Full EpisodeBombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

Hedy Lamarr never publicly talked about her life as an inventor and so her family thought her story died when she did. However, in 2016, director Alexandra Dean and producer Adam Haggiag unearthed four never-before-heard audio tapes of Lamarr speaking on the record about her incredible life, finally giving her the chance to tell her own story.


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♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Indistinct conversations ] -Hedy wanted to do something important with her life.

She wanted to make her mark, but she was totally judged by that face.

-One of the most glamorous stars show business ever has produced... -One of the most glamorous stars the screen has ever known... -And one of the most beautiful women in the world.

-Well, should we all say it together? I think we all know.

-♪ The most beautiful girl in the world ♪ -Hedy Lamarr.

-She becomes the model for Snow White.

-And she inspired Catwoman.

-Oh, my God.

I mean, she was the best-looking movie star that ever lived.

She became my inspiration.

-Thank you. Thank you, Hedy. Thank you.

-It's not Hedy. It's Hedley -- Hedley Lamarr.

-I don't know whether it's true, but you hear things.

I heard that she was a scientist.

So is this true?

-Within the nerd community at Google, Hedy Lamarr was this beloved figure.

For me, she is this perfect underdog, like, crime-fighter-by-night story because she lived this life of great accomplishments, and people didn't really know about it.

-I remember sitting up in a bare attic with my mother.

She said, 'Look, I got a patent.'

'You got a patent, Mom?'

'Yeah.' 'You invented something?'

'Yeah, I invented a secret communication system. Look.'

And today, we have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

That's my mother's technology.

-Do you see? -No.

-Well, it is kind of hard to explain.

-Hedy had one of the most recognizable faces of her time, and yet she said she was never seen for who she was.

So who was she?

♪♪ -Tell me something that I didn't know about you.

-I wanted to be a simple -- I am.

I'm a very simple complicated person.

[ Laughter ] -Can you help her? -Yes, but not here.

-Don't you know what I mean? You know what I mean.

-This book you're writing now, Hedy, are there exciting -- -Incidents, things that nobody ever knew about me.

-Regrets? -Oh, no.

No regrets.

You learn from everything all the time.

-Tell me something about... -When I was a child, she was always working on her story.

She was going to let the world know her version and her story and her autobiography in her words, but yet it never came to be.

-Hedy became a recluse.

She wouldn't even see her family.

-We wanted to spend time with her, but she kept us away.

There was so much scandal.

There were different chapters of scandal.

There was her movie 'Ecstasy' that she made as an adolescent, the nudity and the explicitness of that, and then the multiple marriages and divorces and then the arrests.

-My mother has a hard side and an easy side, and as her son, growing up with Hedy was difficult.

I mean, she had so many sides and so many faces, and even I couldn't understand who Hedy Lamarr was.

♪♪ -I've been waiting for somebody to contact me about Hedy Lamarr because I had the tapes.

♪♪ Where did I find them? It's embarrassing.

I found it behind that blue trash can.

I'd had stuff stowed there, and I moved it out of the way, and there it was.

So in all, there were four tapes, and this is the first one.

Ready?

I was a staff writer at and my father was an astrophysicist at MIT, and he called me one day, and he said, 'I've just talked with this friend of mine here, and he told me this amazing story about Hedy Lamarr.'

And, of course, I pursued it.

[ ] -My mother was very inventive.

In this article, 'Hedy's interest in gadgets really started at the age of 5 when she took an old-fashioned music box apart and put it back together again.'

And this was her childhood music box.

You wind up this little rabbit here, and it plays an Austrian melody.

[ Melody plays ] ♪♪ My mother was curious.

She had a very intellectually curious mind.

She wanted to know how things worked, and her father told her things.

-Although her father's official position was as bank director, he was also interested in technology.

So when they went for their walks, he would point out to her how things worked.

The streetcar, with its electric trolleys, leads these wires to a factory that generates electricity.

She learned to associate invention with this father whom she adored.

-Mm-hmm.

♪♪ -They lived in Vienna in a fashionable district, the 19th District.

It was heavily Jewish but also very artistically inclined.

-Hedy's parents were both assimilated Jews.

That was very common in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

-They were wealthy.

They were cultured.

They took their daughter to the opera, to the theater.

Everyone was connected with this world of make-believe.

[ School bell rings ] -Did you -- Did you -- -In a different era, she might very well have become a scientist.

At the very least, it's an option that was derailed by her beauty.

♪♪ -By the time she was a teenager, when she walked into a room, conversations stopped.

She was probably a little dazzled by this power, testing it out, seeing how it works and so forth.

-There are stories about her heading to the photographer to get her photos taken with and without clothes.

She lived in a society where there were many prominent women who had not only incredible careers but loads of lovers.

Women, especially in the arts, could have certain kinds of liberties that they would not find in a normal bourgeois society.

-Hedy decided one day at the age of 16 that she was ready and went off to the largest film studio and walked in.

Very quickly, within a couple days, they had her in a walk-on.

-[ Speaking foreign language ] -I have seen the little weird Viennese films that she made in the beginning, where she's a little bit awkward but clearly beautiful.

