Hedy Lamarr was a lot of things in her lifetime: an actress, inventor, and scientist. She was also said to be “the most beautiful girl in the world.” Lamarr, who was born in 1914 and died in 2000, is the focus of Alexandra Dean’s new documentary “Bombshell.”
The documentary explores how she was often portrayed as just being a “pretty face” because women couldn’t be known for their intellect, just their beauty. While I would like to say this has changed significantly since Lamarr’s death, it hasn’t changed enough.
For starters, did you know that Lamarr patented a “secret communication system” that is the basis for what we now call Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, satellite, and military technology (which was also used during the Cuban Missile Crisis)? She also produced three films–which was unusual for a woman of her time.
However, even today, she is largely known for being a beautiful actress, not a genius. Dean echoed this sentiment at a screening of the documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival this week:
“What shocks me about Hedy’s story is that I feel like she’s a woman from today who wandered accidentally into that time period. Unfortunately, I think she was punished a little bit for that…she was so bold.”
The sad thing is that Lamarr isolated herself at the end of her life, and it may be because of how she was perceived (for her beauty rather than her brains). Can’t blame her. While women like Sheryl Sandberg are known for their intellect, how many more women are just known–or objectified–for being beautiful? Too many. (If you need examples, go here.)
Watch this video we made about Lamarr’s life to find out more: