WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Hedy Lamarr

WOMEN CRUSH WEDNESDAY: Hedy Lamarr

With a name like Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, I have no idea why you would want to change it. 

But that's just me. And I'm definitely no Hollywood vixen famous for my exotic beauty. I also have never caused quite the stir by running naked and swimming nude in a 1933 German film. Oh, and I also haven't quite yet figured out how to invent a radio guidance system way before its time that we would eventually use in Bluetooth and Wifi technologies. No, that seems a little more like the beautiful, intelligent, talented woman better known as Hedy Lamarr.

 Hedy Lamarr in a publicity photo - 1940

Hedy Lamarr in a publicity photo - 1940

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1914, Hedy got an early start on her acting career working as a script girl before becoming an actress. At the tender age of 18, she starred in the film "Ecstasy" which became infamous for its scandalous and celebrated scenes of Hedy in brief nudity while swimming and running through the woods as well as a close-up  of her in the midst of an orgasm. After "Ecstasy," a talent scout convinced Hedy (still Hedwig at the time) to change her name to distance herself from her notoriety as "the Ecstasy lady."

About the same time the movie came out, Hedy married the first of six husbands she would have. This first one happened to be possibly the third richest man in Austria as he was a military arms merchant and munitions manufacturer and had ties to both Mussolini and Hitler. He would let Hedy accompany him to business meetings and it was this exposure to military technology professionals and scientists that gave her her first glimpse and piqued her interest into applied sciences. As it turned out, this first husband was quite controlling (and not the biggest fan of "Ecstasy") and prevented Hedy from further pursuing her acting career. After four years, she divorced him and broke out of what had become to feel like a prison.

 Hedy Lamarr in "Samson and Delilah" - 1949

Hedy Lamarr in "Samson and Delilah" - 1949

By 1938, Hedy was in Hollywood gaining the reputation of "the world's most beautiful woman" and made her American movie debut in "Algiers." She went on to star and play in roles with many of the most popular leading men of the time. Her biggest success came in 1949 with the film "Samson and Delilah" which ended up being the highest grossing film of that year.

Often type casted as the exotic temptress, Hedy made 18 films in the years 1940-1949 but became much more sporadic after that. Eventually, the simplicity of her roles bored her and she decided to take up inventing (who doesn't come to that conclusion?).

 Hedy Lamarr's Patent Application for a frequency hopping spread spectrum technology - photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Hedy Lamarr's Patent Application for a frequency hopping spread spectrum technology - photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Some of Hedy's earlier inventions included a tablet that once dropped into water created a carbonated beverage (although she even admitted to it tasting badly) and improvements on the traffic light. It was when she teamed up with composer George Antheil that she really had success. Thanks to her first husband, Hedy had gained knowledge into torpedoes and used that with Antheil to create designs for a frequency-hopping, spread-spectrum technology. While it was too technologically difficult to utilize at the time, it was later used on Navy ships and eventually in communication technology that we now use everyday. In 2014, both were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

In Hedy's later years, she became a bit of a recluse. She married a total of six times and said of marriage:

“I must quit marrying men who feel inferior to me. Somewhere there must be a man who could be my husband and not feel inferior. I need a superior inferior man.”

She passed away in 2000 at the age of 85 with a legacy of beauty, brains, wit, and zest. 

Hedy Lamarr in 1950 - Photo courtesy of Paramount
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