Born November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler starred in her first film (a German project) at age 17, eventually landing in Hollywood, where she became Hedy Lamarr, one of the biggest movie stars of the 1930s and 1940s. Her unparalleled beauty was all anyone ever talked about, but it was her brain that was her most stunning asset. Bombshell, a new documentary written and directed by Alexandra Dean, captures the extraordinary and tragic story of this brilliant inventor who, in her real, off-screen life, devised a “secret communication system” to help the Allies beat the Nazis.
If you use a smartphone or any device that relies on wireless communications, you can thank Hedy Lamarr. As her story goes, “In 1942, Hedy and composer George Antheil patented what they called the ‘Secret Communication System'”, which they based on the principles of how pianos work. “The original idea, meant to solve the problem of enemies blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles during World War II, involved changing radio frequencies simultaneously to prevent enemies from being able to detect the messages.”
While the technology limitations of the time prevented the feasibility of their idea at first, Hedy and George’s system laid the groundwork for the eventual development of critical and secure communications technologies – Bluetooth, GPS and wifi – used by the military and all of us today.
According to Biography, Since the wide-range impact of her invention wasn’t understood until decades later, Hedy received no immediate recognition for her game-changing device. “However, in 1997 Lamarr and Antheil were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award, and that same year Lamarr became the first female to receive the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, considered ‘The Oscars’ of inventing.”
Bombshell, which was Executive Produced by Susan Sarandon, shines a giant spotlight on Hedy’s largely untold life story, which is as fascinating and complicated as it is tragic.
Official Film Synopsis (Watch Trailer By Clicking Lead Image Above)
What does the most ravishingly beautiful actress of the 1930s and 40s and the inventor whose concepts were the basis of cell phone and bluetooth technology have in common? They are both Hedy Lamarr, the glamour icon whose ravishing visage was the inspiration for Snow White and Cat Woman and a technological trailblazer who perfected a radio system to throw Nazi torpedoes off course during WWII. Weaving interviews and clips with never-before-heard audio tapes of Hedy speaking on the record about her incredible life—from her beginnings as an Austrian Jewish emigre to her scandalous nude scene in the 1933 film Ecstasy to her glittering Hollywood life to her ground-breaking, but completely uncredited inventions to her latter years when she became a recluse, impoverished and almost forgotten—BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY brings to light the story of an unusual and accomplished woman, spurned as too beautiful to be smart, but a role model to this day.
Bombshell made its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival in April (that’s where we saw it) and opens in theaters later this month, on November 24.
lead image (ZIEGFELD GIRL, Hedy Lamarr, 1941) and Bombshell film poster courtesy of Adrian Curry (Zeitgeist Films)