Mathematically talented, Lamarr and composer George Antheil invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, necessary for wireless communication from the pre-computer age to the present day.
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. She gained fame after starring in Gustav Machatýs Ecstasy, a film which featured closeups of her character during orgasm in one scene, as well as full frontal nude shots of her in another scene, both very unusual for the socially conservative period in which the bulk of her career took place.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in Vienna, Austria-Hungary, the only child of secular Jewish parents. Her mother, Gertrud (born Lichtwitz), was a pianist and Budapest native who came from the "Jewish haute bourgeoisie," and her father, Lemberg-born Emil Kiesler, was a successful bank director.
The 19-year old Lamarr had married Mandl, a man 13 years her senior on August 10, 1933. Friedrich Mandl, reputed to be the third richest man in Austria was a munitions manufacturer. In her autobiography Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr described Mandl as an extremely controlling man who prevented her from pursuing her acting career and kept her a virtual prisoner, confined to their castle home, “Schloss Schwarzenau.” Though half-Jewish, Mandl had close social and business ties to the fascist governments of Italy and Germany, selling munitions to Mussolini. In Ecstasy and Me, Lamarr wrote that both Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini attended the lavish parties they hosted in their 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.
Lamarr’s marriage to Mandl became insupportable for her 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.
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"—choosing the surname in homage to a beautiful film star of the silent era, 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. In Hollywood, she was invariably cast as the archetypal glamorous seductress of exotic origins. Lamarr played opposite the eras most popular leading men. Her many films include Boom Town (1940) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, Comrade X with Gable, White Cargo (1942), and Tortilla Flat (1942) with Tracy and John Garfield, based on the novel by John Steinbeck. In 1941, Lamarr was cast alongside two other Hollywood stars, Lana Turner and Judy Garland in the musical extravaganza Ziegfeld Girl.
White Cargo, one of Lamarrs 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. DeMilles 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 Allens critically panned epic The Story of Mankind (1957).
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 Mécanique, originally written for Fernand Légers 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," Lamarrs 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. Although a presentation of the technique was soon made to the U.S. Navy, it met with opposition and was not adopted.
The idea was not implemented in the USA until 1962, when it was used by U.S.
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