Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
"Bombshell becomes not just a stupendous tribute to Lamarr, but also a tribute to every brilliant woman ignored, thanking them even if they never snagged the spotlight, and inspiring a new generation to go looking for theirs." - Tribeca Review
Startlet. Screen Siren. The Most Beautiful Woman in the World. All phrases used to describe 1940’s Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr. Alexandra Dean’s illuminating documentary adds Inventor to the list as the secret inventor of secure wifi, bluetooth and GPS communications technology.
Known for her matchless beauty and electric screen persona, Lamarr’s legion of fans never knew she possessed such a beautiful mind. An Austrian Jewish émigré who acted by day and drew mechanical and electronic inventions by night, Lamarr came up with a “secret communication system” to help the Allies to beat the Nazis. Her invention for "frequency-hopping," was developed after hearing that Allied forces' radio-controlled torpedoes could be thrown off course by jamming the frequencies transmitted to them. She teamed with a friend, composer George Antheil, to implement a solution. Perhaps inspired by an early remote-control for home radios, the two adapted the mechanism of player-pianos to propose a system that would skip from one frequency to another as a torpedo travelled, with only the broadcaster and the torpedo knowing which frequency would be used at any moment. The two were granted a patent for the device in 1942, but the Navy rejected it. (They put her to work selling war bonds and entertaining troops instead.) But a version of the design was used in the Cuban Missile Crisis, after the patent expired, and worked its way into practically all modern wireless communications tech. "Wi-Fi and Bluetooth — that's my mother's technology," boasts Lamarr's son.
Weaving in Lamarr’s own voice from archival recordings, Dean reveals how Lamarr gave her patent to the Navy, received no credit for her contributions, and wound up impoverished in her latter years. Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story is a film for lovers of history, Hollywood and science.