Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Hedy Lamarr
BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY (2017). Director: Alexandra Dean.

Austrian-born and Jewish, Hedy Lamarr fled the Nazis and emigrated to America, where she was turned into a star after appearing in the controversial Ecstasy in her homeland. Her first American film was Algiers with Charles Boyer. A look at her films reveal an actress whose work could be uneven, but who could also offer effective, sensual, and warm performances in such films as Crossroads and Zeigfeld Girl. She turned to producing later on and worked on Edgar G. Ulmer's The Strange Woman with George Sanders. Bombshell concentrates less on her film career and more on her scientific work, which -- incredible as it may seem -- led to the wi-fi and blue tooth of today. Apparently Lamarr conceived of the idea of radio-controlled torpedoes during WW 2 (after reading of all the deaths at sea caused by German u-boats). Her main contribution was the idea of "frequency-hopping" to keep the Germans from interfering with the Allies' signals. This same frequency-hopping led to the cell phones and other devices that are commonplace today. The Navy rejected Lamarr's ideas (developed with the help of a friend, the American composer Georges Antheil), although they apparently used her technology anyway but never acknowledged it (or paid her for it) until she was an elderly recluse who had lost her beauty. Bombshell features interviews with her children, biographers and film critics, as well as comments from Lamarr herself from a taped interview she did with a magazine writer. If you're looking for an intensive exploration of her film work and/or comments from fellow actors, you won't find them, giving this otherwise excellent documentary a feeling of incompleteness. However, what we do get is undeniably absorbing, and the filmmakers were undoubtedly not interested in doing just another movie star bio. NOTE: This documentary can be viewed on Netflix and on DVD.

Verdict: Who knew Hedy was a genius? ***.


angelman66 said...

Love the fact that some of the foundational elements of today’s technology were developed by the gorgeous Lamar and her partner. I always remember her wry witty quote: “Any woman can look glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.” LOL
- Chris

William said...

Yes, I have a feeling Lamarr was a lot smarter than she was given credit for, obviously.