Hedy Lamarr (9 November 1914 – 19 January 2000) born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler to a father born in Lviv, [a] was an Austrian and American film actress and inventor. After an early and brief film career in Germany, which included a controversial love-making scene in the filmEcstasy (1933), she fled from her husband and secretly moved to Paris. There, she met MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood, where she became a film star from the late 1930s to the 1950s.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the only child of Gertrud "Trude" Kiesler (née Lichtwitz; 3 February 1894 – 27 February 1977) and Emil Kiesler (27 December 1880 – 14 February 1935). Her father was born to a Jewish family in Lemberg (now Lviv in Ukraine) and was a successful bank director. Her mother was a pianist and Budapest native who came from an upper-class Jewish family; she had converted from Judaism to Catholicism and was a "practicing Christian".:8 In later years, Hedy's influence as an actress would be used to help get her mother rescued from Austria, then under Nazi domination.
In the late 1920s, Lamarr was discovered as an actress and brought to Berlin by producer Max Reinhardt. Following her training in the theater, she returned to Vienna, where she began to work in the film industry, first as a script girl, and soon as an actress. In early 1933, at age 18, she starred in Gustav Machatý's film, Ecstasy (Ekstase in German, Extasein Czech), which was filmed in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Lamarr’s role was that of a neglected young wife married to an indifferent older man. The film became notorious for showing Lamarr's face in the throes of orgasm as well as close-up and brief nude scenes in which she is seen swimming and running through the woods.
At the age of 19, on 10 August 1933, Lamarr married Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy (he was reputed to be the third richest man in Austria), and extremely jealous, Austrian military arms merchant and munitions manufacturer. He strongly objected to her simulated orgasm scene in Ecstasy. In her autobiography Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr described Mandl as extremely controlling, preventing her from pursuing her acting career and keeping her a virtual prisoner, confined to their castle home, Schloss Schwarzenau. Although half-Jewish himself, Mandl had close social and business ties to the fascist government of Italy and Nazi government of Germany, selling munitions to Mussolini. Lamarr wrote that Mussolini and Hitler had attended lavish parties hosted at the Mandl home. He had her accompany him to business meetings, where he conferred with scientists and other professionals involved in military technology. These conferences were her introduction to the field of applied science and the ground that nurtured her latent talent in science.
Lamarr's marriage to Mandl eventually became unbearable, and she decided to separate herself from both him and her country. She wrote in her autobiography that she disguised herself as her maid and fled to Paris. However, rumors claimed that Lamarr persuaded Mandl to let her wear all of her jewelry for a dinner, then disappeared.
After escaping her husband, she fled to Paris in 1937, where she met Louis B. Mayer, who was scouting for talent in Europe. Mayer hired her but later wanted her to change her name to Hedy Lamarr—she had been known as "the Ecstasy lady"—choosing the surname in homage to the beautiful silent film star, Barbara La Marr. Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1938, Mayer began promoting her as the "world's most beautiful woman."
Lamarr in 1940
Lamarr's American film debut was in Algiers (1938), opposite Charles Boyer. The film created a "national sensation," says Shearer.:77She was an unknown but well-publicized Austrian actress, which created anticipation in audiences. Mayer hoped she would become another Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich.:77 According to one viewer, when her face first appeared on the screen, "everyone gasped...Lamarr's beauty literally took one's breath away.":2
In future Hollywood films, she was invariably typecast as the archetypal glamorous seductress of exotic origins. Lamarr played opposite the era's most popular leading men. Her many films include Boom Town (1940) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, Comrade X with Gable,White Cargo (1942), Tortilla Flat (1942) with Tracy and John Garfield, H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) with Robert Young, and Dishonored Lady(1947). In 1941, Lamarr was cast alongside Lana Turner and Judy Garland in Ziegfeld Girl.
Lamarr made 18 films from 1940 to 1949 even though she had two children during that time (in 1945 and 1947). After leaving MGM in 1945, she enjoyed her biggest success as Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille's Samson and Delilah, the highest-grossing film of 1949, with Victor Mature as the Biblical strongman. However, following her comedic turn opposite Bob Hope in My Favorite Spy (1951), her career went into decline. She appeared only sporadically in films after 1950, one of her last roles being that of Joan of Arc in Irwin Allen's critically panned epic, The Story of Mankind (1957). White Cargo, one of Lamarr's biggest hits at MGM, contains, arguably, her most memorable film quote delivered with hints of a provocative invitation: "I am Tondelayo. I make tiffin for you?" This line typifies many of Lamarr's roles, which emphasized her beauty and sexuality but were light on lines. The lack of acting challenges bored Lamarr, and she turned to inventing to relieve her boredom.
