Hedy Lamarr was a fascinating woman. She was billed as “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and she truly was gorgeous, but she was also brilliant, creative, and confident. Not that men wanted her for anything but her looks while she was alive.
Hedy was born in Vienna in 1914 to a wealthy banker and his wife. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be an actress, and by the time she was a teenager, she was on the stage. After starring in a movie called “Ecstasy” that is tame by today’s standards but was shocking back in the day, Hedy married an Austrian arms manufacturer who was obsessed with her.
She spent the next several years in a golden cage, bored and miserable. When members of the German military came to dinner, she listened carefully to what was said about the developing might of the Nazis. With that information in her head and several suitcases packed with jewels and furs, she ditched her husband and headed to London. Before long, she was a Hollywood actress.
But Hedy wasn’t just an actress. She spent all of the time she wasn’t making movies inventing. After a Nazi sub sunk a ship carrying British children, she determined to do something to stop Hitler and his armies. With the help of an American composer and musician named George Antheil, Hedy invented spread-spectrum radio. Although Hedy and George got a patent for their invention, the technology didn’t come into use until well after World War Two. Today, it’s used in GPS systems, wireless systems, and many other devices.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I sped through all of the parts about Hedy, anxious to learn more about this Hollywood superstar who spent her whole life wanting to be recognized for her intelligence. Unfortunately, I get the sense that there isn’t enough information on Hedy alone to make a whole book, because large portions of this book are about George Antheil (he led an interesting life, but I wasn’t looking to read about him, and several of the segments about him are drowned in detail) and the technical applications of spread-spectrum radio (I am not a technical person).
Cut out all the parts about Hedy and glue them together, and you’ve got a book worth reading about a famed beauty who really, really wanted to be famous for the thoughts in her head.