1900s, WWII

Bombshell: A Documentary that Tells the Truth About Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr

After reviewing the book The Only Woman in the Room, I stumbled across a new documentary about the 1940s star Hedy Lamarr, which is being released this month. I debated sending a link for this only to subscribers, but decided to post it on the blog, since a lot of people are now interested into the glamorous star who also invented frequency hopping, the technology now responsible for wifi and cellphones.

It’s a film created by a woman, Alexandra Dean, and sometimes I think only a woman could understand Lamarr, who was so feted for her appearance that her other qualities, including her scientific mind went mostly unremarked during her 85 year life.

I remember that while I was living in the Miami area during the early 1990s I met a man who was formerly in public relations who told me he knew Hedy Lamarr. She was living in a nearby condo, he said, and she had no money and had recently been arrested for shoplifting. I was shocked then, and sorry now, after watching this film, which details her intelligence and her resignation about not being recognized for the patent that was responsible for wireless technology.

The film includes a lot of material covered in the book plus more — the interview conducted on a cassette tape by a reporter for Forbes magazine in 1990 in which Hedy talks about her technical achievements and also her film career. She was interested in inventions from an early age, taking apart a music box and putting it back together at the age of five. It also has footage of Hedy on the Merv Griffin show in the 1960s and of her moving around her apartment sometime later.

At an older age she looks remarkably changed — the result of numerous plastic surgeries, some of which went wrong. The documentary surmises that she knew that the public expected her to look good, and that’s why she went a little crazy with the surgery. But she even used her technical talents to suggest what the plastic surgeons should do exactly. And they were successful, at least in the early going.

You can stream Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr story below. It’s available through PBS and is 123 minutes long, so you’ll be sitting for a while if you decide to watch it here. But it’s worth the watch.

Grade: A

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