February 20, 2010 Leave a comment
Lamarr in The Conspirators (1944)
November 9, 1913(1913-11-09)
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
Gene Markey (1939–1941) (divorced) 1 child
John Loder (1943–1947) (divorced) 2 children
Teddy Stauffer (1951–1952) (divorced)
W. Howard Lee (1953–1960) (divorced)
Lewis J. Boies (1963–1965) (divorced)
Hedy Lamarr (pronounced /ˈheɪdi/, commonly /ˈhɛdi/) (November 9, 1913 – January 19, 2000) was an Austrian-born American actress of Jewish descent. Though known primarily for her film career as a major contract star of MGM‘s “Golden Age”, she also co-invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications, a key to many forms of wireless communication.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, to Jewish parents Gertrud (née Lichtwitz), a pianist and Budapest native who came from the “Jewish haute bourgeoisie“, and Lemberg-born Emil Kiesler, a successful bank director. She studied ballet and piano at age 10. When she worked with Max Reinhardt in Berlin, he called her the “most beautiful woman in Europe”. Soon the teenage girl played major roles in German movies, alongside stars like Heinz Rühmann and Hans Moser.In early 1933 she starred in Gustav Machatý‘s notorious film Ecstasy, a Czechoslovak film made in Prague, in which she played the love-hungry young wife of an indifferent old husband. Closeups of her face and long shots of her running nude through the woods gave the film notoriety.On 10 August 1933 she married Friedrich Mandl, a Vienna-based arms manufacturer 13 years her senior. In her autobiography Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr described Mandl as an extremely controlling man who sometimes tried to keep her shut up in their mansion. The Austrian bought as many copies of Ecstasy as he could possibly find, objecting to her in the film, and “the expression on her face”. (Lamarr later claimed the looks of passion were the result of the director poking her in the bottom with a safety pin.)Mandl prevented her from pursuing her acting career, and instead took her to meetings with technicians and business partners. In these meetings, the mathematically talented Lamarr learned about military technology. Otherwise she had to stay at the castle Schloss Schwarzenau. She later related that, even though Mandl was part-Jewish, he was consorting with Nazi industrialists, which infuriated her. In Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr wrote that dictators Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler both attended Mandl’s grand parties. She related that in 1937 she disguised herself as one of her maids and fled to Paris, where she obtained a divorce, and then moved on to London. According to another version of the episode, she persuaded Mandl to allow her to attend a party wearing all her expensive jewelry, later drugged him with the help of her maid, and made her escape out of the country with the jewelry.
First she went to Paris, then met Louis B. Mayer in London. After he hired her, at his insistence, she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr, choosing the surname in homage to a beautiful film star of the silent era, Barbara La Marr, who had died in 1926 from a drug overdose.
Lamarr and Robert Walker in Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)In Hollywood, she was usually cast as glamorous and seductive. Her American debut was in Algiers (1938). Her many films include Boom Town (1940), White Cargo (1942), and Tortilla Flat (1942), based on the novel by John Steinbeck. White Cargo, one of Lamarr’s biggest hits at MGM, contains arguably her most famous film quote, “I am Tondelayo”. In 1941, she was cast alongside two other Hollywood beauties, Lana Turner and Judy Garland in the musical extravaganza Ziegfeld Girl.She made 18 films from 1940 to 1949 even though she had two children during that time (in 1945 and 1947). She left MGM in 1945; Lamarr 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). The publication of her autobiography Ecstasy and Me (1967) took place about a year after accusations of shoplifting, and a year after Andy Warhol‘s short film Hedy (1966), also known as The Shoplifter. The controversy surrounding the shoplifting charges coincided with a failed 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 reference to this: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.In the ensuing years, Lamarr retreated from public life, and settled in Florida. She returned to the headlines in 1991 wh
the 78-year-old former actress was again accused of shoplifting $21.00 worth of goods, although charges were eventually dropped.Lamarr became a naturalized citizen of the United States on April 10, 1953.For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.
Avant garde composer George Antheil, a son of German immigrants and neighbor of Lamarr, had experimented with automated control of musical instruments, including his music for Ballet Mecanique, originally written for Fernand Léger‘s 1924 abstract film. This score involved multiple player pianos playing simultaneously.Together, Antheil and Lamarr submitted the idea of a secret communication system in June 1941. On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Antheil and “Hedy Kiesler Markey”, Lamarr’s married name at the time. This early version of frequency hopping used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam.The idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Perhaps owing to this lag in development, the patent was little-known until 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr an award for this contribution. In 1998, Ottawa wireless technology developer Wi-LAN, Inc. “acquired a 49 percent claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock” (Eliza Schmidkunz, Inside GNSS); Antheil had died in 1959.Lamarr’s and Antheil’s frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as COFDM used in Wi-Fi network connections and CDMA used in some cordless and wireless telephones. Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam’s 1920 patent Secrecy Communication System (1598673) seems to lay the communications groundwork for Kiesler and Antheil’s patent which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.Lamarr wanted to join the National Inventors Council, but she was told that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell War Bonds. She once raised $7,000,000 at just one event.For several years during the 1990s, the boxes of the current CORELDRAW software suites were graced by a large Corel-drawn image of Hedy Lamarr, in tribute to her pre-computer scientific discoveries. These pictures were winners in CORELDRAWs yearly software suite cover design contests. Far from being flattered, however, Lamarr sued Corel for using the image without her permission. Corel countered that she did not own rights to the image. They reached an undisclosed settlement in 1999.