[ Conversing in foreign language ] [ Conversing in foreign language ] But it's clearly the 1933 film 'Ecstasy' that really brought her into everyone's consciousness.

-Hedy became world famous the moment she appeared naked in 'Ecstasy.'

-The Pope denounced it, and Hitler refused it to be shown.

People were just shocked by it.

-It was quite controversial because she simulated an orgasm, and I think it was the first time anybody had ever done that.

-I mean, in some ways, it was analogous to a sex tape.

This was so scandalous and really marked her as this certain type of woman.

-Yes, ma'am. Yeah.

Mm.

♪♪ [ Applause ] ♪♪ -Hedy, as an actress, drew, of course, the attention of many people, and one of those was a man named Fritz Mandl.

-He is the Henry Ford of Austria.

He at that point is 14 years her senior.

He is allied with the Nazis because he's an armaments manufacturer.

-As is it the same today, a lot of wealthy men would like to decorate themselves with beautiful women, and I think she was, for a minute, fascinated with that, as well.

♪♪ -Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm.

[ Laughs ] -Hedy was Mandl's armpiece at the banquets that he served for admirals in the German and Italian Navy.

She sat there, and it was her job to be beautiful, but she was bored out of her mind.

Fritz Mandl was, by German measures, Jewish, and therefore, Hitler was concerned not to be seen with him.

I doubt very much if Hitler was a guest in one of their houses, but Mussolini was.

♪♪ -Mm-hmm.

-Fritz did not like the effect that his beautiful wife had on other men.

-He was immensely jealous and paranoid about his wife.

He was constantly convinced that she might be having an affair.

Mandl had the problem of this film, this dirty picture, which he tried to buy up, and they started cranking them out by the dozens, and he eventually gave up because, obviously, they could make as many copies as he chose to buy.

He turned out to be someone who had the maids listen in on her phone calls.

She had everything she could ever want, except the one thing that Hedwig Kiesler always wanted, which was freedom.

♪♪ -By 1937, the war was inevitable, and she was in a desperate situation.

-When 'Ecstasy' was released, Hitler told the American press he was banning it because the lead actress was Jewish.

♪♪ -Jewish people were not allowed out on streets at certain times of the day, and gradually, they were denied more and more civil rights.

And this is one thing that lead to Hedy's father, Emil's, death was his stress and worry about what was happening.

-He died suddenly from a heart attack, and I think that was the turning point for her.

Deep traumatic experiences change us, and she came out the other side remembering what her father had advised her from childhood -- Be yourself.

Choose and take what you want.

Which was certainly Hedy's quality all her life.

-There are stories, whether they're apocryphal or not -- who knows -- but almost like a prison escape.

-Here you had people watching her all the time.

There was no way to break loose.

So one night, they were having a dinner party, and my mother helped choose the maids and caretakers, and so, she found someone that looked like her a lot, because she had this in mind.

So she had this sleeping powder, and she made this tea, and she switched the cups with the maid, and the maid drank it and kind of fell asleep, and my mother was all ready.

She took all her jewels, put them in the lining of her coats.

She put on the maid's costume.

She jumped on her bicycle and rode off.

[ Train whistle blows ] -Mm-hmm.

-Pre-war London was a safe haven.

Hedy spent several months there trying to figure out her next steps.

-Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm.

-She quickly found an American film agent.

-Mm-hmm.

-Louis B. Mayer of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had come to Europe to buy up all the actors and actresses who were escaping Nazi Germany.

He had figured he could take them back to Hollywood, enslave them in his Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer empire for a cheap price.

-He offered her $125 a week and reminded her that she had to keep her clothes on.

-And she said, 'I'm sorry. That's not good enough' and walked out, which impressed him, I'm sure.

People didn't usually turn down Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

But minutes after she walked out, she had second thoughts and quickly booked passage on the the ship Mayer was sailing back to New York.

She, I think, probably rather cleverly made sure that she saw him about the decks in her tennis clothes and so forth, in her bathing suit.

-On the first or second night out, Hedy went to her very modest cabin and pulled out her designer couturier gown, and she put on the last baubles that she owned, and she walked through the dining room of the past Louis B. Mayer's table.

[ Indistinct conversations ] There's Douglas Fairbanks Jr. sitting right there, and his eyes are glued to Hedy Lamarr, as are the eyes of every man and woman in that dining room, and Louis B. Mayer knew he had to have her.

-Hedy Kiesler... we got to do something about the name.

So Louis B. Mayer's wife was there, and she said, 'Well, Barbara Lamarr is one of my favorites.

Why not Hedy Lamarr?'

'La mer, the sea -- perfect. Let's be Hedy Lamarr.'

-She didn't speak a word of English.

She learned those few lines on the boat to convince Louis B. Mayer that he should hire her as an actress.

She created her own reality, and I find that really fascinating.

-Mm-hmm.

-She stepped off the ship in New York to crowds of flashing light bulbs, reporters firing questions at her as Hedy Lamarr, the latest discovery of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

♪♪ -Hello, everybody.

This is Hedda Hopper reporting to you from Hollywood, that fabulous place where everyone wants to live but seldom does.

