Hedy Lamarr born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000) was an Austrian-born inventor and film actress who was born to a family of Jewish origin. She was the daughter of a powerful Austrian banker and a pianist mother.
When she was still a young girl she left school to devote herself to her passion: interpretation. For this, she had the help of the famous Max Reinhardt, German theater mogul who made her debut in the world of the scene in the last stage of the 20s. Shortly after she began his film career with “Geld Auf Der Strasse” (1930), she continued with several titles of German and Czech production.
Thanks to her nude in the Czech title “Ecstasy” (1933) by Gustav Machaty, beautiful Hedy managed to get the attention of moviegoers from around the world, including those from Hollywood, who quickly tried to import the new European star into their movies.
The scandal that arose in the wake of her nude also had her away from the big screen for five long years. Hedy had married a very wealthy and powerful arms dealer Fritz Mandl in 1933. Mandl tried by all means that the film was not shown anywhere and ordered to buy and destroyed all copies of the film in order to prevent the public from gazing on the body of his beloved wife. Obviously, he did not succeed. Hedy divorced Mandl four years later, in 1937.
Her first work for Hollywood was a production by Walter Wanger entitled “Algiers” (1938), remake of the French film “Pepe le Moko” that featured the role of Jean Gabin and the direction of Julien Duvivier.
A year later she signed a contract with the Goldwyn Mayer Metro, a contract that changed her last name. With the Metro, she starred in many movies in the early 40s, including “Lady Of The Tropics” (1939) with Robert Taylor, “Golden Fruit” (1940) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy , “Comrade X” (1940) of again with Gable, “I Cannot Live Without You” (1941) with James Stewart, “Ashes of Love” (1941) with Robert Young, “Crossroads” (1942) with William Powell, “Life Is So” (1942) with Spencer Tracy and John Garfield, or “White Cargo” (1942) with Walter Pidgeon . In the RKO filmed with Jacques Tourneur “Night in the Soul” (1944).
During this period, Hedy was basically used as a symbol of sensuality for its dazzling beauty. Apart from her aesthetic virtues, the Austrian actress showed her great intellectual talent by patenting in 1940, together with the composer George Antheil, a secret communications system that, using a frequency hopping technique, was used to ensure the control of The torpedoes Hey, she was self-taught and her taste for military science and technology stemmed from her time with her ex-husband, Mandl.
In 1939, she married for the second time, now with producer and screenwriter Gene Markey, from whom she divorced in 1940 and with whom she adopted his son James. Three years later she married the actor John Loder, with whom she coincided in the film “Passion Que Redime” (1947) by Robert Stevenson. The same year of the production of that film they divorced after conceiving two children.
Hedy’s film career suffered a serious decline from the mid-40s despite the success of “Samson and Delilah” (1949), the biblical film shot by Cecil B. De Mille who co-starred with Victor Mature.
She was fired from the Metro (“Samson and Delilah” was a Paramount title) and her films in the 50s were not excessively prominent nor her numbers very prolific. Se appeared in “The Copper Gorge” (1950) next to Ray Milland, “My Favorite Spy” (1951) with Bob Hope, or “The Fame Animal” (1958) with Jane Powell and Jan Sterling as co-protagonists. These movies were one of the last of her career as an actress because before the torrents of mishaps, she had decided to retire from the cinema (in 1990 she appeared surprisingly in “Instant Karma”). In 1953 she was nationalized as an American.
Her sentimental life continued to move since after her three failed marriages she remarried three other times. Her fourth husband was the conductor Ted Stauffer (1951-1952), the fifth, oil mogul Howard Lee (1953-1960), and the last lawyer Lewis Boles (1963-1965).
Away from the industry, Hedy Lamarr struggled and witnessed the auction of all the assets of her Beverly Hills home. In 1966, she was accused of a robbery in a supermarket and, although she was finally acquitted, the publication that year of her autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, did not contribute to improving the image of who had been one of the most beautiful women in film history. The book collected in detail the love and sexual scandals of the actress and, although Hedy Lamarr sued the editor for falsifying her random sentimental life, Hollywood finally turned its back on her.
On January 19, 2000, she died at her Florida residence, at 85. She was buried in the Central Cemetery of Vienna.
Despite the sad end of her life, Hedy Lamarr went down in history not only for her contribution to the seventh art but also for her discoveries in the field of military defense and telecommunications.
At the beginning of World War II, she and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, intended to use frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers.
Although the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, various spread-spectrum techniques are incorporated into Bluetooth technology and are similar to methods used in legacy versions of Wi-Fi. This work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.