Hedy was an Austro-American actress and mathematician, celebrated for her great beauty, who was a major contract star of MGM’s “Golden Age.”
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.
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. She learned ballet and piano at age 10.
In early 1933 Lamarr 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 her full nudity in scenes where she is seen swimming and running through the woods. 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, 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. Hollywood Ms. 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”—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 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), 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 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)
Main article: Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum
The composer George Antheil, a son of German immigrants and neighbour of Lamarr, 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.
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. 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. 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 Bluetooth, 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 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.
The complete patent, number 2292387, including schematic diagrams can be viewed at : http://www.google.com/patents/US2292387
Lamarr has received several awards for her invention, including the 1997 Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for her contributions to the field of spread-spectrum technology.
Lamarr became a naturalized citizen of the United States on April 10, 1953. In 1966, 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. 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.
The 1970s were a decade of increasing seclusion for Lamarr. She was offered several scripts, television commercials, and stage projects, but none inspired her interest. In 1974, Lamarr filed an invasion of privacy lawsuit to the tune of $10 million for the unauthorized use of her name in the Mel Brooks satire Blazing Saddles; the case was settled out of court. Tired of the life of a celebrity and with her eyesight failing, Lamarr 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 Hedy 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.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.
Lamarr died in Casselberry, Florida, on January 19, 2000, aged 86, from natural causes. Her son Anthony Loder took her ashes to Austria and spread them in the Vienna Woods, in accordance with her last wishes.
Marriages and relationships
Lamarr was married six times, and had three children, one of whom was adopted:
• Friedrich Mandl (married 1933–37), chairman of Hirtenberger Patronen-Fabrik.
• Gene Markey (married 1939–41), screenwriter and producer
Child: James Lamarr Markey (born January 9, 1939), adopted on June 12, 1939, and adopted again by John Loder, who changed his name to James Lamarr Markey Loder
• John Loder (married 1943–47), actor
Child: Denise Loder (born January 19, 1945)
Child: Antony Loder (born February 1, 1947), featured in the 2004 documentary film Calling Hedy Lamarr
• Ernest “Ted” Stauffer (married 1951–52), nightclub owner, restaurateur, and former bandleader
• W. Howard Lee (married 1953–60), a Texas oilman, later married film star Gene Tierney
• Lewis J. Boies (married 1963–65), a lawyer (her divorce lawyer)
3. “Hedy Lamarr: Inventor of more than the 1st theatrical-film orgasm”. LA Times. November 28, 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
4. a b “Movie Legend Hedy Lamarr to be Given Special Award at EFF’s Sixth Annual Pioneer Awards” (Press release). Electronic Frontier Foundation. 11 March 1997. Archived from the original on May 18, 2008. Retrieved 4 July 2007.
5. “European Exotic”. New York Times. December 10, 2010. Unknown parameter |http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/12/books/review/Haskell-t.html?pagewanted= ignored (help);
8. HighBeam Research
9. “Search Results”. January 20, 2000.
12. a b “The ecstasy”. London: The Independent. January 30, 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-21.[dead link]
13. Haskell, Molly “European Exotic” The New York Times, December 10, 2010, retrieved September 4, 2012
14. a b c Friedrich, Otto (1997 (reprint)). City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940’s. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0520209494.
15. Tony Long, This Day in Tech: Aug. 11, 1942: Actress + Piano Player = New Torpedo, Wired, August 11, 2011; accessed 2011.10.17.
16. Player Pianos, Sex Appeal, and Patent #2,292,387, Inside GNSS September 2006 http://www.insidegnss.com/node/303
17. MicroTimes: The Birth Of Spread Spectrum
18. Robert A. Scholtz, “The Origins of Spread-Spectrum Communications,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. 30, No. 5, May 1982, p. 822.
19. Robert Price, “Further Notes and Anecdotes on Spread-Spectrum Origins,” IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. 31, No. 1, January 1983, p. 85.
20. Hedy Lamarr Shoplifting? – Only Had $14,000 Along. Beford Gazette (Pennsylvania) via UPI. January 29, 1966. p. 1. (available via newspaperarchive.com)
21. Orlando Sentinel (October 24, 1991): “Hedy Lamarr Won’t Face Theft Charges If She Stays In Line”  Retrieved 2010-6-10
22. ^ Hedy Lamarr, with Leo Guild and Cy Rice, Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman, NY: Bartholomew House, 1966
23. “Hedy Lamarr Loses Suit to Halt Book”, The New York Times, 27 September 1966, p. 74
24. “Lamarr Autobiography Prompts Plagiarism Suit”, The New York Times, 7 February 1967, p. 18
25. a b Shearer, Stephen Michael (2010). Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-312-55098-1.
26. “Hedy Lamarr Sues Corel”. Apr 7, 1998. Archived from the original on 6 Jul 2011.
27. Sprenger, Polly (Nov 30, 1998). “Corel Caves to Actress Lamarr”. Wired News.
28. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “Hollywood Walk of Fame directory”. Archived from the original on June 23, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
29. a b “Calling Hedy Lamarr”, Mischief Films.