-♪ I feel when I met you ♪ I got a lucky break -In Hollywood, she was kicking her heels and listening to music and being free.

She was a little bit worried because the contract, they had kind of a trial time before they used her, and she wasn't getting y movies or parts, and she was very insecure that they didn't want her, escially since she made 'Ecstasy' and that was kind of a black mark on her.

-Right from the beginning, one of her first interviews is with Hedda Hopper, who was the famous gossip columnist.

That's where she does her greatest acting, is for Hedda Hopper, crying tears about how she was forced into this nude scene and somehow perverted by these European filmmakers who have no morals whatsoever.

-♪ Gee, but you're a revelation ♪ -And then my mother went to a party by chance one night, and Charles Boyer was there, and he was smitten by her, and he said, 'Can you be in my movie?'

'Oh, no, no, no. My English isn't good enough, no.'

And he took her hand and kissed it, and he said, 'I'll hold your hand through the whole film.'

'You will?' 'Yes.'

'All right. I'll do it.'

So that's how that started.

♪♪ -Charles Boyer was a diamond thief.

She had diamonds.

He thought she was a wealthy noble-born French woman.

He didn't realize that she was another scamp like him from the streets of Paris.

There's a wonderful line in the film where he says, 'What did you do before?'

-Before what?

-Before the jewels.

-I wanted them.

-That film made her a star instantly.

-When I was a kid, I saw her in 'Algiers.'

I said, 'I'm going to get to Hollywood, and I'm going to marry her, and if I don't get to marry her, I'll get to buy dinner and feel her up under the table.

Whatever I can get.'

-After 'Algiers,' Hedy Lamarr was on the cover of all the movie magazines.

Suddenly, you have in Hollywood, a lot of women parting their hair in the middle, darkening it, and changing their makeup to be little Hedy Lamarrs.

-Every woman wanted to be Hedy, and every man wanted to date her.

-She seduced men and women.

-She was able to meet artists, directors, brilliant actors -- the greats at that time.

-Mm-hmm.

-No matter what, you expect Hedy Lamarr to be glamorous, sophisticated.

Quite the opposite. She loved picnics.

She loved to go scavenger hunting.

She loved to play charades.

She wasn't very good at it, but she had a great time.

You know, no pretenses.

She was fun to be with.

-At that point, she could have married anyone.

She surprised her fans by choosing a portly screenwriter and producer named Gene Markey.

Her letters show she was madly in love with him.

-'Dearest Mommy, I never would have thought that I could ever fall in love again.

Gene has an unbelievable number of traits in common with dad.

So considerate. It's touching.'

-He promised Hedy he'd write screenplays with her.

They even adopted a son.

But within months of their marriage, he began dating other beautiful actresses.

Hedy was heartbroken.

She said people never got past her face.

You never knew if they loved you or their fantasy of you.

-'A man does not try to find out what is inside.

He does not try to scratch the surface.

If he did, he might find something much more beautiful than the shape of a nose or the color of an eye.'

-Only a year after 'Algiers,' not only was her marriage failing, her career was in trouble, as well.

-She was terribly unhappy with the films she did for MGM because Louis B. Mayer gave her bad scripts, and the films did nothing.

-You never got very much out of this, did you?

-I got plenty.

All I asked for, except the frosting.

-Hedy actually went to Louis B. Mayer and petitioned for a role in 'Boom Town.'

-And I'm going to do it because I want to.

-It was a small part, and Louis B. Mayer at first was reluctant.

-Okay, stranger.

-'Boom Town' was a huge, tremendous success for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

After 'Boom Town,' Hedy Lamarr's career was secured.

It's almost unfathomable how busy she was in 1940.

-They were expected to do what the studio wanted.

Bette Davis described it as a slave system, and they were owned in the sense that they had signed contracts that bound them to studios for seven-year periods.

-My mother was worked like a race horse.

She had to run fast all the time.

They give her pills to wake her up to perform.

-Pretty sure it was some form of speed, and then to make them sleep, they gave them sleeping pills.

-They worked six days a week.

Women really had to get to the studio early because they had to have their hair done, their makeup put on, their costumes put on, and then, you know, they worked into the night.

-And here's what's remarkable -- After a grueling day on the set, Hedy didn't go to bed.

She wasn't socializing.

Hedy was at home working on her latest invention.

♪♪ Inventing was her hobby.

She not only had a complete inventing table set up in her house, but Howard Hughes gave her a small version of the set of equipment which he had in the trailer where she stayed in between takes in her motion pictures.

-When Hedy first met Howard Hughes, he was dating every Hollywood star, and she did date him.

-Howard Hughes, of course, was a great airplane designer, so probably, they had a compatible spirit with one another.

-It was definitely cerebral because she said he was the worst lover she ever had.

-Howard Hughes wanted to build the fastest planes in the world so he could sell them to the Air Force.

-She was fascinated by his mind and his factories, and she wanted to go and see where everything was being made and built.

She met all the scientists.

He said to her, 'Anything you want my scientists to do for you, just ask them, and they will do it.'

