Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Alexandra Dean’s documentary about actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, is very sad, very painful, and yet beautiful.
But as a friend commented a few minutes ago, so was Lamarr herself.
There is this myth, of beauty being a damnation more than a blessing, and Hedy Lamarr’s story seems to play the myth out beat by beat, mercilessly.
Notorious for her nude scene and her filmed orgasm as a sixteen-years-old in Austria, Lamarr came to Hollywood as part of the contingent of refugees from Germany and Europe, fleeing the encroaching power of the Nazi Reich.
Louis B. Meyer was eagerly waiting for them, offering below par salary and strenuous filming conditions.
Lamarr was so beautiful it hurt – this is undeniable.
But she was also brilliant, interested in science and an inventor in her spare time.
And yet, both her gifts failed to bring her happiness, and ultimately any luck.
Hollywood exploited her beauty, limited her career and finally mocked her. And her frequency hopping technology, designed as a way to help the war effort was first dismissed, then appropriated because it was the brainchild of an alien, and finally exploited and applied widely, first in military technology and later in everyday tech.
Hedy Lamarr invented the core technology of bluetooth, GPS, wi-fi.
We are communicating thanks to her.
But the credit was given her when it was too late, and because of some legal loopholes, she never saw a single cent for her patent. She died poor, her wonderful beauty messed up by an excess of plastic surgery, her beautiful mind clouded by amphetamines prescribed as “vitamins” and part of the routine practices of the studio machine.
Dean’s movie is built through interviews to Lamarr’s children and grandchildren, her friends and colleagues, the journalists and writers that knew her. It uses old film footage, family photos and other ephemera to paint the portrait of a woman that was stunningly beautiful, but whose passion was science, and invention.
It is a sad story, that closes with a wonderful statement by the actress herself, from one of her last interviews. The fact that small people will try and succeed in destroying what great people do is no reason no to strive to do something great.
Oh, what a wonderful brain you had, Hedy.