Hedy Lamarr: Intelligent Yet Overshadowed


When people think about the women of Hollywood, what most frequently comes to mind is their physical appearance, what designer they are wearing, and who they are dating. What is not as noticed is how the women of Hollywood, typically highly educated and accomplished, are not acknowledged nearly enough but must abide by what society sees as important associations to women; men, clothes, and how much of a sex symbol they are. 

Only a few women are known for their movies and work in the film industry before they are known for superficial factors, yet too often the public overlooks their extremely respectable accomplishments. 

Hedy Lamarr, one of Hollywood’s most iconic figures during the Golden Age, was typically typecast as the “provocative femme fatale” seen in movies like Ecstacy and Samson and Delilah. Not only was she a successful actress, but a genius. Her main invention was frequency hopping, the basis of secure wireless communications. Such achievement has led Lamarr to be dubbed “the mother of Wi-Fi” and other wireless communications like GPS and Bluetooth. She received a patent for the technology, which she intended for guiding Allied torpedoes in World War II, but the U.S. Navy shelved it until much later. Because of her career and looks, her invention was not taken seriously, as the director of Bombshell, the Hedy Lamarr Documentary, notes “…they just dismissed it out of hand, thinking this was something that a musician and a gorgeous movie star came up with.” 

During her life, Lamarr was treated horribly as an actress. She, and other actresses during the Golden Age, were worked from morning to night. In order to keep up with these harsh hours, producers and directors would feed them drugs. Downers and uppers were not uncommon at the time, and Hedy got hooked on these drugs. In the end, that’s what destroyed her.

 The world has recently come to acknowledge the impact she had on technology and society, as it was just in 2014 that Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 14 years after her death. 

Unfortunately, this delayed recognition is common for women in Hollywood, especially women who were in 20th-century Hollywood, as they are typically only acknowledged for their physical appearance throughout their life and career.