-Mm-hmm.

Mm-hmm.

♪♪ Mm-hmm.

-She invented during that period a tablet that would fizz up and make a cola.

♪♪ -What must have been going through the mind of this young woman?

She has become a huge international film star, but at the very same time, her country, the past as she has known it, has been eliminated.

[ Gunshots, men shouting ] -In 1940, the war was raging in Europe, and the United States was a neutral country, and Hitler was basically taking over all of western Europe and threatening to take over Great Britain.

-If only I could do something. -Oh, darling, you've done so much already.

You almost made me forget about being afraid.

Oh, I am afraid now.

-She did have a secret.

When Hedy arrived at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Louis B. Mayer specifically ordered all of his stars not to talk about their religious backgrounds.

-People would say, 'You're Jewish.'

I'm like, 'No,' and I called Mom and said, 'Mom, are we Jewish?'

And she said, 'Don't be ridiculous.'

-I never heard the word 'Jewish' from my mother's lips.

The Jewish part of her, she just left behind.

-She was probably afraid for many reasons, and I could feel it.

I could see that she was protecting herself.

I became a manicurist.

That's how I met Hedy.

-I told her that I survived the war with camps and running for my life.

We talked about what was going on and how I come to America.

I find myself on an American ship.

I was shaking with fear because we heard noises.

We were attacked by the Nazi submarines.

I remember saying, 'Oh, dear God, please don't kill me now.

Let me see America.'

-At the time, Hedy's mother was preparing to make the treacherous Atlantic crossing herself.

She'd fled Austria and gotten as far as London, where she and Hedy were able to write each other.

-'Mummy, my mind is so preoccupied, and I would love it if you could come immediately since the times, they are very uncertain.

I have been listening to the radio day and night for over a week, and I've gotten barely any sleep.'

-One day in the summer of 1940, a shipload of children was torpedoed, all hands lost, including 83 children.

At the time, the German U-boats were on the verge of winning the war.

They seemed to be unsinkable because they easily outmaneuvered the outdated British torpedoes.

In times of crisis, most of us feel powerless, but a few discover in themselves unexpected strength, and Hedy being Hedy, she said, 'I'm going to do something about that.'

-So in this article, Hedy says, 'I got the idea for my invention when I tried to think of some way to even the balance for the British.

A radio-controlled torpedo, I thought, would do it.'

-A torpedo launched on a given trajectory might need to be changed, redirected.

You want, ideally, your launching boat to communicate with the torpedo.

-The problem is, you can't control radio communications.

They're not secure.

-Your enemy, if they are smart, finds the frequency with which you're talking to the torpedo and jams it.

-She came up with the idea of a secret way of guiding that torpedo to the target that couldn't be interrupted, that couldn't be jammed, that couldn't be messed with.

It was secret.

-Instead of just one transmit frequency communicating, she said, 'What if we change those frequencies constantly and sync with each other?'

Frequency hopping.

You couldn't jam it because you'd only jam a split second of it in a single frequency.

So frequency change, frequency hop, frequency hop, frequency hop.

That concept, secure radio communications, was brilliant.

-Now, there are various versions of how she came up with her profoundly original idea.

One theory is that she stole it.

The man who championed that idea was an engineer who once interviewed her, named Robert Price.

-Robert Price was a pioneer in secret communications, and he gave me his number, and I called him up.

Mm-hmm.

-Hedy's first husband was an illustrious leading munitions manufacturer.

Robert Price said to me that he thought that she just smuggled the idea out of her husband's board room.

In fact, he called her the Mata Hari of World War II, the most notorious spy who seduced men and got all kinds of secrets out of them.

The engineers at Mandl's firm might just have known about the frequency hopping.

-Yeah.

-The record is very clear that the Germans had not come across the idea that would be Hedy's single contribution, what she called frequency hopping.

-I don't think she was a spy.

Yes.

-I think Hedy got her idea from a curious coincidence that, in 1939, the Philco Radio Company produced a new, top-of-the-line remote control.

-There's a new gadget just out, see?

You dial your station here, and you hear it over there.

-Well, where are the wires? -There ain't no wires.

That's the trick.

-We know Hedy was interested in the remote control and how it worked because the device is sketched in the invention notebooks.

-In here is all the evidence of my mother's invention.

It's this.

She dialed in a radio station, and she said, 'If we hop around frequencies just like I'm hopping around radio stations on this dialer, when I transmit this information to the torpedo, we can make it totally secret.'

So the Philco Magic Box probably inspired the whole thing.

[ Frequencies transmitting ] -The fact that she understands this frequency component of the signal and how that changes is, I mean, genius in a way.

I mean, we know Thomas Edison was not an engineer.

You don't have to have eight years of graduate degree in engineering in order to come up with something new.

-In the inventing process, there is a moment of high lucidity or clear thinking.

In the case of Hedy, she had this lucid moment without knowing how she was going to put it together.

She didn't have the training to make it happen, and she said that, 'The idea was mine, but the implementation was George's.'

-My mother met George Antheil at Janet Gaynor's party, and she liked George Antheil a lot, so when she left the party early, she wrote her phone number in lipstick on the windshield of his car.