Main article: Frequency-hopping spread spectrum
Lamarr's earliest inventions include an improved traffic stoplight and a tablet that would dissolve in water to create a carbonated drink. The beverage was unsuccessful; Lamarr herself said it tasted like Alka-Seltzer.
Copy of U.S. patent for "Secret Communication System
With the ongoing world war, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the war effort by designing a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes. With the help of composer George Antheil, they drafted designs for a new frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology which they later patented.
Lamarr and Antheil realized that radio-controlled torpedoes, while could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, which caused the torpedo to go off course. With the knowledge she had gained about torpedoes from her first husband, and using a method similar to the way piano rolls work, they designed a frequency-hopping system that would continually change the radio signals sent to the torpedo.
Their invention was granted a patent on 11 August 1942. Yet, it was technologically difficult to implement, and the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military at the time. Only in 1962, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, did an updated version of their design appear on Navy ships. The design is one of the basics behind today's spread-spectrum communication technology, such as GPS, Bluetooth, wireless and cell phones, and Wi-Fi networks.
They received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the BULBIEª Gnass Spirit of Achievement Bronze Award, given to individuals whose creative lifetime achievements in the arts, sciences, business, or invention fields have significantly contributed to society. Lamarr was also featured on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but was reportedly told by NIC member Charles F. Kettering and others that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds. Lamarr participated in a war bond selling campaign with a sailor named Eddie Rhodes. Rhodes would be in the crowd at each Lamarr appearance, and she would call him up on stage. She would briefly flirt with him before asking the audience if she should give him a kiss. The crowd would of course say yes, to which Hedy would reply that she would if enough people bought war bonds. After enough bonds were purchased, she would give Rhodes his kiss, and he would head back into the audience. Then they would head off to the next war bond rally.
John Hodiak and Lamarr in A Lady Without Passport (1950)
Lamarr became a naturalized citizen of the United States on 10 April 1953, at age 38. In 1966, she was arrested for shoplifting in Los Angeles. The charges were eventually dropped. In 1991, she was arrested on the same charge in Florida, this time for US$21.48 worth of laxatives and eye drops. She pleaded "no contest" to avoid a court appearance, and in return for a promise to refrain from breaking any laws for a year, the charges were once again dropped.
According to her autobiography Ecstasy and Me (1966), while attempting to flee her husband, Fritz Mandl, she reputedly slipped into abrothel and hid in an empty room. While her husband searched the brothel, a man entered the room and she had sex with him so she could remain unrecognized. She was finally successful in escaping when she hired a new maid who resembled her; she drugged the maid and used her uniform as a disguise to escape.
Lamarr later sued the publisher, saying that many of the anecdotes in the book, which was described by a judge as "filthy, nauseating, and revolting," were fabricated by its ghost writer, Leo Guild. She was also sued in Federal Court by Gene Ringgold, who asserted the actress's autobiography contained material from an article about her life which he wrote in 1965 for a magazine called Screen Facts.
The publication of her autobiography took place about a year after the accusations of shoplifting and a year after Andy Warhol's short film Hedy (1966). The shoplifting charges coincided with a failed attempt to return to the screen in Picture Mommy Dead (1966). The role was ultimately filled by Zsa Zsa Gabor. Ecstasy and Me begins in a despondent mood, with this reference:
On a recent evening, sitting home alone suffering and brooding about my treatment at the police station because of an incident in a department store, and being replaced by Zsa Zsa Gabor in a motion picture (imagine how that pleased the ego!) I figured out that I had made – and spent – some thirty million dollars. Yet earlier that day I had been unable to pay for a sandwich at Schwab's drug store.
The 1970s was a decade of increasing seclusion for Lamarr. She was offered several scripts, television commercials, and stage projects, but none piqued her interest. In 1974, she filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit for US$10 million for an unauthorized use of her name (i.e. "Hedley Lamarr" in Mel Brooks' comedy film Blazing Saddles); the case was settled out of court. With failing eyesight, she retreated from public life and settled in Miami Beach, Florida, in 1981.
For several years beginning in 1997, the boxes of CorelDRAW’s software suites were graced by a large Corel-drawn image of Lamarr. The picture won CorelDRAW’s yearly software suite cover design contest in 1996. Lamarr sued Corel for using the image without her permission. Corel countered that she did not own rights to the image. The parties reached an undisclosed settlement in 1998.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.
