Cine Suffragette
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Cine Suffragette

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017), by Alexandra Dean

(Source: reproduction)

Do you like to access the Internet? Do you like to play games, access social networks and research things on your phone? Do you enjoy reading articles online? If you said ‘yes’ to any of them, thank Hedy Lamarr for being able to do all that.

Hedy Lamarr is better known and remembered for having been a gorgeous actress. Her beauty was a curse. She was much more than a sex symbol: she was a talented performer, a producer, an inventor, an independent woman, a feminist. She raised her two children by herself in the 1940s. She was a strategist and a very curious person since childhood. And guess what is the title of one of her biographies — written, obviously, by a man? “Beautiful”.

But thankfully things are changing. In recent years, Hedy’s legacy was rediscovered and now she is being celebrated by her many accomplishments. Her centennial in 2014 was remembered by several shows, publications and websites, and now she is often cited among women scientists and trailblazers. Her newest honor is being the subject of a sensitive documentary made by director Alexandra Dean — a great work that mixed interviews, archive footage, recorded interviews with Hedy herself, staged recreations and animations to shout to the world how amazing Hedy was.

(Source: reproduction)

Hedy Lamarr, born Hedwig Kiesler, was fascinated with gadgets since an early age. At five, she dismantled a little musical toy and reassembled the pieces — and magic happens in front of us and all our nerves shriek when this little toy, nearly 100 years old, is held by her son in front of the camera… and the music still plays.

Hedy entered the film business because she was pretty. Actually, she was smart enough to use her beauty to enter the film business. As the documentary reminds us, women in the arts in the early 20th century had more freedom than women in other occupations. Her 1933 movie “Ecstasy” was a scandal: at 18, running naked through the fields and simulating an orgasm, she was condemned by both the Pope and Hitler. But this film didn’t call Hollywood’s attention to her. She had to go after it, in another very clever maneuver.

Algiers (1938) was Hedy Lamarr’s first Hollywood picture (Source: reproduction)

In 1940 a new radio technology made her curious. If a remote control could change the radio stations in a player that was far away, why couldn’t the same principle be used in other fields? Why not hop around frequencies in other places? What about using it in a radio-controlled torpedo for the Allies?

After that she partnered with composer George Antheil, who allied the frequency hopping idea developed by Hedy with the working of mechanical pianos. They created a weapon that could not be intercepted — and patented it.

Hedy is described as “toying” with torpedo idea, and a picture of her half-naked is used by this newspaper (Source: reproduction)

The invention was refused and ridiculed by the Navy. Hedy went on to sell war bonds — for instance, she collected money for the war effort by selling kisses — and after the war the government dismissed the patent as an “alien property”. But they used it anyway, years later, and we know how far we came because of it.

Hedy invented some other things, too — amazing things that must be seen in the documentary, with her narrating her own ideas. Inventing was one of her favorite activities. She also loved playing charades, going on scavenger hunts and picnics. This was the real face of the most beautiful woman in the world.

Hedy with her little laboratory in her studio trailer at MGM (Source: reproduction)

She helped develop a revolutionary communication system. Her reward for that was being cast in a B-movie as an exotic whore, and later being accused of stealing the idea of frequency hopping from other men. She was ridiculed in parodies as her fame weaned. She was a trophy wife for all her six husbands — and she escaped her abusive first husband with a clever plan, like something coming out of a movie. She was judged by the press for getting “old, ugly and unrecognizable”. She was nearly erased from history. What was Hedy Lamarr’s sin, what made she suffer all that?

Simple: Hedy Lamarr was a woman.

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