Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Favorite Classic Movie Stars - HEDY LAMARR

Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna, Austria, on November 9th, 1913 by the name of Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. Although she is primarily know for her great beauty and acting, she was also an inventor and co-invented an early form of spread spectrum communications technology - a key to modern wireless communication. Below, please find a more detailed description of what this invention entailed:

Did you know that the original idea and patent that led to cellular phone technology comes from the movie star, Hedy Lamarr?

She knew a great deal about weaponry by listening to her first husband, Fritz Mandl, an armament manufacturer. She left her husband when he became increasingly involved in deals with the Nazis and made her way to London, then on to Hollywood.

She'd kept her mind active on what she'd heard about the problems of radio controlled missiles and how easy it was to block the simple signal. She realized that if the signal jumped from frequency to frequency quickly (like changing channels on a TV or radio) and both sender and receiver changed in the same order, then the signal could never be blocked by someone "listening in" who didn't know how the frequency was changing.

In those days before the transistor was invented it was difficult to design a way for this to be accomplished. Composer George Antheil suggested using something similar to piano rolls, from player pianos, to keep both sides in sync. Together, he and Lamarr patented the "Secret Communication System" in 1942. At that time the idea of using the paper rolls was too cumbersome to be practical.

When the transistor did become available the Navy used the idea in secure military communications and when transistors became really cheap the idea was used in cellular phone technology. By the time the Navy used the idea, the original patent had expired and Lamarr and Antheil never received any royalty payments for their idea.

In 1997 she was honored with an award at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference for "blazing new trails on the electronic frontier." Hedy Lamarr died on January 19, 2000.

Source: The Associated Press, March, 1997

Lamarr was born the daughter of Jewish parents, Getrude who was a pianist and a Budapest native who came from the Jewish "Haute Bourgeoisie", and Lemberg born Emil Kiesler, a successful bank director. Growing up, Hedy studied ballet and piano. When working with Max Reinhardt in Berlin, he called her the "most beautiful woman in Europe". Soon, the teenage girl played major roles in German movies.

In early 1933, she starred in "Symphonie der Liebe" or "Ecstacy" a Czechoslovak film made in Prague in which she played a love hungry young wife of an indifferent old husband. Closeups of her face showed her in supposedly orgasm and long shots showed her running nude through the woods...both of which gave the film notoriety and caused it to be banned in much of the world, including the U.S.

On August 10th, 1933, Hedy married Friedrich Mandl, a Vienna based arms manufacturer who was thirteen years her senior. The Austrian fascist bought up as many copies of the film that she had made as he could possible find, as he objected to her nudity and "The expression on her face", (Lamarr later claimed that the looks of passion were the result of the director poking her in the bottom with a safety pin). Mandl prevented Hedy from pursuing her acting career, and instead took her to meetings with technicians and business partners of his. In these meetings, the mathematically-talented Lamarr learned about military technology. Otherwise she had to stay at castle "Schwarzenau". She later related that even though Mandl was part Jewish he was consorting with Nazi industrialists which infuriated her. In 1937, she convinced him to allow her to attend a party wearing all her expensive jewelry. She later drugged him with the help of her maid and made her escape out of the country with the jewelry.

First she went to Paris, then met Louis B. Mayer in London. After he hired her, at his insistence, she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr, Choosing the surname in homage to a beautiful film star of the silent era named Barbara Lamarr, who had died in 1926 from drug addiction.

In Hollywood, Hedy was usually cast as a glamorous and seductive woman. Her american debut was in the film "Algiers" in 1938. Her many films included "Boom Town" in 1940, "White Cargo" in 1942, "Tortilla Flat" also in 1942 (which was based on the novel by John Steinbach).

Lamarr made 18 films between the years of 1940 and 1949, even though she had two children during that time as well, one in 1945 and one in 1947. She left MGM in 1945. Her biggest success came as playing Delihah in Cecil B. DeMille's 1949 epic, Samson & Delilah, opposite Victor Mature. However, her comedic turn opposite Bob Hope in "My Favorite Spy" in 1951) was when her career started into decline. She appeared only sporadically in film after 1950.

The publication of her autobiography entitled "Ecstasy and Me" in 1967 took place about a year after accusations of shoplifting and a year after Andy Warhol's short film "Hedy" in 1966, also know as "The Shoplifter". The controversy surrounding the shoplifting charges coincided with an aborted return to the screen in "Picture Mommy Dead" in 1966. But the role was ultimately filled by Zza Zza Gabor.

One of Hedy Lamarr's quotes:
"Hope and curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. That's the way I was. The unknown was always so attractive to me...and still is.

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