Monday, December 8, 2014
Monthly Muse - Heddy Lamarr
In early 1933, at age 18, she starred in Gustav Machatý's film, Ecstasy. Hedy’s role was that of a neglected young wife married to an indifferent older man. The film became notorious for showing her face in the throes of orgasm as well as close-up and brief nude scenes in which 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. Hedy 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, Hedy 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.
In her memoir, Hedy wrote that Mussolini and Hitler had attended lavish parties hosted at the Mandl home. Mandl had Hedy accompany him to business meetings where he conferred with scientists and other professionals involved in military technology. These conferences became Hedy's introduction to the field of applied science and the ground that nurtured her latent talent in the scientific field.
Hedy'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 Hedy persuaded Mandl to let her wear all of her jewelry for a dinner, then disappeared.
After escaping her husband, she fled to Paris in 1937 where she met Louis B. Mayer, who was scouting for talent in Europe. Mayer hired her but insisted that she change her name to Hedy Lamarr—she had been known as "the Ecstasy lady"—choosing the surname in homage to the beautiful silent film star, Barbara La Marr, who had died in 1926 from tuberculosis. Upon arriving in Hollywood in 1938, Mayer promoted her as the "world's most beautiful woman."
She received good reviews for her American film debut in Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, who asked that Hedy 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), Tortilla Flat (1942) with Tracy and John Garfield, H. M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) with Robert Young, and Dishonored Lady (1947). In 1941, Hedy was cast alongside Lana Turner and Judy Garland in Ziegfeld Girl.
Hedy 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). White Cargo, one of Hedy'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?" This line typifies many of Hedy's roles, which emphasized her beauty and sexuality but were light on lines. The lack of acting challenges bored Hedy and she turned to inventing to relieve her boredom.
Hedy's earliest inventions include an improved traffic stoplight and a tablet that would dissolve in water to create a carbonated beverage. The beverage was less than successful; Hedy herself claimed it tasted like Alka-Seltzer.
Hedy's reputation as an inventor is based on her co-creation of a frequency-hopping system with George Antheil, an avant garde composer and neighbor of hers in California. During World War II, Hedy was inspired to contribute to the war effort. She focused her efforts on countering torpedoes.
Hedy and Antheil 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. Hedy had learned something about torpedoes during her marriage to Mandl. Hedy and Antheil developed the idea of using frequency hopping to avoid jamming. This was achieved by 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 computation this complex would require too much power. The frequency-hopping sequence was controlled by a player-piano mechanism, which Antheil had earlier used to score his Ballet Mécanique.
On August 11, 1942, U.S. Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Hedy Kiesler Markey, Lamarr's married name at the time, and George Antheil. This early version of frequency hopping, although novel, soon was met with opposition from the U.S. Navy and was not adopted. The idea was not implemented in the U.S. until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Hedy's work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her a belated award for her contributions. In 1998, an Ottawa wireless technology developer, Wi-LAN Inc., acquired a 49% claim to the patent from Hedy for an undisclosed amount of stock.
Hedy's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea served 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 seems to lay the communications groundwork for Hedy and Antheil's patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.
Hedy 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. But Hedy and Antheil were inducted into the Inventor's Hall of Fame in 2014.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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
The 1970s were a decade of increasing seclusion for Hedy. 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.
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.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Hedy Lamarr has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6247 Hollywood Blvd.
In her later years, Hedy turned to plastic surgery to preserve the looks she was terrified of losing. Hedy had to endure disastrous results. "She had her breasts enlarged, her cheeks raised, her lips made bigger, and much, much more," said Anthony. "She had plastic surgery thinking it could revive her looks and her career, but it backfired and distorted her beauty." Anthony Loder also claimed that Hedy was addicted to pills.
Hedy became estranged from her adopted son, James Lamarr Loder, when he was 12 years old. Their relationship ended abruptly and he moved in with another family. They did not speak again for almost 50 years. Hedy left James Loder out of her will and he sued for control of the $3.3 million estate left by Lamarr in 2000.
Hedy 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. 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.
Hedy was given an honorary grave in Vienna's Central Cemetery in 2014.
♥ Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.
♥ Because you don't live near a bakery doesn't mean you have to go without cheesecake.
♥ I can excuse everything but boredom. Boring people don't have to stay that way.
♥ All creative people want to do the unexpected.
♥ I'm a sworn enemy of convention. I despise the conventional in anything, even the arts.