Hedy Lamarr

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Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr-Algiers-38.JPG
Hedy Lamarr in Algiers (1938)
BornHedwig Eva Maria Kiesler
(1914-11-09)9 November 1914[1]
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died19 January 2000(2000-01-19) (aged 85)
Casselberry, Florida, U.S.
OccupationActress, inventor
Years active1930–1958
Spouse(s)Fritz Mandl
(m. 1933–1937; divorced)
Gene Markey
(m. 1939–1941; divorced; 1 child)
John Loder
(m. 1943–1947; divorced; 2 children)
Teddy Stauffer
(m. 1951–1952; divorced)
W. Howard Lee
(m. 1953–1960; divorced)
Lewis J. Boies
(m. 1963–1965; divorced)
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Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr-Algiers-38.JPG
Hedy Lamarr in Algiers (1938)
BornHedwig Eva Maria Kiesler
(1914-11-09)9 November 1914[1]
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died19 January 2000(2000-01-19) (aged 85)
Casselberry, Florida, U.S.
OccupationActress, inventor
Years active1930–1958
Spouse(s)Fritz Mandl
(m. 1933–1937; divorced)
Gene Markey
(m. 1939–1941; divorced; 1 child)
John Loder
(m. 1943–1947; divorced; 2 children)
Teddy Stauffer
(m. 1951–1952; divorced)
W. Howard Lee
(m. 1953–1960; divorced)
Lewis J. Boies
(m. 1963–1965; divorced)

Hedy Lamarr (/ˈhɛdi/; 9 November 1914 – 19 January 2000)[1] was an Austrian actress and inventor.[2] Her most significant technological contribution was her co-invention, together with composer George Antheil, of an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping,[3] which paved the way for today's wireless communications via the Internet and Wi-Fi.[4][5][6] Upon its invention in 1941, it was deemed so vital to national defense that government officials would not allow publication of its details.[7]

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Sixth Pioneer Awards in 1997, she and George Antheil were honoured with special awards for their "trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems."[3]

Lamarr was also a contract star of MGM's "Golden Age."[8] When she worked with Max Reinhardt in Berlin, he called her the "most beautiful woman in Europe" due to her "strikingly dark exotic looks", a sentiment widely shared by her audiences and critics.[9][10][11] She garnered a degree of fame and notoriety after starring in Gustav Machatý's Ecstasy, a 1933 film which featured closeups of her character during orgasm in one scene, as well as full frontal nude shots of her in another scene.

Early life[edit]

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 mother was a pianist and Budapest native who came from the "Jewish haute bourgeoisie". Stephen Michael Shearer, a Lamarr biographer, asserts that Lamarr's mother had converted from Judaism to Catholicism and was a "practicing Christian". Lamarr's father a banker, was a secular Jew born in Lemberg.[12]

Film career[edit]


Publicity photo, c. 1930s

In early 1933, at age 18, she starred in Gustav Machatý's film, Ecstasy, (Extase in German and 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 Lamarr's face in the throes of orgasm filmed in close-up and brief nude scenes in which she is seen swimming and running through the woods.[8][13]

Friedrich Mandl, her first husband, objected to what he felt was exploitation of his wife, and "the expression on her face" during the simulated orgasm. He purportedly bought up as many copies of Ecstasy as he could find in an attempt to restrict its public viewing. In an autobiography of Lamarr written in later years, she insists that all sexual activity in the film was simulated; the orgasm achieved using "method acting reality". The authenticity of passion was attained by the film director's off-screen manipulation of a safety pin strategically poking her bottom. The 19-year old Lamarr had married Mandl on 10 August 1933. Mandl, reputed to be the third richest man in Austria, was a munitions manufacturer. 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, Mandl had close social and business ties to the fascist governments of Italy and Germany, selling munitions to Mussolini.[12]

In her memoir, Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr wrote that Mussolini and Hitler had attended lavish parties hosted at the Mandl home. Mandl had Lamarr accompany him to business meetings where he conferred with scientists and other professionals involved in military technology. These conferences became Lamarr's introduction to the field of applied science and the ground that nurtured her latent talent in the scientific field.[citation needed]

Lamarr's marriage to Mandl became unbearable and she devised a ruse to separate herself from both the marriage and the country. In Ecstasy and Me, she claimed to have disguised herself as her own maid and fled to Paris. Rumors stated that Lamarr persuaded Mandl to let her wear all of her jewelry for a dinner, then disappeared.[14]


Hedy Lamarr with Paul Henreid in The Conspirators (1944)

First she went to Paris, then met Louis B. Mayer in London. Mayer hired her and insisted that she change her name to Hedy Lamarr—she had been known as "the Ecstasy lady" [14] — choosing the surname in homage to the beautiful silent film star, Barbara La Marr, who had died in 1926 from tuberculosis. She received good reviews for her American film debut in Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, who asked that Lamarr be cast after meeting her at a party.[14]

In Hollywood, she was invariably cast 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.

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?" 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).

Frequency-hopping spread-spectrum invention[edit]

Publicity photo (1942)

Avant garde composer George Antheil (died 1959), a son of German immigrants and a neighbor of Lamarr in California, had experimented with automated control of musical instruments, including his music for Ballet Mécanique, originally written for Fernand Léger's 1924 abstract film. This score involved multiple player pianos playing simultaneously.

During World War II, Antheil and Lamarr discussed the fact that radio-controlled torpedoes, while important in the naval war, could easily be jammed by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal, causing the torpedo to go off course.[citation needed] Lamarr had learned something about torpedoes from Mandl. Antheil and Lamarr developed the idea of using frequency hopping to avoid jamming: using a piano roll to unpredictably change the signal sent between a control center and the torpedo at short bursts within a range of 88 frequencies in the radio-frequency spectrum (there are 88 black and white keys on a piano keyboard). The specific code for the sequence of frequencies would be held identically by the controlling ship and in the torpedo. It would be practically impossible for the enemy to scan and jam all 88 frequencies, as this would require too much power or complexity. The frequency-hopping sequence was controlled by a player-piano mechanism, which Antheill had earlier used to score his Ballet Mecanique.[citation needed]

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, although novel, soon met with opposition from the U.S. Navy and was not adopted.[15] The idea was not implemented in the US until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Her work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr a belated award for her contributions.[3] In 1998, an Ottawa wireless technology developer, Wi-LAN Inc., acquired a 49% claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock (Eliza Schmidkunz, Inside GNSS).[16]

Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea serves as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as Bluetooth, COFDM (used in Wi-Fi network connections), and CDMA (used in some cordless and wireless telephones).[17] Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam's 1920 patent[18] 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 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.[19][20]

Later years[edit]

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 $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.[21]

According to her autobiography, Ecstasy and Me (1966), while attempting to flee her husband, Friedrich Mandl, she reputedly 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.[22]

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.[23][24] She was also sued in Federal Court by Gene Ringgold, who asserted the actress's autobiography contained material from an article he wrote in 1965 about her life for a magazine called Screen Facts.[25]

The publication of her autobiography took place about a year after 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.[this quote needs a citation]

The 1970s were 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 $10 million for an unauthorized use of her name (i.e. "Hedley Lamarr" in Mel Brooks' 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.[12]

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.[26][27]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.[28][29]


Lamarr died in Casselberry, Florida on 19 January 2000, aged 85. Her death certificate cites three causes: heart failure, chronic valvular heart disease, and arteriosclerotic heart disease.[12] 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.[30]

Marriages and relationships[edit]

Lamarr was married six times, and had three children, one of whom was adopted:

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
Child: Denise Loder (born 19 January 1945)
Child: Anthony Loder (born 1 February 1947), featured in the 2004 documentary film Calling Hedy Lamarr[30]

Other media appearances[edit]

An Off-Broadway play, Frequency Hopping, features the lives of Lamarr and Antheil. The play was written and staged by Elyse Singer[who?] in 2008, and the script won a prize for best new play about science and technology from STAGE.[12][32]

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.[citation needed]

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.[33] Her story was also featured in 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.[34]


YearTitleRoleLeading manNotes
1930Gold on the StreetYoung GirlGeorg AlexanderOriginal title: Geld auf der Straße
1931Storm in a Water GlassSecretaryPaul OttoOriginal title: Sturm im Wasserglas
1931The Trunks of Mr. O.F.HeleneAlfred AbelOriginal title: Die Koffer des Herrn O.F.
1932No Money NeededKäthe BrandtHeinz RühmannOriginal title: Man braucht kein Geld
1933EcstasyEva HermannAribert MogOriginal title: Ekstase
1938AlgiersGabyCharles Boyer
1939Lady of the TropicsManon deVargnes CareyRobert Taylor
1940I Take This WomanGeorgi Gragore DeckerSpencer Tracy
1940Boom TownKaren VanmeerClark Gable
1940Comrade XTheodoreClark Gable
1941Come Live With MeJohnny JonesJames Stewart
1941Ziegfeld GirlSandra KolterJames Stewart
1941H.M. Pulham, Esq.Marvin Myles RansomeRobert Young
1942Tortilla FlatDolores RamirezSpencer Tracy
1942CrossroadsLucienne TalbotWilliam Powell
1942White CargoTondelayoWalter Pidgeon
1944The Heavenly BodyVicky WhitleyWilliam Powell
1944The ConspiratorsIrene Von MohrPaul Henreid
1944Experiment PerilousAllida BederauxGeorge Brent
1945Her Highness and the BellboyPrincess VeronicaRobert Walker
1946The Strange WomanJenny HagerGeorge Sanders
1947Dishonored LadyMadeleine DamienDennis O'Keefe
1948Let's Live a LittleDr. J.O. LoringRobert Cummings
1949Samson and DelilahDelilahVictor MatureHer first film in Technicolor
1950A Lady Without PassportMarianne LorressJohn Hodiak
1950Copper CanyonLisa RoselleRay Milland
1951My Favorite SpyLily DalbrayBob Hope
1953The Lovers of ParisOriginal title: L'amante di Paride
1955Eternal WomanHerselfMassimo Serato
1957The Story of MankindJoan of ArcRonald Colman
1958The Female AnimalVanessa WindsorGeorge Nader

