Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna, Austria, in November 1915, but some say she was born in 1913 because she never revealed her real age. Hedy Lamarr was just her stage name. Her real name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. Many probably know Hedy Lamarr as the star in the hit Czech. movie, Ecstasy, and many other movies. Hedy Lamarr is probably known more for her good looks and talented acting skills, but she was also a very accomplished inventor.

Throughout Hedy’s childhood she never went to a public school. Her parents were fairly rich so she was always privately tutored. As she got older, though, she was enrolled in a private school for girls in Vienna. Later in life she realized that all the private tutoring had paid off, at least in her common sense areas.

At the age of just nineteen Hedy became the hit star of the foreign Czech. movie, Ecstasy. The movie was so dirty and inappropriate, though, that it was banned from many countries for several years.

In 1933 her parents arranged a marriage to a rich millionaire by the name of Fritz Mandl. He treasured Hedy, and Hedy never left his side, because she felt forced to love him although she didn’t. Because of her young marriage Hedy never found the time to attend college. She had everything that she could have possibly wanted. She lived in Salzberg Castle where The Sound of Music was later filmed, servants waited on her hand and foot, and on top of that her husband owned a Mercedes. At first Hedy loved being waited on every second of the day, but later she learned some information about her husband that changed their whole life together.

Hedy Keisler had noticed that recently her husband had been attending a lot of “business” meetings/dinners. Whenever she would ask him about it he would change the subject or make an excuse. Later she was invited to one of these dinner meetings with her husband. She learned there that her husband was making secret military plans and weapons for Adolph Hitler during World War II. At first this didn’t bother her, but when it did Hedy was too afraid to say anything to her husband. Shortly after that Fritz Mandl did not treat Hedy with the respect that she deserved. He was always gone. When he was home, or she was with him and a group of his friends, she was treated as the entertainment for the night. He was also a control freak, for he wouldn’t even allow Hedy to go swimming alone.

A month, or two, went by before Hedy made her first escape plans. Her first attempts were failures, because her husband would always find her. Her last attempt was successful though. She supposedly “drugged” her maid (by slipping 3 sleeping pills into her coffee) who was ordered to look after her. Then she took the maid’s dress, put it on, and walked out of the service entrance to make her way down the road to freedom.

Hedy made her way to London, England where she made her first stage appearances. A few years later she boarded the ship, Normandie, on her way to Hollywood, California. While aboard the ship she met a producer from MGM by the name of Louis B. Mayer. He offered her a contract which she immediately signed. Right after that he confronted her with the idea of changing her name, because of the movie reviews of Ecstasy. Louis asked an MGM publicist to come up with a list of names to choose from. Hedy later looked at the list of names and chose Lamarr.

She made many movies when they got to Hollywood. She was known in the United States for her somewhat good acting skills, and beauty. Later MGM awarded Hedy for being the most beautiful woman in the world. Hedy quickly became one of Hollywood's most watched stars.

Hedy’s invention ideas about radio active torpedoes were hidden far back in her mind until she met Mr. George Antheil. They were neighbors in Hollywood, and supposedly met at a party. Most people would know George Antheil for his talent as a professional pianist, who later became a producer in Hollywood.

One day while talking about other things they got on the subject of the war and war torpedoes. The person that Hedy feared the most in her life was Adolph Hitler. She had actually met the man at a dinner meeting with her ex-husband. She was willing to do anything to stop him from winning the war. Hedy had a great idea for a radio controlled torpedo, but she was worried that she could not pull it off. If anyone caught on to the torpedoes all they would have to do is jam the frequency that they operated on, and the torpedoes would be destroyed. Her first idea, to stop the frequency from jamming, came to her when Antheil would hit keys on the piano and she would follow by singing the notes. She realized that she could change the frequency often so that the operation could not be jammed. The frequency of the torpedoes is the changing of the radio wave that will take in sound to be heard through the transmitter. This invention would be great to listen in on other ship’s plans, but they needed to get a lot of things covered. Hedy and George came up with the idea of using piano keys as the signal. You can always change the keys and pitches of a piano, and that is what they wanted the signal to do so as not to get jammed.

Hedy and George sent their idea to the National Inventor’s Council, which was set up by the government to receive and look at the open public’s ideas for an invention. The council of this organization very rarely ever found an idea that was worth trying out, but looking at Hedy and George’s invention ideas was sure to put a smile on their face. Because most of the credit for the ideas was granted to Hedy, she received a patent for the “secret communication system” on August 11, 1942 by the chairman of the council, Mr. Charles Kettering. Because this was not a movie or had anything to do with the movies Hedy agreed to have the patent read her newest marriage name, Hedy Keisler Markey.

Unfortunately none of the other members of the council agreed with the idea and asked the Navy of their opinion. The Navy said to have a frequency of a torpedo constantly hopping like that was merely impossible. So Hedy and George pursued their invention no more because of their disappointment.

Hedy did continue to try to help the war efforts though. She sold war bonds. The catch to that was that anyone who purchased $25,000.00 worth of bonds would receive a kiss from Hedy. In just one night Hedy sold a total of $7,000,000.00 worth of bonds.

Not all hope was lost. In 1957 engineers who worked at the Sylvania Electronics Systems Division, located in Buffalo, New York, used Hedy’s materials and ideas to create transistor electronics that Hedy and George were so close to doing in 1942. Three years after Hedy’s patent expired in 1963, the United States government used the idea of frequency hopping to communicate with U.S. ships sent out to blockade (prevent war enemies from trying to escape, or trying to send supplies to another place) Cuba.

Today the concept is used by many countries’ militaries. It also effected the invention of chatting with another person on the internet, and cellular and wireless phones. Many new ideas of communication have popped up because of the Lamarr-Antheil invention. Hedy Lamarr never earned any money, although the idea was hers, but many other people became rich from her idea.

In the next ten years she was usually never seen around anymore and faded from the public’s view. Most think this occurred because of depression about her invention and her never ending search for the perfect husband.

Hedy Lamarr was married and divorced six times. Her husbands were Fritz Mandl, Gene Markey, Sir John Loder (whom she had one son with), Ted Staufer, W. Howard Lee, and Lewis J. Boles. This all happened in a time span from 1933-1965. Most women think that it is amazing that she only had one child out of all six marriages.

Although Hedy Lamarr became unpopular to most people, she made headline news when she was caught shoplifting cosmetics from the May Department Store in Los Angeles, California. Luckily Hedy was acquitted on a 10-2 jury vote. Hedy must not have believed that that was bad enough, though, because in 1991 she was again caught for shoplifting, but the charges were dropped. These two incidents definitely made her look bad.

On March 12, 1997 Hedy Lamarr was acknowledged for her fine achievements by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Unfortunately she was not much of a public speaker so her son, Anthony Loder, accepted the award for her. He did play an audiotape of her speaking, though. That was the first time Hedy Lamarr’s voice could be heard by the public in over two decades.

Today Hedy’s son owns a phone store near Los Angeles. Many of the phone systems that he sells are based on his mother’s scientific technology.

Hedy Lamarr finally retired to a rural area in Florida. On weekends Hedy’s voice could be heard at the Greenwich Village Club singing songs that she had written herself. She had cataract surgery so she did not have to wear her glasses anymore. At the age of 85, Hedy Lamarr died of old age on January 19, 2000.

Created by Kara B.
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