-They discovered that they had a great deal in common.

-At the time, I think they both felt like they were not understood for their true qualities.

-George Antheil was really quite an unusual American composer, extremely avant-garde.

-Musicians all over the world love to play Antheil's music.

They love to get into that confrontational space that was his.

-He had a gun, and he would pull it out, and he would bang it down on the piano right at the beginning of the show and shout, 'Lock the doors.'

-Sometimes it sounds like his music is jazz put into a queasy note.

It's just, you know, chopped up, and then there it is.

[ Piano playing ] -Well, George Antheil wrote a book called 'Bad Boy Of Music,' and in chapter 32, 'Hedy Lamarr and I invent a radio torpedo.'

He says, 'We began talking about the war, which in the late summer of 1940 was looking most extremely black.

Hedy said that she did not feel comfortable sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state and that she was thinking seriously of quitting MGM and going to Washington D.C. to offer her services to the newly established Inventors Council.'

-She was very patriotic. She loved America.

She was grateful to be here, and she wanted Hitler dead.

So did George Antheil.

-George had a kid brother, 12 years younger, whose name was Henry.

1941, he boarded a plane, and, moments later, the plane was shot down by two Soviet fighters.

This is the first American killed in World War II.

-George -- he was just devastated.

He wanted revenge for his brother's assassination and opportunity with someone who knew what she was talking about.

-Hedy and George worked on three inventions together, all weapons meant to help the Allies fight Germany.

-I have letters from George Antheil.

In one of the letters, she wrote all she wants to do is stay home an invent things.

'She is an incredible combination of childish ignorance and definite flashes of genius.

She calls in the middle of the night because an idea hit her.'

So my mother was a pest. She had to invent.

She had to invent, and she pulled George Antheil in with her.

-The most successful of their inventions was a secret communication system based on Hedy's idea of frequency hopping.

-George is taking all these notes.

I think there was some sort of 'Aha' moment where he said, 'You know, I have this system,' I guess he got from dealing with player pianos, 'that we might be able to adapt and make your concept work.'

-George Antheil got thrown out of Trenton High School when he was 17, so he had no special training in engineering.

What he did know was how to synchronize player pianos.

-George's most famous composition was for a film called, 'Ballet Mécanique.'

He scored it for 16 player pianos.

-George's big realization was, 'If piano rolls can activate piano keys, why couldn'they activate radio frequencies in both torpedo and the ship?'

-The basic idea is that by using two miniature piano rolls that would start at the same moment and turn at the same speed, a ship and a torpedo could secretly communicate on the same pattern of frequencies.

-Ultimately, Hedy and George wanted their torpedo and ship to communicate on 88 different frequencies, like an encryption system, basically, that nobody could crack.

-Wonderfully clever idea, and the Inventors Council agreed.

-The members of the National Inventors Council... -And it was the council of actual engineers with a major inventor in his own right, Charles Kettering, who was struck by the value and the originality of Hedy and George's idea, so they helped George and Hedy by connecting them up with a physicist at Caltech in California who was an expert on electronics, and he presumably designed the electronics part of this device.

The day came when this invention was issued a full patent.

♪♪ Hedy and George donated their invention to the National Inventors Council, but it was generally understood that if the military used an invention, the inventors would be paid.

They gave it to the Navy, and as George Antheil liked to tell the story later, 'I went in to see the Navy brass, and they threw the patent on the desk and said, 'What do you want to do, put a player piano in a torpedo?

Get out of here.'

And that was that.

-Sons of bitches.

Shame, shame on them.

Well, that's why I was in the Army, because the Navy was never that bright.

♪♪ After the Navy rejected their invention, Hedy wanted to continue developing it, but George, who always had bills to pay, wasn't interested.

-I think George was very proud that he had done it, but I think he just got over it.

I think that, for Hedy, she saw it as perhaps her ticket to be recognized for the brilliant woman that she was.

♪♪ -And the patent, like all things submitted to the military, was put in a safe somewhere and labeled top secret, so it disappeared from the world for the rest of the war.

The Navy basically told her, 'You know, you'd be helping the war a lot more, little lady, if you got out and sold war bonds rather than sat around trying to invent new kinds of torpedoes.

Leave that to the experts. Get out there and raise money.'

-You don't get to be Hedy Lamarr smart.

No. [ Laughs ] No.

[ Train bell dinging ] ♪♪ -Hedy used to go to the Hollywood Canteen and entertain the troops.

-Hedy Lamarr hands out autographs.

-She was not yet an American citizen, and she was there working on behalf of the United States and its soldiers every night, as often as she could be.

It's a great thing, really.

-Hedy sold something like $25 million worth of war bonds, which, if you translate that into modern dollars, comes out around $343 million worth of war bonds.

-To be told to just raise money for the war is unfortunate.

That was the way that people thought that she would do good in the best way, within her realm of capabilities.

-F-35.

Somebody have it? -I got it.

-Go ahead.

[ Men shouting ] -'Go and sell a kiss to a strange man.'

Maybe she would have felt a little bit better about her accomplishments if she received recognition for her intellect.

