The 2017 documentary about HEDY LAMARR is by writer/ director Alexandra Dean and is now available on DVD . I saw it for the first time at the Glasgow Film Festival. I enjoyed it very much and have the DVD on order.
Known for her glacial beauty, MGM starred Hedy with all its biggest names from Gable to Tracy to Robert Taylor. She graced countless magazine covers. Though her acting range was quite limited, MGM persevered in the seven years they had her under contract from 1938.
Notably, they did not renew her contract.
The documentary is not primarily a study of Hedy’s film career but concentrates more on an aspect of Hedy’s life which only came to light in recent years.
Hedy was an inventor, she was mechanically minded and said,
“Inventions are easy for me to do – I have an inventive mind.”
Born Hedwig Kiesler in Vienna in 1914, Hedy was very close to her banker father who encouraged her interest in how things work. And her first husband , Freidrich Mandle , was a munitions manufacturer in Berlin.
In the 2011 book, “Hedy’s Folly, The Life and Break Through Inventions of Hedy Lamarr”, author Richard Rhodes points out that some inventors have been artists –
“Samuel L.Morse, the co-inventor of the telegraph, was a professional painter……But many inventors have been people with no obvious qualifications for inventing. Hedy Lamarr was an inventor.”
The documentary makers were fortunate to make contact with a journalist ,Fleming Meeks ( a reporter at Forbes magazine) who had audio tapes of interviews with Hedy in 1990. Listening to Hedy talk about herself is fascinating.
She said, “The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with smallest minds. Think big anyway.”
Maybe she was still smarting at the U.S. Government for rejecting the invention she and her friend George Antheil had offered in 1940. The Government officials suggested she sell war bonds – which she did.
What she and George Antheil had invented was a way to protect the radio transmissions that controlled torpedoes so they could not be jammed. (German U -Boats were sinking North Atlantic shipping).
A patent was filed in 1941 and expired in 1959. When the U.S military, many years later, finally realised the importance of the invention, there was no recognition or compensation for Hedy.
The patent was filed under Hedy’s married name, Hedy Kiesler Markey ( her second husband was producer Gene Markey).
It has been written that Hedy’s invention, Spread Spectrum technology ,was the forerunner of Wi-Fi and GPS.
Hedy set up an inventor’s corner in the drawing room of her Hollywood home.
Apparently, while friends with Howard Hughes, Hedy discussed a more aerodynamic design for plane wings after observing birds and fish!
At the height of her beauty, in ZIEGFELD GIRL
With John Loder,one of her 6 husbands.
Hedy on the cover of the scientific magazine ,”Invention and Technology.”
In 1997, three years before her death, Hedy received an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Her son accepted for her.
In 2014, she and her co- inventor George Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. They were honoured for contributing an important development in wireless communication.
Hedy died, aged 85 ,in 2000. In her last years she was a recluse. I saw some footage of her in her apartment on You Tube . Her many plastic surgeries were evident and very sad. Grotesque in fact.
It was announced in September , 2017 that Diane Kruger ( who appears in the documentary ) will play Hedy in a proposed TV mini series based on Richard Rhodes’ s book, Hedy’s Folly.
I’ve caught up on some of Hedy’s films after seeing the documentary. I’m afraid none of her performances have impressed me. Partly let down by poor scripts, but ,apart from looking gorgeous, she is generally overshadowed by others in the casts.
One I haven’t seen,TORTILLA FLAT had Hedy alongside two powerhouse performers, Spencer Tracy and John Garfield.
Hedy was ushered back to MGM after the success of SAMSON AND DELILAH, but, again, MGM’s script for A LADY WITHOUT PASSPORT was just not good.
Hedy front and centre in the MGM star photo from 1943. She was always so elegant looking.
BOMBSHELL is the first production of Reframed Pictures ,from Susan Sarandon, Alexandra Dean and Adam Haggiag.
It’s a fascinating story.
I will find and watch this documentary. Yet another example of a very smart woman being diminished/disregarded by men in power. May she be an inspiration for inventive women for many years to come! Thank you for researching and writing this post.
I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. The whole story is fascinating.
Try The Strange woman and Dishonored Lady on YT. They both have murder subplots so that might help your enjoyment of them.
Watched both. Not impressed.
I always liked her, although I agree she wasn’t the greatest actress. Mind you, she wasn’t terrible either and her beauty really comes across on the screen and that makes up for a lot. Aside from that she was in a lot of, in my opinion, fairly entertaining movies – I watched A Lady Without Passport a while ago and, while it’s not anything special, both Hedy and the film overall look very good – not so surprising with Joseph H Lewis behind the camera I suppose.
It was only a few years ago that I became aware of her technical achievements and cast her in quite a different light as far as I was concerned.
Good to hear from you, Colin. I’m sure you would enjoy this documentary. A pity I haven’t enjoyed her films. I have two more to watch – The Heavenly Body and Comrade X, maybe they will be more to my liking.
Have you seen Boom Town? Again, she has some high powered co-stars in Gable, Tracy and Colbert but I like the film quite a bit. It’s very soapy and yet it’s golden age filmmaking at its best.
Yes, but years ago. MGM certainly gave Hedy quite a few top co-stars.