Woman Crush Wednesday: Hedy Lamarr

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Hedy Lamarr’s 101st birthday was Monday, so we figured now would be a good time to talk not only about her contributions to cinema history in the area of costume flicks, but her contributions to science. See, Lamarr wasn’t just another pretty face. Oh, no. It was her collaboration with composer George Antheil that is largely credited as the grandparent of our modern wireless technology. In all likelihood, those mobile devices we are all so attached to wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a Hollywood starlet and a musician coming together to invent and patent a device for frequency hopping, intended to be used to guide ballistic missiles.

The short story is that the frequency hopping device patent developed by Lamarr and Antheil was given to the U.S. Navy in 1942, but Naval engineers thought it too cumbersome and, lacking any imagination of their own, shelved the patent. It wasn’t until 1959, when the patent had expired, that it was thought to have been used as a starting point for electronic “spread-spectrum” technology, which was introduced to the world on the missile guidance systems during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. From that electronic guidance system sprang our wireless network which is currently allowing me to write this on a virtual interface connected to a “series of tubes” (Trystan’s all time favorite quote about the internet). In 1998, Lamarr was honored by the Electronic Frontier Foundation with their prestigious Pioneer Award, for “significant and influential contributions to the development of computer-based communications.”

Her reply? “It’s about time.”

 

Ziegfield Girl (1941) – Sandra Kolter

Costumes by Adrian.

Hedy Lamar in Ziegfield Girl, 1941 Hedy Lamar in Ziegfield Girl, 1941

 

Experiment Perilous (1944) -Allida Bederaux

Costumes by Leah Stevenson.

Hedy Lamarr in Experiment Perilous (1944)

Hedy Lamarr in Experiment Perilous (1944)

Hedy Lamarr in Experiment Perilous (1944)

 

The Strange Woman (1946) – Jenny Hager

Costumes by Natalie Visart.

Hedy Lamarr in "The Strange Woman" (1946) Hedy Lamarr in "The Strange Woman" (1946) Hedy Lamarr in "The Strange Woman" (1946)

 

Samson and Delilah (1949) – Delilah

Costumes by Edith Head.

Hedy Lamarr in "Samson and Delilah" (1949) Hedy Lamarr. Costume sketch by Edith Head. "Samson and Delilah" (1949) Hedy Lamarr in "Samson and Delilah" (1949) Hedy Lamarr in "Samson and Delilah" (1949)

Copper Canyon (1950) – Lisa Roselle

Costumes by Edith Head.

Hedy Lamarr in "Copper Canyon" (1950) Hedy Lamarr in "Copper Canyon" (1950) Hedy Lamarr in "Copper Canyon" (1950) Hedy Lamarr in "Copper Canyon" (1950)

 

Loves of Three Queens (1954) – Hedy Windsor / Elana di Troia / Empress Josephine / Geneviève de Brabant

Costumes by Vittorio Nino Novarese.

Hedy Lamarr in "Loves of Three Queens" (1954) Hedy Lamarr in "Loves of Three Queens" (1954)

Hedy Lamarr in "Loves of Three Queens" (1954)
And here is where I’m also just going to casually toss in the fact that Hedy Lamarr is also credited with being the first woman to perform an orgasm on film. Go, Hedy!

 

What’s your favorite Hedy Lamarr film?

 

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Sarah has an undergraduate degree in Clothing & Textile Design and a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture, with an emphasis on fashion history. When she’s not caught in paralyzing existential dread, she's drinking craft cocktails and writing about historical costume in film and television. She's been pissing people off on the internet since 1995.

6 Responses

  1. mmcquown

    I would have to say perforce “Samson and Delilah,” because it’s the only one I remember seeing at the time. As to the rest, I sweated out the Cuban Missile Crisis while serving in the USAF in Florida, so I have something else to remember from that time than Krushchev. Hedy was definitely prettier.

    Reply
      • mmcquown

        It was tense. We watched the 101st Airborne roll in ready to deploy. We didn’t know the whole story for a long time afterward. And few people really understood Krushchev. He was one of the defenders at Stalingrad, and knew damned well what war was about. The latest information is that he really didn’t want to push things to the limit. He paid the price at home. Got screwed on all fronts — no state funeral, none of the perks of other retired heads of gov’t.

        Reply
  2. Trystan L. Bass

    When worlds collide – the CTO at my company often likes to mention Hedy Lamarr’s invention when he explains how wireless connectivity works. Over the summer, when we had a bunch of college-age interns, they didn’t know who he was talking about tho. Kids these days!

    Reply
  3. Susan Pola

    My favourite Hedy Lamarr film is Comrade X with Clark Gable. She plays a Russian streetcar driver, Theodore. Gable a reporter. It’s pure fun.

    Reply

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