Hedy Lamarr, a Beautiful Genius
The life of Hedy Lamarr is proof that, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. In fact, she was the first woman to appear naked in a commercial film while, at the same time, being one of the inventors of what we now know as Wi-Fi technology.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, she was posthumously inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame. Without a doubt, she was a woman who broke the mold. Indeed, during World War II she provided confidential information to the United States in its fight against Hitler. In addition, she married six times and then stayed single for 35 years.
“Any girl can be what is called ‘glamorous‘, all she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”
This combination of cinematic femme fatale and exceptionally gifted inventor made Hedy Lamarr unique. However, due to a mix-up between her maiden name, her stage name, and her married names, many never knew that the actress was the inventor and vice versa.
The early years of Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna, Austria, on November 9, 1914. She was the only child of a banker and a pianist. They were Jewish and very wealthy. When she started school, she was noted for her impressive intelligence. In fact, some teachers considered her to be a genius.
When she was about 13, she was harassed by a pervert on her way to school. Although it was never confirmed, they say she was actually raped.
She started studying engineering at college when she was 16. However, she felt drawn to more artistic endeavors and interrupted her studies to act in films.
In the Czechoslovakian film, Ecstasy, she had a naked scene. As a matter of fact, it was the first nude scene ever to be seen in commercial cinema. However, she was actually tricked into it, as the director told her he would only make long shots. Needless to say, he showed her in close-ups.
A private tragedy
Friedrich Mandl was an industrial tycoon who became obsessed with Hedy when he saw the film Ecstasy. For this reason, he sought out her parents and arranged to marry her. She was only 20. However, she was forced to marry him against her will.
Mandl was a personal friend of Hitler and Mussolini. In addition, he made weapons for them. He was also an extremely jealous husband. Firstly, he bought up all the copies of the film Ecstasy in which Hedy had appeared naked. Secondly, he’d also only allow her to undress if he was present. Finally, he’d lock her in the house and stop her from doing anything outside the home.
Hedy was forced to take extreme measures to escape her imprisonment. Apparently, she hired a maid who looked a lot like her. Then, she drugged the maid, stole her uniform, and escaped through a window with all of her jewelry. Her husband’s bodyguards pursued her unsuccessfully. In fact, she managed to get to Paris by train where she started her new life.
A famous and successful woman
After a brief stay in Paris, Hedy went to London. There, she met Louis B. Mayer, owner of Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Hedy sold all her jewelry and embarked on the same ship as him to the United States. During the seven-month journey, she attempted to persuade the filmmaker to hire her as an actress. Finally, she succeeded.
This is the story of how Hedy Lamarr became a Hollywood diva. She made about 30 films. Some of them were extremely successful, like Samson and Delilah. In these early stages of her success, Hedy asked to collaborate with the United States in its war against Hitler. Thanks to her husband, she had access to confidential information about the Nazis which she gave to the Allies.
Hedy was also given the task of making military inventions to assist in the fight against the Axis powers. In fact, she invented everything from an anti-aircraft shield to some aeronautical modifications. Furthermore, she and her friend George Antheil provided the foundations for what we now know as Wi-Fi. However, although they patented their invention, they only received public recognition for it in 1997.
In 1966, Hedy was arrested for shoplifting. She also filed an expensive lawsuit against Warner Bros for using her name. Apparently, her mental health was fragile. In fact, in her later years, she locked herself in her house and never came out again. She died at 82. One of her three sons took her ashes to Austria where she wanted to be buried.