In her later years, Lamarr turned to plastic surgery to preserve the looks she was terrified of losing. Lamarr had to endure disastrous results. "She had her breasts enlarged, her cheeks raised, her lips made bigger, and much, much more" said Anthony. "She had plastic surgery thinking it could revive her looks and her career, but it backfired and distorted her beauty". Anthony Loder also claimed that Lamarr was addicted to pills.
Lamarr became estranged from her adopted son, James Lamarr Loder, when he was 12 years old. Their relationship ended abruptly and he moved in with another family. They did not speak again for almost 50 years. Lamarr left James Loder out of her will and he sued for control of the US$3.3 million estate left by Lamarr in 2000.
Later media appearances
In the last decades of her life the telephone became her only means of communication with the outside world, even with her children and close friends. She often talked up to six or seven hours a day on the phone, but she hardly spent any time with anyone in person in her final years. A documentary, Calling Hedy Lamarr, was released in 2004. Lamarr's children, Anthony Loder and Denise Loder-DeLuca, were featured in the documentary.
In popular culture
An Off-Broadway play, Frequency Hopping, features the lives of Lamarr and Antheil. The play was written and staged by Elyse Singer in 2008, and the script won a prize for best new play about science and technology from STAGE.
The 2010 New York Public Library exhibit, Thirty Years of Photography at the New York Public Library included a photo of a topless Lamarr (ca. 1930) by Austrian-born American photographer Trude Fleischmann.
The story of Lamarr's frequency-hopping spread-spectrum invention was explored in an episode of the Science Channel show Dark Matters: Twisted But True, a series which explores the darker side of scientific discovery and experimentation, which premiered on 7 September 2011. Her work in improving wireless security was part of the premiere episode of the Discovery Channel show How We Invented the World.
According to actress Anne Hathaway, her portrayal of Catwoman in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises was based on Lamarr.
On 20 May 2010, Hedy Lamarr was chosen from 150 IT people to be featured in a short film launched by the British Computer Society (BCS).
On 9 November 2015, the 101st anniversary of her birth, Google paid tribute to Hedy Lamarr's work in film and her contributions to scientific advancement with an animated Google Doodle.
Honorary grave of Hedy Lamarr at Vienna's Central Cemetery, Group 33 D No. 80 (Dec. 2014)
Lamarr died in Casselberry, Florida, on 19 January 2000, aged 85. Her death certificate cited three causes: heart failure, chronic valvular heart disease, and arteriosclerotic heart disease. Her death coincided with her daughter Denise's 55th birthday. Her son Anthony Loder took her ashes to Austria and spread them in the Vienna Woods, in accordance with her last wishes.
Lamarr was given an honorary grave in Vienna's Central Cemetery in 2014.
Marriages and relationships
Lamarr was married six times. She adopted a son, James, in 1939 during her second marriage to Gene Markey. She went on to have two biological children, Denise (b. 1945) and Anthony (b. 1947), with her third husband, actor John Loder, who also adopted James. The following is a list of her marriages:
1. Friedrich Mandl (married 1933–1937), chairman of the Hirtenberger Patronen-Fabrik.
2. Gene Markey (married 1939–1941), screenwriter and producer. Child: James Lamarr Markey (born 9 January 1939), adopted 12 June 1939, and re-adopted by John Loder; the child was thereafter known as James Lamarr Loder. The couple lived at 2727 Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills, California during their marriage.
3. John Loder (married 1943–1947), actor. Children: Denise Loder (born 19 January 1945), married Larry Colton, a writer and former baseball player, and Anthony Loder (born 1 February 1947), married Roxanne who worked for illustrator James McMullan.Anthony Loder was featured in the 2004 documentary film Calling Hedy Lamarr.
4. Ernest "Ted" Stauffer (married 1951–1952), nightclub owner, restaurateur, and former bandleader.
5. W. Howard Lee (married 1953–1960); a Texas oilman (who later married film actress Gene Tierney).
6. Lewis J. Boies (married 1963–1965); Lamarr's own divorce lawyer.
Lamarr appeared in numerous popular feature films, including Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, I Take This Woman (1940) withSpencer Tracy, Comrade X (1940) with Clark Gable, Come Live With Me (1941) with James Stewart, H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) withRobert Young, and Samson and Delilah (1949) with Victor Mature. Director Max Reinhardt called her the "most beautiful woman inEurope," a sentiment widely shared by her audiences and critics.
At the beginning of World War II, with composer George Antheil, Lamarr developed radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, usingspread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Though the US Navy did not adopt the technology until the 1960s, the principles of their work are now incorporated into modern Wi-Fi, CDMA and Bluetoothtechnology, and this work led to her being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.