-You'll get used to it.

-I don't want to get used to it. I have my own life.

My own life!

-To add insult to injury, the U.S. government seized Hedy's patent in 1942 as the property of an enemy alien.

♪♪ -I am Tondelayo.

-After she did the invention, what did Louis B. Mayer offer Hedy Lamarr?

[ Phonograph plays ] 'White Cargo.'

♪♪ We were at war by then, and Louis B. Mayer wanted to entertain the servicemen who would pay money to see what was considered a dirty picture.

[ Feet tapping ] -Louis B. Mayer divided the world into two kinds of women -- Madonna and whore.

I don't think he ever believed she was anything but the latter because of 'Ecstasy.'

-You better go now.

-Audiences ate it up.

This was a woman who had tried to change the course of the war.

Now she found herself in a third-rate film as a distraction for the troops.

Hedy really struggled to make her mark in Hollywood.

She knew she wasn't respected like a Garbo or a Dietrich.

-She wanted to have roles that allowed her to do something more and to give her an acting challenge, so that brought her in some conflict with Louis B. Mayer.

-He sued her a couple times.

I mean, he tried to keep her on a very tight leash.

She didn't let herself be kept on a tight leash, and there were always problems, and she got the reputation of being difficult.

♪♪ -She needed to be free.

I think she was brave and courageous.

She felt like, 'I'm going to do it for myself.

I'm going to live the way I bloody want to live my own life.'

-So she said, 'You know what? I'll make my own movie.

I'll produce my own movie.'

-I don't really recall anybody except Hedy went out and actually produced a movie.

It was very unusual in 1946.

-The system didn't welcome it.

They didn't want movie stars going out of control and producing their own films -- what a terrible idea -- especially the women.

-She was so ahead of her time with being a feminist.

She's never been called that, but she certainly was.

-Don't worry about me.

I can handle trouble.

-I know you can.

-And then she coproduced 'Dishonored Lady,' and I think that both films were produced very well.

♪♪ -She made 'Dishonored Lady' with my father.

It's the only movie they were in together.

-I've always wondered if it were possible for people like you and me... -This was a time when America was recovering from World War II, and like the rest of the country, she, too, wanted a family and a home life.

-I think, you know, he was quite a bit older and British.

I don't think he was the love of her life.

I think she had said he was stuffy and boring.

-You know, you're not at all what I imagined.

-No? -No.

-So this is a letter from George Antheil.

'The last time I saw Hedy, she looked paler.

Something is troubling her.

John Loder is really and honestly too dull for this sparkling and unbelievable diamond,' and I think he hit the nail on the head with that one.

She was independent. She was the breadwinner.

She wasn't stuck in a marriage.

-Will you please go? -Of course I'll go.

-I think he left, I was a toddler and Tony was a baby, and I never heard from him.

-She was a single mother in the '40s, so she was basically alone.

-When we were little, she was the most charming, lovely person I could imagine.

-And so nice and warm and loving.

And she opened my hands that were held in a ball, 'Relax. Don't go to sleep angry.'

She was just such a great mother.

-Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Yes.

Mm-hmm.

-My mother worked her ass off. She had to earn a living.

She was on her own.

It was such pressure.

-At least she didn't have to worry about Granny.

By then, she'd made it safely to California, and Mom paid for her to live nearby.

-Financially, Hedy wasn't in the best of shape.

She did two independent films. She made a lousy comedy.

And she knew she was going in the gutter career-wise.

She needed a breath of fresh air, and just by a stroke of luck, her agent at the time mentioned, 'Well, I was talking to C.B. the other day.'

Cecil B. DeMille -- great motion picture producer.

He was just beginning his biblical epics of sex and sand.

And Hedy called Cecil B. DeMille and said, 'I understand you're casting for a new motion picture.

I am Delilah.'

-No man leaves Delilah.

♪♪ -Look at her, Samson. Look well.

Satan himself taught her all the arts of deception.

-Howard Hawks had a great line about DeMille.

He says, 'You know, DeMille is so bad, he's almost good,' But anyway, 'Samson and Delilah' was a huge hit.

I think it was her biggest success.

-It thoroughly revived Hedy's name into the public consciousness.

-'Samson and Delilah' was the second highest grossing film of the decade.

Only 'Gone With the Wind' surpassed it.

Hedy took notice.

She decided to produce her own epic in the style of DeMille.

She would film it in Italy and title it the 'Loves of Three Queens.'

-Aah!

-[ Gasps ] -Hedy played all three lead roles.

The subject was beauty and how it got in the way of love for the great women of history.

-They're leading you into a trap.

Oh, Napoleon, you are blind.

-There is no choice.

-It was a huge production.

She didn't have the training to take on a project of this size, and when she was finished with it, she couldn't find distribution in the United States.

-She spent millions of dollars on it.

No one would touch it.

She lost all her money. She found herself with nothing.

-She's no longer a star, and she doesn't really have any money.

-She was in Houston for an event, and she ran into Howard Lee, the oil man, and then I found out my name was now Tony Lee, and we were living in Texas.

