BEFORE SHE BECAME KNOWN INTERNATIONALLY AS “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN FILMS,” Hedwig Kiesler was trapped in a prison of gold. At age 18 she starred in her first film, Ecstasy, which was quite racy for 1933. Afterwards, a wealthy arms dealer caught her attention and they were wed. Hedwig quickly learned that her new husband was a control freak. He never let her out of the castle alone and forbid her from pursuing her acting career.
Temporarily resigned to her fate, Hedwig played the part of the trophy wife and accompanied her husband on official state dinners attended by officials from around the world. Her husband sold arms to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Hedwig listened closely to the conversations her husband had with these world leaders and was fascinated to learn about a new technology using radio frequencies to control missiles.
The life of a “kept woman” was not for Hedwig. She quickly tired of her overbearing, insecure husband and plotted her escape. With nothing more than a few pieces of jewelry and sheer determination, she drugged a servant, stole her uniform, crept out of the prison-castle, made her way to London, and pursued her dreams of Hollywood stardom.
One of the M’s in MGM studios, Louis Mayer, was scouting for talent in London at the time. Hedwig managed to track him down. Mr. Mayer offered her a job, then demanded she distance herself from that naughty movie by changing her name from Hedwig Kiesler to Hedy Lamarr. Hedy quickly became one of the most famous actresses of her time culminating in her role of Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah in 1949.
That would be a pretty cool story in and of itself be we aren’t done with Hedy. In her spare time, Hedy was an inventor. She dated and consulted with Howard Hughes on, among other things, streamlining his airplanes based on her studies of the fastest birds and fish she could find. Hughes set her up with a team of scientists and engineers that were ordered to make anything she asked for.
Hedy never forgot her conversations with the leaders of Nazi Germany during her brief marriage to the Devil. In the dark days of World War II, Hedy learned that the Germans were jamming our navy’s radio-controlled torpedos. Hedy patented a way of rapidly changing radio frequencies that allowed for unjammable, secure, wireless communications. While the technology of the 1940s prevented the feasibility of her idea at the time, the advent of the transistor introduced the world to her idea of “spread spectrum” technology.
Hedy was once known as a woman who was too beautiful to be taken seriously. But her “spread spectrum” idea is now the very backbone of cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi technology we use today. I’ll leave you with an awesome quote from her: “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”
Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com