Hedy Lamarr: More Than Just the Most Beautiful Woman in Films

By | July 5, 2019

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Hedy Lamarr publicity portrait for the film Samson And Delilah, 1949. Source: (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

Renowned as a femme fatale during MGM’s “Golden Age,” actress Hedy Lamarr was more than just a pretty face. While she has been quoted as saying the key to being glamorous was to just “stand still and look stupid,” she proved to be anything but stupid when she helped develop a technique for spread spectrum communications which is currently used in satellite and cell phone technology.

She was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1913, in Vienna, Austria, as the daughter of a wealthy Viennese banker. She began her education through private tutors at age four and by age ten could speak four languages and was both a skilled dancer and pianist. She enrolled in Max Reinhardt’s drama school in Berlin at the age of sixteen. The following year, she appeared in her first film, Geld auf der Strasse (1930; Money on the Street). However, it was the 1932 Czech film Extase (Ecstasy) for which she gained international recognition.

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Hedy Lamarr in Ecstasy (1932). Source: (seattlepi.com)

Her acting career was temporarily suspended in 1933 when she married Austrian munitions manufacturer Fritz Mandl. Not only was Mandl responsible for selling weapons to the Nazis, but he was also extremely possessive. He forbade her from acting and attempted to destroy all copies of Extase. In 1937, she left Mandl and moved to Hollywood where she began acting with MGM under the name Hedy Lamarr. She would eventually complete the naturalization process and become a U.S. citizen in 1953.