Publicity photo, c. 1944
|Born||Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler
9 November 1914[a]
|Died||19 January 2000
Casselberry, Florida, U.S.
After an early and brief film career in Germany that included the controversial film Ecstasy (1933 – in which Lamarr is seen swimming in the nude and running naked), she fled from her husband, a wealthy Austrian ammunition manufacturer, 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 appeared in numerous popular feature films, including Algiers (1938), I Take This Woman (1940), Comrade X (1940), Come Live With Me (1941), H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941), and Samson and Delilah (1949).
At the beginning of World War II, Lamarr and composer George Antheil developed a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes, which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology to defeat the threat of jamming by the Axis powers. Although 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 Bluetooth technology, and this work led to their induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
Early life and European film career
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 described as a "practicing Christian", who raised her daughter as a Christian.:8
Lamarr helped get her mother out of Austria (then under Nazi domination) and to the United States. Her mother later became a United States citizen. Gertrud Kiesler put "Hebrew" as her race on her petition for naturalization as a United States citizen. She would live out the rest of her life in California, dying in 1977 at age 83.
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, Extase in Czech), which was filmed in Prague. Her role was that of a neglected young wife married to an indifferent older man. The film became both celebrated and 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.
On 10 August 1933, Lamarr married Friedrich Mandl, an Austrian military arms merchant and munitions manufacturer who was reputedly the third-richest man in Austria. Lamarr was 18 years old and Mandl was 33. In her autobiography Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr described Mandl as an extremely controlling husband who strongly objected to her simulated orgasm scene in Ecstasy, and prevented her from pursuing her acting career. Lamarr claimed she was kept a virtual prisoner in their castle home, Schloss Schwarzenau.
Mandl had close social and business ties to the fascist government of Italy, selling munitions to Mussolini; and, although his father was Jewish, had ties to the Nazi government of Germany as well. Lamarr wrote that Mussolini and Hitler attended lavish parties at the Mandl home. Lamarr accompanied Mandl 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 bedrock 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. In her autobiography, she wrote that she disguised herself as her maid and fled to Paris; but by other accounts, she persuaded Mandl to let her wear all of her jewelry for a dinner party, then disappeared afterward.
After arriving in Paris in 1937, she met Louis B. Mayer, who was scouting for talent in Europe. Mayer persuaded 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. He brought her to Hollywood in 1938, and began promoting her as the "world's most beautiful woman".
Lamarr made her American film debut in Algiers (1938), opposite Charles Boyer. The film created a "national sensation," says Shearer.:77 She was billed as 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 origin. Lamarr played opposite the era's most popular leading men. Her many films included 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, and also 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 a comedic role 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 provocative invitation: "I am Tondelayo. I make tiffin for you?" This line typifies many of Lamarr's roles, which emphasized her beauty and sexuality, while giving her relatively few lines. The lack of acting challenges bored Lamarr. She reportedly took up inventing to relieve her boredom.
Lamarr's earliest inventions included 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. She had no formal training and was primarily self-taught.
With the ongoing World War, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the war effort, 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 that they later patented.
Lamarr and Antheil realized that radio-controlled torpedoes, which could be important in the naval war, could easily be jammed, thereby causing 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 (filed using her married name Hedy Kiesler Markey). Yet, it was technologically difficult to implement, and at that time the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military. 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 important elements behind today's spread-spectrum communication technology, such as modern CDMA, Wi-Fi networks, and Bluetooth technology.
In 1997, they received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and the Bulbie 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. She was featured on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel. In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were posthumously 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.
She 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.
Lamarr became a naturalized citizen of the United States at age 38 on 10 April 1953. In 1966, she was arrested in Los Angeles for shoplifting. The charges were eventually dropped. In 1991, she was arrested on the same charge in Florida, this time for stealing $21.48 worth of laxatives and eye drops. She pleaded "no contest" to avoid a court appearance, and the charges were once again dropped in return for a promise to refrain from breaking any laws for a year.
Her autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, was published in 1966. However, she said on TV that it was not actually written by her, implying that much of it was fictional. According to the book, she slipped into a brothel and hid in an empty room while fleeing her estranged husband, Fritz Mandl. While her husband searched the brothel, a man entered the room and she had sex with him so she could remain unrecognized. She escaped by hiring a 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.
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 a $10-million lawsuit against Warner Bros., claiming that the running parody of her name ("Hedley Lamarr") in the Mel Brooks' comedy Blazing Saddles infringed her right to privacy. Brooks said he was flattered; the studio settled out of court for an undisclosed nominal sum and an apology to Lamarr for “almost using her name". Brooks said that Lamarr "never got the joke". 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.
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 her son, 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 (c. 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.
On 20 May 2010, Lamarr was chosen from 150 IT people to be featured in a short film launched by the British Computer Society (BCS).
The Von Trapp house from the motion picture The Sound of Music was once owned by Hedy and her first husband. 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.
Lamarr was married and divorced six times. She adopted a son, James, in 1941, during her second marriage to Gene Markey. She went on to have two biological children, Denise (born 1945) and Anthony (born 1947), with her third husband, actor John Loder, who also adopted James. The following is a list of her marriages:
- Friedrich Mandl (married 1933–1937), chairman of the Hirtenberger Patronen-Fabrik.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ernest "Ted" Stauffer (married 1951–1952), nightclub owner, restaurateur, and former bandleader.
- W. Howard Lee (married 1953–1960); a Texas oilman (who later married film actress Gene Tierney).
- Lewis J. Boies (married 1963–1965); Lamarr's own divorce lawyer.
Following her sixth and final divorce in 1965, Lamarr remained single for the last 35 years of her life.
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.
|1930||Gold on the Street||Young Girl||Georg Alexander||Original title: Geld auf der Straße|
|1931||Storm in a Water Glass||Secretary||Paul Otto||Original title: Sturm im Wasserglas|
|1931||The Trunks of Mr. O.F.||Helene||Alfred Abel||Original title: Die Koffer des Herrn O.F.|
|1932||No Money Needed||Käthe Brandt||Heinz Rühmann||Original title: Man braucht kein Geld|
|1933||Ecstasy||Eva Hermann||Aribert Mog||Original title: Ekstase|
|1939||Lady of the Tropics||Manon deVargnes Carey||Robert Taylor|
|1940||I Take This Woman||Georgi Gragore Decker||Spencer Tracy|
|1940||Boom Town||Karen Vanmeer||Clark Gable|
|1940||Comrade X||Golubka/ Theodore Yahupitz/ Lizvanetchka "Lizzie"||Clark Gable|
|1941||Come Live With Me||Johnny Jones||James Stewart|
|1941||Ziegfeld Girl||Sandra Kolter||James Stewart|
|1941||H.M. Pulham, Esq.||Marvin Myles Ransome||Robert Young|
|1942||Tortilla Flat||Dolores Ramirez||Spencer Tracy|
|1942||Crossroads||Lucienne Talbot||William Powell|
|1942||White Cargo||Tondelayo||Walter Pidgeon|
|1944||The Heavenly Body||Vicky Whitley||William Powell|
|1944||The Conspirators||Irene Von Mohr||Paul Henreid|
|1944||Experiment Perilous||Allida Bederaux||George Brent|
|1945||Her Highness and the Bellboy||Princess Veronica||Robert Walker|
|1946||The Strange Woman||Jenny Hager||George Sanders|
|1947||Dishonored Lady||Madeleine Damien||Dennis O'Keefe|
|1948||Let's Live a Little||Dr. J.O. Loring||Robert Cummings|
|1949||Samson and Delilah||Delilah||Victor Mature||Her first film in Technicolor|
|1950||A Lady Without Passport||Marianne Lorress||John Hodiak|
|1950||Copper Canyon||Lisa Roselle||Ray Milland|
|1951||My Favorite Spy||Lily Dalbray||Bob Hope|
|1954||Loves of Three Queens||Helen of Troy,
Joséphine de Beauharnais,
Genevieve of Brabant
|Original title: L'amante di Paride|
|1957||The Story of Mankind||Joan of Arc||Ronald Colman|
|1958||The Female Animal||Vanessa Windsor||George Nader|
|1941||Lux Radio Theatre||The Bride Came C.O.D.|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hedy Lamarr.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Hedy Lamarr|
- Hedy Lamarr at the Internet Movie Database
- Hedy Lamarr at the TCM Movie Database
- Official website
- Hedy Lamarr Foundation website
- Hedy Lamarr profile at the National Inventors Hall of Fame
- Patent 2292387, owned by Hedy Kiesler Markey AKA Hedy Lamarr
- Profile, women-inventors.com
- Hedy Lamarr at Reel Classics
- Happy 100th Birthday Hedy Lamarr, Movie Star who Paved the Way for Wifi at CNet
- "Most Beautiful Woman" by Day, Inventor by Night at NPR
- Hedy Lamarr at Inventions
- Hedy Lamarr: Q&A with Author Patrick Agan, Andre Soares, Alt Film Guide, c. 2013
- Hedy at a Hundred – the centenary of Lamarr’s birth, in the Ames Tribune, November 2014
- "The unlikely life of inventor and Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr" (article and audio excerpts), Alex McClintock and Sharon Carleton, Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 July 2014
- Episode 6: Hedy Lamarr from Babes of Science podcasts