♪♪ -♪ Me and you are like a wildfire burning ♪ ♪ Me and you are... -Mom actually had a Texas twang with a Viennese accent.

It was hilarious.

He was a nice guy.

I really kind of felt Texan for a while.

-In Texas, Hedy found herself a trophy wife again.

-You know, Texas was retirement, but a creative person needs something to do.

She didn't have much to do.

-♪ As the sparks were flying in the dark ♪ -We went on vacation in Aspen, Colorado.

-She wanted to build a ski resort, so she convinced Howard to buy some land.

It was all Austrian. It's beautiful.

She spent years making that place.

-She created some of her homeland.

That's why it meant a lot to her.

She was really, I think, homesick.

It was after that that everything started falling apart.

Their relationship wasn't good.

It was pretty traumatic. He was an alcoholic.

♪♪ -While her son was in the hospital near death, Hedy was called to testify in divorce court.

Stressed and traumatized to the point of breakdown, she sent her Hollywood body double to testify in her place.

She infuriated the judge, who punished her by cutting her share of the divorce settlement.

♪♪ -She said Emil, her father, was her greatest love, or no one could compare to him.

Well, he knew her before she was this celebrity, and so she felt real love there, and I don't know if she felt that again.

-Hedy had two more husbands in her life.

Neither marriage lasted much more than a year.

-I wish my mother had a husband who knew how to love her, but she never did.

When I ended up living with her after Texas, it was very, very tricky, very hard.

-A lot of stars from the studio system did carry over this addiction to pep pills -- speed.

It does explain, in hindsight, a lot of her behavior.

-♪ I got me a man named Dr. Feelgood ♪ -There are always a great many rumors about her connection to the famous Dr. Feelgood.

-♪ Dr. Feelgood -Dr. Feelgood was Max Jacobson.

Look at the Aretha Franklin song -- 'Oh, Dr. Feelgood, please make me feel good.'

Everybody called him Dr. Feelgood because he made them feel good.

Hedy Lamarr became a patient of his from the 1950s until Max Jacobson lost his medical license in 1974.

-What do you mean?

-He said, 'Oh, you should try these vitamin B shots.

They give you so much energy.'

-What Max Jacobson said is they were special vitamin elixirs, and he loaded up a vial with 40 milligrams of methamphetamine.

Meth was legal, and he gave Hedy a shot.

And the thing about methamphetamine is, once you get a couple of shots, you're hooked because the brain will demand more and more of that reward.

-So she got hooked on these vitamins, and they turned her into a monster.

I was standing in the kitchen, and she was holding a fork, and she dropped it, and, all of a sudden, she just hauls off and, bam, smashes me across the face.

'Whenever I drop something, you pick it up!'

You know, she was just out of control.

-Now I can be forgiving for all that erratic behavior because, in a way, she was a victim of the very system that made her famous.

♪♪ -Thank you very much. Howdy-hi, Shindiggers.

I'm Jimmy O'Neill, and tonight, it's my great pleasure to introduce the beautiful Miss Hedy Lamarr.

[ Cheers and applause ] -Of course, anyone growing up in Hollywood in the early '60s was aware of her as the kind of caricature of herself that she had become.

Lucille Ball, I remember, used to do an outrageous takeoff of Tondelayo.

[ Laughter ] [ Applause ] ♪♪ -I am Tondelayo.

-I think it was offensive to her.

She didn't want to be a joke.

Mom was not in a good way.

I was away at college.

I remember one day walking to school at Cal with my books, and I walked past a newsstand, and there's a picture of mom in jail.

-Mrs. Lamarr was shopping at the May Company Department Store and evidently was arrested by one of the security personnel of the store, and it was apparent that she had something like approximately $14,000 on her, but she had still taken about $80 worth of merchandise.

-When you see that on the front page, it's like you want to just crawl in a hole.

-The defendant is quoted as saying, 'I didn't meant to steal anything.

I'll be glad to pay for the items.

I have the money.'

-She was acquitted for that.

She said it was a misunderstanding.

Who knows?

You know, a lot of people handle stress in different ways.

-It was a shock.

She was such a big star.

She seemed so untouchable to be reduced to that, and I think that most people thought, 'It must be a kind of mental illness.'

-I want to see the store manager!

No, I want to see the store manager!

-You're not seeing the store manager.

-Andy Warhol's school of filmmaking makes a film that is very obviously lampooning her image, and she becomes, essentially, a punch line.

The shoplifting also resulted in her inability to play her final role.

-She was signed to do 'Picture Mommy Dead,' and Zsa Zsa Gabor stepped in to replace her.

-They just fired me.

-Were you shocked?

-No, I'm not shocked at that.

No.

-This is going to go into your book, I trust.

-Oh, yes, indeed.

-What's the name of that book?

-The longer I wait, the better the book gets.

-Somebody suggested doing her autobiography, that she should do it.

She had no interest in the book itself, but she wanted the money from it.

-There really hadn't been any sort of scandalous tell-all.

She spoke with ghostwriters for many, many hours about her past, and then they translated her memories into a narrative.

