141 US gallons, had featured dorsal and ventral power turrets, but had been devoid of tail armament. Loaded on the USS Hornet for the sea journey to Japan, 16 aircraft, each at 31,000-pound gross weights, would take off from the 467-foot deck at a 450-mile distance, close enough to permit them to bomb targets in Tokyo, Yokahama, Kobe, and Nagoya, yet retain sufficient fuel supplies to continue the 1,200 miles to China.
Encountering a Japanese picket boat during the morning of April 18, and fearing imminent attack, Doolittle made the decision to launch the B-25 fleet at an 800-mile distance, or 350 miles further, from land, the first take off occurring at 8:18 a.m., which had been less than an hour after the boat had been sighted. Using strong headwinds and the deck’s sea swell-created inclination, the bombers had just been able to accomplish the precarious feat, with the last taking off at 9:21 a.m.
After some four hours of flying, the lead aircraft, flown by Doolittle himself, dropped the first bomb over Tokyo, shortly after which it had been joined by the remaining 15. although all safely departed Japanese air space, insufficient fuel, caused by the earlier launching, and deteriorating weather, resulted in the crash-landing or abandonment of 15 B-25s in China, while the 16th landed in Vladivostock, where its crew had been captured.
Nevertheless, the mission had been both a technological and operational success, and had elevated troop morale and garnered tremendous notoriety for the aircraft.
Banking left to a 240-degree heading, aircraft 1306669 Tondelayo was carried back over Captree Bridge by its gull, variable-dihedral wings and its three-bladed propellers, crossing over Long Island’s south shore. The B-17 Flying Fortress, appearing particularly graceful over the blue surface of the Great South Bay, flexed off of the port cockpit windows. World War II skies had somehow been resurrected that morning.
Fuel burn depended on engine setting: at 180 mph, with the engines turning at 1,700 revolutions per minute and feeding off of 27 inches of manifold pressure, the aircraft burned 120 gallons per hour, while a ten-mph cruise speed increase, attained with a 1,800-rpm/28-inch setting, resulted in a 130-gallon per hour consumption.
Recontacting Republic Tower, aircraft 130699 advised its intention of inbound for landing and reduced power, now gravity-induced into its descent profile. Maintaining a 180-mph speed and a 320-degree heading, it extended its trailing edge flaps, which provided air speed control, by means of progressive drag production. Flap settings equally depended on flight phase: 1/4 for take off, 1/2 and 3/4 for descent, and full for landing.
The aircraft’s clean stalling speed had been 95 mph, which decreased to 83 mph at maximum gross weight with full flaps and undercarriage at 26,000 feet.
Extending its drag-producing landing gear into the slipstream, the aircraft inched toward Runway 32′s threshold, as its altimeter unwound: 600 feet.500.300.100.
Passing over the fence at 115 mph, the olive-green, twin-engined, twin-finned medium bomber sank toward the blurred concrete in a full back-pressure control yoke-induced flare, screeching on the ground with its left main wheel at 80 mph, at which time the friction sufficiently reduced its air speed to permit the remaining two bogies to settle earthward.
Completing its deceleration roll and taxiing on to the American Airpower Museum ramp, the B-25J Mitchell, as the medium mission bomber, had appropriately been the first to return to base, the B-17 and the B-24 still plying the skies. if World War II had still been raging, the sequence would have been exactly the same.
How did a woman who couldn’t spell (by some accounts) make such signif-icant contributions to science? Born Hedwig Kiesler into a refined Viennese Jewish family in 1914, she dropped out of high school to act on stage and screen. in 1931, when she was 16, the director Max Reinhardt cast her in the play The Weaker Sex and called her “the most beautiful woman in the world”—an epithet that stuck. two years later, she attained notoriety for her memorable (if fleeting) nude scenes in a Czech art film called Ecstasy. the film horrified her parents but thrilled munitions mogul Fritz Mandl.
Hedy Lamarr., MGM-Corbis
Marrying Lamarr in short order, Mandl threw glittering dinner parties where his colleagues in arms—generals and scientists—entertained the child bride by bragging about their advances in missile technology. in 1937, bucking her marriage, Lamarr fled Europe for America on the Normandie liner, where she befriended the MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer. Before the ship came to port, she’d landed a seven-year contract. in Hollywood three years later, as German torpedoes downed boats in the North Atlantic during the Blitz, Lamarr remembered every ballistic boast she’d absorbed around her husband’s table and put her memories to work.
