Hedy Lamarr was the most beautiful woman of Hollywood - and the inventor of W-Lan and Bluetooth
Hi, I'm Kat!
What I am most passionate about is to inspire you to see that your life is your own and biggest masterpiece.
The Austrian born Hedy Lamar is another fascinating star of Old Hollywood with a rich life and a story to tell. We can boil them down to 4 things:
- She invented the patent for developing wireless and bluetooth
- She was political and anti-fascist, working to help the allied nations to succeed against Nazi-Germany
- She was a headliner at MGM and was made to become the most beautiful star of Hollywood
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So, what is her story?
Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Kiesler in 1914 in Vienna, Austria with her parents being Austrian (on the paternal side) and Hungarian (on the maternal side). She received a great education and learned to play the piano, to dance ballet and to speak in multiple languages. Interested in the arts, she started out in the Austrian film industry, which back then was actually a thing. Already her fifth movie promoted her to being scandalous – on the one hand because there was a lengthy scene with her bathing naked in a lake and then walking in her birthday suit through a first, and on the other hand, because her face was filmed in a love scene – basically, that was all that was filmed throughout the scene – and she faked an orgasm. The first time ever that something like that was caught on film. But, it actually won an award at the Venice Film Festival. Throughout most of Europe, it was considered an articstic work. Not in the US and not in Germany though. The film was banned in most theatres and when shown with an advisory line of being dangerous to younger audiences.
But – the film caught the attention of her first husband, Austrian military arms merchant and munitions manufacturer Franz Mandl, who was 15 years her major, alledgedly the third-richest man in Austria and basically a madman. He kept her a prisoner in his vast estate and forced her to give up acting altogether. He forced her to change her faith from Jewish to Catholic and made her to be this pretty accessory that he would take to the banquette and receptions that he either hosted or was invited to as well as to business meetings. As Mandl was dealing with both Mussolini as well as Hitler, both of these dictators were guests at the Mandl mansion at least once. This role Hedy was assigned to led to three things:
- She got introduced to the field of applied sciences that nutured one of her talents and later hobbies: Inventing and science
- She strongly opposed the fascists and being faced with them regularly grew her political views and urge to be active against them
- Her husbands total neglect of her despite her being a pretty and silent accessory he took along nurtured her desire to escape.
After 4 years of marriage she fled to Paris and then to London to escape her marriage as well as the Nazis. And as with all good stories, luck was on Hedy Lamarr’s side: She met Louis B. Mayer, the founder of MGM studios in London and bought tickets for exactly the same liner that he took to get back to the States. During this trip, she convinced him to sign her right away. And it worked!
In true Hollywood fashion, Hedy had to change her name. It was Lamarr in hommage to Barbara Lamarr who was once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world – and the suggestion came from Louis B Mayer’s wife, who was a fan of Barbaras.
Her first movie, Algiers was a hit with audiences right away. And also her subsequent movies were received well by the public. But her problem: She was reduced – again – to the role of a silent beautiful accessory and didn’t have much dramatic impact on the movies and hardly any lines. Although, obviously, she was hailed for her legendary beauty. Her most iconic movie – besides Ecstasy – is Samson and Delilah, where she is barely clad and incredibly beautiful.
So, she founded her own production company, but the movies, more thrillers that were an image overhaul for Lamarr went over budget and a comedy she tried also flopped. So, she went back to being hired – this time by Paramount for Samsan and Delilah and later on back to MGM. But, her career started to falter and she only acted sparingly and stopped for good in 1966.
During her bored days at MGM where she simply had to look good and basically had no lines to learn, she tried to stay intellectually engaged and took up her favourite past-time: inventing. Apparently, her trailer was always full of equipment and things she could tinker with. When WW II started, Hedy wanted to use her brains for the good and applied to the National Inventors Council – but, they denied her access and told her she should go on a tour to support the war effort by giving out kisses to men and encouraging them to buy war bonds.
When she heard about the proposition of radio-controlled torpedoes but that the enemy would probably be able to jam the guidances system, she invented together with befriended compose George Antheil a frequency-hopping technology that would make it hard for an outsider to decipher . They came up with the idea because the two of them had to synch 16 pianos with a movie. And the technology behind was punch holed paper which would later be translated for the torpedos with pneumatic controls – as it apparantly already was in the pianos. This technology had not been new, but the application was new and the two got granted a patent after being nudged to file for one by none other than Charles Kettering of General Motors.
But sadly, the technology was not put in use during the war and long forgotten about. Only later, around the 1960s, the Americans started to use this technology for their battle ships and it was used as the basis for wireless and bluetooth. Only after her death Hedy Lamarr was inducted to the inventors hall of fame and several scientific institutes and prizes have adopted her namesake since then.
Private life and later years
In her private life, Hedy Lamarr wasn’t fulfilled either – she was married six times but less than 20 years in total and had three kids. She got estranged from her first son, who was born out of wedlock with the father and she sent away when he was only 12 years old – apparently because he had done something that immensely hurt her. He actually become a police officer and killed a 14 year old black girl. So maybe – there is more to the story than known.
Unfortunately, in later years, Hedy was caught shoplifting and got very secluded – she hardly ever met people in person, and her only means of communication was the telephone, which she used about 6-7 hours a day. She died at the ago of 85 due to heart disease.
She was beautiful and smart – and very lonely.
It keeps me thinking that you need to stick to the things that you love, not try to be someone or something else that you actually don’t want to be. Did she want to be an accessory? No, she didn’t – yet, she made a career out of it. And what always makes me wonder – why did she give up inventing? There were other inventions like an updated traffic light and a tablet that carbonated water. But after that she didn’t really do anything anymore although that apparently was her thing. So, I always wonder if she would have been happier if she had stayed that course, gotten a formal education in science and work in that field all the time. Maybe it had been too difficult back then to break into these rather male-dominated areas and she didn’t want to fight another fight?
Nevertheless, yes, Hedy Lamarr was stunningly beautiful, but more importantly, she is the brains behind some of the most connected devices that we have and basically every household has at least one item that can be tracked down to her patent.
With all my love!