Wonder Woman: how the sex symbol of the golden age of Hollywood became one of the creators of the Internet

Khedi's beauty became her punishment

Khedi’s beauty became her punishment

A photo: EAST NEWS

November 9 has been recognized as Inventor’s Day in German-speaking countries – Germany, Austria and Switzerland – for 17 years now. And it is not at all a coincidence that the actress Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, better known as Hedy Lamarr, was born on the same day in 1914. The sex symbol of the pre-war years not only went down in history as the first beauty of Hollywood, but was also remembered as a talented inventor, thanks to whom such Internet technologies as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as a satellite communication system later entered our lives.

EROTIC 1930s

Khedi was born in Vienna to Galician Jewish parents. His father ran a bank, and his mother was a pianist. Thanks to the efforts of her father, the girl from early childhood became addicted to science and mechanics. At the age of five, she, playing with a music box, took it apart and put it back together to understand how the mechanism works.

At 16, Hedy caught the attention of director Max Reinhardt. He saw artistic talent in her. But the idea that young Hedy caught fire did not please her parents. From the beginning, the girl, in order to attend a theater studio, forged her mother’s signature, and then completely ran away from home.

After moving to Berlin, the European film capital of the 1930s, Hedy soon landed her first film role. The debut happened in the film “Money on the Street”, but the fame of the actress brought her work in the film “Ecstasy”. In it, Lamarr played a girl cheating on her old rich husband with a young lover. The tape immediately earned a scandalous reputation due to two scenes: the first is Hedy’s naked bathing in the lake and the second is the orgasm scene. Even Pope Pius XII spoke out against showing the film, and in the United States it was recognized as pornographic.


When she was 18, Hedy married the Austrian industrialist Fritz Mandl. At that time, the Third Reich was already strengthening its position with might and main, the rich Mandl turned out to be an ardent supporter of Nazism, actively cooperating with the Germans in the production of weapons.

Another significant disadvantage of the spouse was his pathological jealousy. The millionaire insisted that Hedy quit her acting career and threatened to buy out all copies of Ecstasy in order to reserve the exclusive right to admire the charms of his wife.

– I very soon realized that I could never be an actress while I was his wife. He was an absolute monarch and I was a puppet. As a thing, as an object of art that needs to be protected – and kept under lock and key – having neither mind nor life of its own, Lamarr later recalled.

As a result, Mandl actually put his wife under lock and key at home. In 1937, plucking up her courage, Hedy drugged the maid assigned to her, changed into her dress and ran away from home. Her path was far: Paris-London-New York.

Hedy Lamarr inspired many famous men of her time

Hedy Lamarr inspired many famous men of her time

A photo: EAST NEWS


The transatlantic liner “Normandy” moored to the shores of New York, where a new life for Hedwig Kiesler began. While still on the ship, she signed a contract with the American film studio Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Mindful of the scandal with “Rapture”, the owner of the film company Louis B Mayer recommended that the actress take a pseudonym. This is how Hedy Lamarr was born. By the way, Lamarr is a reference to silent film actress Barbara La Marr.

In Hollywood, Hedy was in demand. She was nicknamed “the most beautiful woman in the world.” Walt Disney drew Snow White inspired by Lamarr. It is also believed that she was the prototype of the heroine of the Wonder Woman comic book.

But many directors saw it as a beautiful cover, sometimes offering the role of charming dummies with a minimal set of lines. But in 1946, Lamarr was offered a role in the film “The Strange Woman”, which the actress approached with all responsibility: dressing beyond recognition, she spent several weeks in the port areas of Los Angeles to feel the lifestyle of their inhabitants. After this work, film critics recognized Khedi’s talent as a dramatic actress.

The sex symbol of the pre-war years went down in history as the first beauty of Hollywood

The sex symbol of the pre-war years went down in history as the first beauty of Hollywood

A photo: EAST NEWS


Film career Lamarr went side by side with her love affairs. A couple of years after moving to the States, she married screenwriter and producer Gene Macri. In parallel, Hedy had an affair with actor John Loder, from whom she gave birth to a child. Macri, who loved his wife very much, forgave the betrayal and even recognized the baby. But this was not a panacea, the marriage soon fell apart and Hedy went to Loder.

The lovers got married, in marriage they had two more children. But even this could not save their family – they lived together for four years, after which Khedi left her new husband.

In 1951, she fell in love with musician Teddy Stuffer. But the fourth marriage of the actress lasted only a year. The fifth husband was oilman William Howard Lee. Lamarr lived with him for seven whole years and eventually switched to her lawyer Lewis Boyes, with whom she married for two years.

Marriage ties never stopped the actress from romances on the side. Rumor has it that she met with John F. Kennedy, but there is no exact confirmation of this. But it is certainly known that the owner of the aircraft factory, Howard Hughes, was her admirer. Once, while showing Khedi the shop, he shared that he was planning a new model of an aircraft capable of reaching high speed. After reading books on animal anatomy, Lamarr proposed a design for a new wing based on bird anatomy. The main feature of the novelty is that the wings of the aircraft should become thinner. Seeing the sketches of the drawings, Hughes only issued: “You are a genius!”


Hedy’s beauty became a punishment for her.

– Everywhere I see that men pay tribute to my beauty and show no interest in me. For me, beauty is a curse, – the actress admitted.

Therefore, few people assume that behind the beauty of Lamarr lies an inquisitive mind and talent as an inventor.

During one dinner party, which brought together the entire beau monde of Hollywood, Hedy got into a conversation with her friend, composer and inventor George Antheil. Recently, a German submarine blew up a British ship, on which 248 people were evacuated, including 77 children. Being ardent opponents of Nazism, Hedy and George were tormented by one question: how to stop Hitler. And then they thought about improving radio-controlled torpedoes.

They developed a technology that meant that when a radio-controlled rocket was launched, its radio waves would jump from frequency to frequency and the enemy would not be able to intercept the signal and interfere. Remote control of torpedoes gave the Allies a significant advantage over the Third Reich.

The technology was patented and donated to the US Army. But the military was in no hurry to start implementing Lamarr’s idea, being skeptical about the invention. The fact is that Hedy and George proposed using the roller of a mechanical piano to match the signal transmitter with the receiver.

Attempts to explain to the military that the roller can be reduced, had no effect.

– I can see how they say: “We need to shove the piano into the torpedo,” Antheil recalled those days.


The genius of Lamarr and Antheil’s technology was only realized much later. It was first used in the midst of the Caribbean crisis, then it formed the basis of the American military satellite communications system Milstar.

On the “citizen” “jumping wave technology” was used for wireless signal transmission (mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS).

The patent did not bring Lamarr a penny. And her recognition as an inventor came too late. In the 1990s, the Electronic Frontier Foundation awarded Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil with the Pioneer Award. The reaction of the elderly actress by that time was not long in coming: “I suddenly turned out to be smart.”

In 2000, Khedi died. 14 years later, the names of Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame. After many decades, justice seems to have prevailed: now Hedy Lamarr is more known as the “mother of Wi-Fi”, and not as a sex symbol of Hollywood.

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