Algiers actress Hedy Lamarr was one of the most fascinating women to emerge from the golden age of cinema. Known for her striking beauty and often talked about for her portrayal of one of Hollywood’s first nude scenes, Lamarr was a much more complex woman than the studio moguls painted her as. The glamor icon takes us through her colorful life, from inventing a radio system to evade Nazi torpedoes during WWII to her more reclusive years in Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, a new documentary from Zeitgeist Films. We look at ten interesting facts about the Hollywood star and scientific inventor that you might not know.
The greatest Hedy Lamarr factoid most people didn’t realize before but are finally starting to learn about is that she was a true science wiz and wireless communications pioneer. According to Famous Women Inventors, “the ‘spread spectrum’ technology that Lamarr helped to invent would galvanize the digital communications boom, forming the technical backbone that makes cellular phones, fax machines and other wireless operations possible.” So basically, we can all thank her for the WiFi we’re currently using to read this.
Lamarr’s 1933 film Ecstasy was extremely controversial due to the star’s nude scenes. Hitler banned it. The Pope denounced it. The film is often considered one of the first non-pornographic movies to show nude scenes, sex scenes, and a female orgasm (limited to Lamarr’s facial expressions).
Lamarr was one of the inspirations behind Batman comic book artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger’s Catwoman, whose smoldering sensuality was drawn from the actress. Anne Hathaway’s interpretation of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises relied heavily on Lamarr.
The actress once called her own face a “misfortune,” but she became one of the inspirations behind Disney’s Snow White — one of the studio’s most beloved princesses.
Lamarr’s first husband rubbed elbows with Mussolini and Hitler. Eventually, Lamarr escaped her marriage by disguising herself as a maid, sewing jewels into the lining of her coat, and fleeing pre-war Vienna.
Lamarr was named after silent film star Barbara La Marr by Louis B. Mayer. La Marr was one of his favorite actresses and was known as the “Girl Who is Too Beautiful.”
Howard Hughes and Lamarr had a fling, but he also supported her scientific curiosity and talents completely. Hughes often referred to her expertise when designing his planes.
In the 1970s, Lamarr tried to sue Warner Bros. over Mel Brooks’ use of her name (sort of) in his film Blazing Saddles. They settled out of court.
Lamarr was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
During World War II, Lamarr invented a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed in order to help the radio-controlled torpedoes in the naval war.