Hedy’s Folly: the Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes. Doubleday. 272 pages
Rhodes’s book is really a dual history, exploring Lamarr’s close collaboration with another German-speaking polymath in Hollywood, the composer George Antheil (famous for the cacophonous Ballet Mécanique, for which he synchronized 16 player pianos, drums, cymbals, and an airplane propeller). though Lamarr and Antheil’s Secret Communication System received a patent in 1942, the U.S. Navy chose not to use it. Decades after war’s end, American scientists repurposed the “frequency-hopping” innovation Lamarr had envisioned—renamed “spread spectrum” technology—and used it to create cell-phones, GPS, and Wi-Fi. You could almost say that, without Lamarr, there would be no Siri … and no iPhone 4.
Rhodes’s beguiling book shows Hedy Lamarr to have been a secret weapon in more ways than one. “Any girl can be glamorous,” she was famous for saying. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” But it’s not every girl who can be glamorous, stand still, and take the future in a new direction.
Hedy Lamarr, inventor, was overlooked for Hedy Lamarr, sex symbol. The Hedy Lamarr role in "Ecstasy" virtually guaranteed that. But a new book looks at the scientific brain behind Hedy Lamarr's beauty.
But of all the people born on Nov, 9, my second favorite is actress Hedy Lamarr. Her incredible life story needs to be made into a movie. She was born Hedwig Kiesler to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1913. At 19, the beautiful ballerina starred in a Czech
Given the success that the screen siren Hedy Lamarr achieved in that realm—revealed in Richard Rhodes's fascinating biography, Hedy's Folly—it's a pity more of them don't consider it. in 1940, while acting alongside Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland in
Movieline.com. for the funniest & most entertaining news, reviews and interviews by leading industry insiders on movies, tv shows and dvds.
Richard Rhodes, author of two of my favorite books of all time (Making of the Atomic Bomb and dark Sun), has written a book about one of the most intriguing people of the 20th century, Hedy Lamarr, big-time Hollywood
Nov. 9th is the birthday of many greats, including astronomerCarl Sagan, bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, former vice president SpiroAgnew and Cardinal legends Bob Gibson and Whitey Herzog.
(It’s also the anniversary of two important dates in Germanhistory–Kristallnacht, the night in 1938 when Nazi sympathizersrampaged against Jewish shopkeepers; and the day the Berlin Wallwas toppled, in 1989.)
But of all the people born on Nov, 9, my second favorite isactress Hedy Lamarr. Her incredible life story needs to be madeinto a movie.
She was born Hedwig Kiesler to Jewish parents in Vienna in 1913.At 19, the beautiful ballerina starred in a Czech film called”Ecstacy” which featured what has been called (inaccurately) thefirst nude scene in film history.
That same year, she married a Viennese arms dealer named FritzMandl who was 13 years her senior. Mandl was a control freak whotried to buy and burn every known copy of “Ecstacy.” he alsosocialized with fascist leaders, and through him young Hedwig metAdolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
When Mandl forbade her to act, she escaped his mansion. Someaccounts say she disguised herself as a maid. Others say the realmaid helped her drug Mandl. And there’s a third story that Hedwigtook refuge in a brothel (and had to service the customers).
She fled to America (undoubtedly with secrets about theright-wing regimes that were menacing Europe) and was signed by MGMstudios. Studio chief renamed her Hedy Lamarr, after a silent-eraactress named Barbara La Marr). in later years, Lamarr admitted shehad to sleep with many influential men to build her Hollywoodcareer, which included exotic-temptress roles in “Algiers,” “WhiteCargo” and “Samson and Delilah.” And her Mata Hari reputation wasspoofed in the Bob Hope comedy “My Favorite Spy.”
In real life, Lamarr made a significant contribution to themilitary effort. She and her friend, avant-garde composer GeorgeAntheil, deduced that the mechanized system behind a player pianocould be applied to radio frequencies, varying and thus masking theguidance systems for torpedos.
Although they patented the idea of “frequency hopping,” which isstill used in missile and cell-phone systems, Lamarr did not profitfrom the invention.
She retired from movies in the late ’50s and moved to Florida.in her later years, she was twice apprehended for shoplifting, wasthe subject of an Andy Warhol spoof and wrote a memoir titled”Ecstacy and me.” She died in 2000.
For several years, actress Rachel Weisz, another dark-eyedCentral European beauty, has been trying to turn Lamarr’s storyinto a feature film. Here’s hoping that it happens before Lamarr’s100th birthday, in 2013.