Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story aims to show all facets of the glamorous actor’s life. She was more than just a pretty face (Image via Tribeca)
Heddy Lamarr was unlike other glamorous actors during Hollywood’s golden era. Though she was a hardworking actor, a producer, a mother, and a wife (several times). There’s one title people don’t often associate with her: inventor. Bombshell: The Heddy Lamarr Story, produced by Susan Sarandon, is a documentary that aims to explore the different facets of Lamarr and show audiences she wasn’t just another pretty face on the silver screen. I wrote a bit about her achievements some years ago, read more here.
The documentary was announced last year by Sarandon’s production company, Reframed Pictures. She teamed up with American Masters and Submarine to get the project off the ground. It finally made its premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival last month, where it received great praise. Directed by Alexandra Dean and produced by Katherine Drew and Adam Haggiag, the film makes sure to highlight the basics of her life; her upbringing, her career in Hollywood, and her many marriages. But one thing it sets its sights on is Heddy Lamarr, the inventor.
Though Lamarr worked on improvements for traffic lights and a tablet that would make soda by dropping it water, her biggest contribution is laying down the basics for Wifi, earning her the nickname “Mother of Wifi.” During World 2 Lamarr invented a new way to send radio signals: having them jump between channels, known as frequency hopping. She teamed up with composer George Antheil to create a method to help the Navy discreetly deploy radio-guided torpedoes using piano rolls to send and received the signals. The two even got a patent for their work. The patent later went public 20 years later, which allowed other engineers to study and take apart the design. Down the line, it formed the basis for securing wireless communication protocols, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and CDMA networks.
Sadly, neither Lamarr nor Antheil received credit for their discovery. The documentary points out how Lamarr’s various scandals, like her affairs with Howard Hughes and Spencer Tracy, prevented her from being appreciated as more than just an actor. Like many celebrities today who try to go beyond their talents, they are recognized more for their looks than their contributions. So too, was Heddy Lamarr. All people wanted to talk about were her sexual exploits, rather than what she did for society or even as an actor. At least, with this documentary people can finally appreciate Lamarr for the inventor she was.
Bombshell: The Heddy Lamarr Story will premiere on PBS. At this time, no tentative date has been released.
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