On Monday, November 9, Susan Sarandon’s production company Reframed Pictures, American Masters and Submarine announced their partnership on a feature-length documentary film about 1940s screen siren Hedy Lamarr (November 9, 1914 – January 19, 2000). Lamarr would have celebrated her 101st birthday on November 9 and is celebrated in a Google Doodle (see video, above).
American Masters — Hedy: The Untold Story of Actress & Inventor Hedy Lamarr (w.t.) will be directed by Alexandra Dean and produced by Katherine Drew and Adam Haggiag. It will be executive produced by Susan Sarandon and Michael Kantor. David Koh and Dan Braun of Submarine will serve as co-producers. The film will be produced in association with THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s American Masters for WNET, and have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere on the American Masters series on PBS. The documentary received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
“This is the story of what happened when a Hollywood actress, defined by her appearance, was secretly a genius and ended up changing the course of history,” said Sarandon.
Hedy Lamarr was the original wild child. Her scandalous nude appearance in the 1933 Czech film Ecstasy made her infamous at the age of 17. She married a prominent Austrian businessman who became a weapons dealer to the Nazis. Lamarr, who was born Jewish, fled her husband in the middle of the night, boarding a boat for America with nothing to her name except a single designer gown. On board, she dazzled MGM boss Louis B. Mayer and convinced him to offer her one of the best contracts in Hollywood. As a movie star, she was considered by many to be “the most beautiful woman in the world.” Songs were written about her beauty. Snow White was modeled on her iconic look. She married six times and had affairs with everyone from Howard Hughes to Spencer Tracy. But 15 years after her death, the world has all but forgotten her.
This documentary will re-discover Hedy Lamarr, not only as an actress but also as a brilliant mind, whose most significant contribution to history has been overlooked. Lamarr was a secret inventor and in the midst of World War II devoted her nights to designing weapons that would help the Allies win the war. Her greatest achievement was a wireless form of communication called “frequency hopping,” which would go on to revolutionize communications all over the world. That patent, which she created with avant-garde composer George Antheil, would go on to pave the way for the creation of wireless phones, Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi. It’s even used by the U.S. Air Force in the multi-billion-dollar Milstar defense satellite system.