Lamarr died in Altamonte Springs, Florida (near Orlando) on January 19, 2000. Her son Anthony Loder took her ashes to Austria and spread them in the Wienerwald forest, in accordance with her wishes.
John Hodiak and Lamarr in A Lady Without Passport (1950)In 2003, the Boeing corporation ran a series of recruitment ads featuring Hedy Lamarr as a woman of science. No reference to her film career was made in the ads.In 2004, the game Half-Life 2, which contains many references to important names, situations and facts in science, made an homage to Hedy, by giving the name Lamarr to Dr. Kleiner’s beloved pet headcrab. Later on in the game, Dr. Kleiner specifically refers to the pet as Hedy.In 2005, the first Inventor’s Day in German-speaking countries was held in her honor on November 9, on what would have been her 92nd birthday.
Briefly engaged to the German actor, Fred Doederlein and later, actor George Montgomery in 1942. Lamarr was also married to:
- Friedrich Mandl (1900–1977), married 1933–1937; chairman of Hirtenberger Patronen-Fabrik, a leading armaments firm founded by his father, Alexander Mandl. Mandl, partially of Jewish descent, was a supporter of Austrofascism, although not Nazism.
- Gene Markey (1895–1980), screenwriter and producer, married 1939–1941; son (adopted in 1941, after their divorce), James Lamarr Markey (b. 1939). When Lamarr and Markey divorced — she claimed they had only spent four evenings alone together in their marriage — the judge advised her to get to know any future husband longer than the four weeks she had known Markey.
- John Loder (born John Muir Lowe, 1898–1988), actor, married 1943–1947; two children: Anthony Loder (b. 1947) and Denise Loder (b. 1945). Loder adopted Hedy’s son, James Lamarr Markey, and gave him his surname. James Lamarr Loder later challenged Hedy Lamarr’s will in 2000, which did not mention him. He later dropped his suit against the estate in exchange for a lump-sum payment of $50,000. Anthony Loder is featured in the European documentary film Calling Hedy Lamarr (2004).
- Ernest “Ted” Stauffer (1909–1991), nightclub owner, restaurateur, and former bandleader, married 1951–1952.
- W. Howard Lee (1909–1981), a Texas oilman, married 1953–1960. In 1960, he later married film star Gene Tierney.
- Lewis J. Boies (b. 1920), a lawyer (her divorce lawyer), married 1963–1965.
The final affair mentioned in Ecstasy and Me is when Lamarr is around fifty and is with a much younger man, an artist called Pierre who Lamarr describes as ‘a very handsome young man … he was a sensitive man; I liked him immediately.’ During this affair, Lamarr collaborated with Pierre on his paintings and lives a somewhat bohemian lifestyle ‘In the new house we didn’t have electricity or gas and it was freezing cold. We found a few candles and we sat near them trying to keep warm … we just painted, made love and ate once in a while.’
- In 1965 Lamarr 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 $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), once while running away from Friedrich Mandl, she slipped into a brothel 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 hidden. 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 claiming 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.
- In an interview included in the DVD release of Blazing Saddles (1974), Mel Brooks claims that Hedy Lamarr threatened to sue the producers. He says she believed the film’s running “Hedley Lamarr” joke infringed her right of publicity. In one scene, Brooks’ character tells Hedley Lamarr, “This is 1874; you’ll be able to sue her.” Brooks says they settled out of court for a small sum.
- Barton, Ruth. Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-8131-2604-3.
- List of Austrian scientists
- List of Austrians
- Inventor’s Day
- “Hedy Lamarr”, Half-Life2.net(December 13, 2004) Retrieved on 2008-12-21
- Robert A. Scholtz, “The Origins of Spread-Spectrum Communications,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. 30, No. 5, May 1982, p. 8
- Robert Price, “Further Notes and Anecdotes on Spread-Spectrum Origins,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 1983, p. 85.
- Ivanis, Dan (November 2003). “The stars come out — Recruiting ad featuring Hedy Lamarr creates ‘buzz’t”. Boeing Frontiers Online. The Boeing Company. http://www.boeing.com/news/frontiers/archive/2003/november/i_nan.html. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
- Hedy Lamarr Site
- Hedy Lamarr foundation
- Hedy Lamarr fansite
- Hedy Lamarr at the Internet Movie Database
- Hedy Lamarr at the TCM Movie Database
- Hedy Lamarr at TV.com
- Hedy Lamarr at Find a Grave
- Hedy Lamarr at Reel Classics
- Inventions.org page on Hedy Lamarr
- Interview with Hedy Lamarr biographer Patrick Agan
- Advanced Weaponry of the Stars by Prof. Hans-Joachim Braun Invention & Technology article about Hedy Lamarr’s patent
- Annual Inventor’s Day on her Birthday
- CorelDRAW splash screens
- Calling Hedy Lamarr (2004)