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b According to Lamarr biographer Stephen Michael Shearer (pp. 8, 339), she was born in 1914, not 1913.
  2. ^ "Hedy Lamarr: Inventor of more than the 1st theatrical-film orgasm". Los Angeles Times. 28 November 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Movie Legend Hedy Lamarr to be Given Special Award at EFF's Sixth Annual Pioneer Awards" (Press release). Electronic Frontier Foundation. 11 March 1997. Retrieved 1 Feb 2014. 
  4. ^ "Hollywood star whose invention paved the way for Wi-Fi", New Scientist, 8 December 2011; retrieved 4 February 2014.
  5. ^ Craddock, Ashley (11 March 1997). "Privacy Implications of Hedy Lamarr's Idea". Wired. Condé Nast Digital. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Forrest, Conner, Hedy Lamarr, Tech history in Pphotos: the heroes who shaped the Internet, TechRepublic, May 2, 2014
  7. ^ "Hedy Lamarr Inventor". New York Times. 1 October 1941. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  8. ^ a b "Hedy Lamarr: Secrets of a Hollywood Star". Edition Filmmuseum 40. Edition Filmmuseum.com; accessed 3 May 2014.
  9. ^ Haskell, Molly (10 December 2010). "European Exotic". New York Times. Retrieved 26 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Hedy Lamarr - Biography". Turner Classic Movies.
  11. ^ "Hedy & Louis B.". Classicmoviechat.com. 4 August 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d e Shearer, Stephen Michael (2010). Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 978-0-312-55098-1. 
  13. ^ "Czech Film Series 2009-2010 - Gustav Machatý:Ecstasy". Russian & East European Institute, Indiana University. 2 September 2009. Archived from the original on 11 September 2009. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c Friedrich, Otto (1997). City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s (reprint ed.). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0520209494. 
  15. ^ Long, Tony (11 August 2011). "This Day in Tech: Aug. 11, 1942: Actress + Piano Player=New Torpedo". Wired. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  16. ^ "Player Pianos, Sex Appeal, and Patent #2,292,387". Inside GNSS. September 2006. 
  17. ^ "The Birth of Spread Spectrum". MicroTimes. 
  18. ^ Blackwell; Martin; Vernam's (1920). "Secrecy Communication System: patent 1598673". 
  19. ^ Scholtz, Robert A. (May 1982). "The Origins of Spread-Spectrum Communications". IEEE Transactions on Communications 30 (5): 822. doi:10.1109/tcom.1982.1095547. 
  20. ^ Price, Robert (January 1983). "Further Notes and Anecdotes on Spread-Spectrum Origins". IEEE Transactions on Communications 31 (1): 85. doi:10.1109/tcom.1983.1095725. 
  21. ^ Salamone, Debbie (24 October 1991). "Hedy Lamarr Won't Face Theft Charges If She Stays In Line". Orlando Sentinel; retrieved 10 June 2010.
  22. ^ Hedy Lamarr, with Leo Guild and Cy Rice, Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman, New York: Bartholomew House, 1966.
  23. ^ "Hedy Lamarr Loses Fight to Stop Autobiography". The Tuscaloosa News. Los Angeles Times. 27 September 1966. p. 12. --via Google Newspapers.
  24. ^ "Hedy Lamarr Loses Suit to Halt Book", The New York Times, 27 September 1966, p. 74.
  25. ^ "Lamarr Autobiography Prompts Plagiarism Suit", The New York Times, 7 February 1967, p. 18.
  26. ^ "Hedy Lamarr Sues Corel". 7 April 1998. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. 
  27. ^ Sprenger, Polly (30 November 1998). "Corel Caves to Actress Hedy Lamarr". Wired News. 
  28. ^ "Hedy Lamarr". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  29. ^ "Hedy Lamarr". Los Angeles Times Hollywood Star Project. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  30. ^ a b "Calling Hedy Lamarr", Mischief Films .
  31. ^ Ivanis, Daniel J. "The stars come out: Recruiting ad featuring Hedy Lamarr creates 'buzz't". Boeing Frontiers. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  32. ^ "Frequency Hopping". Hourglass Group. Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  33. ^ "Positively Poisonous, Medusa's Heroin, Beauty and Brains". Dark Matters: Twisted But True. Season 2. 7 September 2011. Science Channel. http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/dark-matters-twisted-but-true/videos/poisonous-heroin-beauty-and-brains.htm. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  34. ^ "'Dark Knight Rises' star Anne Hathaway: 'Gotham City is full of grace'". The Los Angeles Times. 29 December 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2012. 
  • Barton, Ruth (2010). Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 978-0813136547. 
  • Lamarr, Hedy (1966). Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman. New York: Bartholomew House. ASIN B0007DMMN8. 
  • Rhodes, Richard (2012). Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0307742957. 
  • Shearer, Stephen Michael (2010). Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312550987. 
  • Young, Christopher (1979). The Films of Hedy Lamarr. New York: Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0806505794. 

External links[edit]