-I think her business manager was paid off to get all this stuff past her, and she didn't want to deal with paperwork, so she just trusted him.

-Your book, called 'Ecstasy And Me'... -Don't talk about that. That's not book.

-You wrote it. -No.

-Did that hurt your image in Hollywood?

-I don't know what is an image.

I mean, what's your image, Woody?

-What's mine? The same as yours.

-Okay, now, you want me to tell you what your image is?

-Yeah. -It's a glamorous, beautiful, internationally-known star who obviously rides in limousines and has great jewels, and you don't scrub your kitchen floors.

-I don't like that, no, but tell me more.

I never lived that way.

-Isn't that what it's all about?

-No, not to me.

I guess in the image, it is.

-She was known for her glamour and her beauty.

It was impossible to live up to as she got older.

She would see that, and you knew that it disturbed her.

-She started having plastic surgery in her 40s.

-One of her plastic surgeons told me once that she was a groundbreaker, even in plastic surgery, where she came up with ideas.

She said, 'My arms are creepy, and I want you cut here, right in the line of the fold, and I want you to get rid of the excess skin and leave the scar here.

Leave the scar on my knee behind my knee.

Put the scar behind my ear.'

And they did it, and the surgeon said, 'You know, a lot of these things she did we were never doing before.'

-You'll mention her to an older plastic surgeon, and they remember all their actresses coming in, saying, 'You know, well, Hedy, she had this done.

Can I get this done, too?'

She was really one of the first women out there saying, 'Why isn't this possible? Why can't we do this?'

-She looked wonderful for her age, but all of that didn't work because people still wanted that old image of Hedy Lamarr.

You know, the only thing that would have solved the problem is if she died young.

-People were cruel to her.

People would come up and say, 'You so beautiful.'

The press was mean.

-I said, 'Oh, mom. I feel -- I really have empathy for that pressure on you.'

So no wonder she kind of hid away.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -We met in person two times in my life.

She would send me autographed pictures of herself.

You know?

Which they're mostly, like, those studio prints.

Even though she says it was a curse, that's what people liked and loved about her, and then she, for some reason, I think she thought even her family, her grandchildren, her children, want that.

♪♪ -She did a lot of, sadly, not-so-good plastic surgery in her later years, each one fixing the flaws of the last, and she no longer went out in public.

-And then the money started running out because she only got something from Screen Actors Guild and Social Security.

-In 1969, Hedy had written to a friend in the Navy asking if he could find out what happened to her patent.

'Lawrence..., Washington Patent Office, has an invention of mine, a missile-guided torpedo.

Maybe you can get it.'

So this was important to her.

-His reply has been lost, but she probably learned that her idea, frequency hopping, had been put to use in military communications.

By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Kennedy sent Navy ships to blockade Cuba, the ships that were running the blockade were all equipped with frequency-hopped radios.

-When she found out that the patent was used, she thought, 'Hey, I should be making some money from this.'

-For Hedy to be paid, the Navy had to use her patent before it expired in 1959, and there's evidence they did give it to a contractor.

-Romulus Scibor sent me an e-mail, and he said -- it was about '55 -- he said he was handed that patent and they were tasked to create a sonobuoy.

-A sonobuoy is a floating submarine detection device.

Someone in the Navy found the patent and thought, 'Well, I don't know if there's anything here, but let's toss them to a contractor.'

-And he took that patent and used it as the basis for communications from the sonobuoy in the water to a passing naval airplane that would also be secure.

-The inventor of the sonobuoy had a website where he paid tribute to Marchocki-Antheil invention.

-Will you take a look? -Sure.

-'Attributating the... Romuald Scibor-Marchocki.'

No, I haven't seen this.

'I designed the sonobuoy, one of the first deployments of frequency hopping.'

Then he goes on to write about surveillance drones.

'At Aerojet-General, I was the systems manager building the surveillance drone which eventually flew over Vietnam.'

'I personally designed the reliable and secure two-way radio communication system.

For the first time, we had the ability to switch frequencies rapidly.

Now that I know who invented frequency hopping, I, who was the only person who remembers those early applications of this concept, want to express my sincere admiration and belated thanks to Hedy Lamarr.'

♪♪ How about them apples?

-She should have gotten paid.

♪♪ ♪♪ -There she is, the Tyrolean beauty.

♪♪ -Toward the end of '85, she began to reflect.

She began to have insight.

♪♪ -Yep.

♪♪ -She always talked about writing her autobiography and wanting to get the story out about who the real Hedy Lamarr was, not the Hedy Lamarr in the movies, which I think she often thought movies were really trivial.

[ ] The article I wrote, I'd like to think that that really a part of how she gained recognition.

-So 'Forbes' magazine, May 1990, this is the first time the mainstream press released the information that Hedy was, 'Glamorous, yes. Stupid, no.'

I called her, and I said, 'You know, Mom, people are interested in what you thought of back in '42.'

She said, 'It's about time.'

-The first to pick up Hedy's story were people in the communications industry, because they realized frequency hopping was revolutionary.

It was already finding its way into GPS, Wi-Fi technology, Bluetooth, and billion-dollar military satellites.

-Five, four, three, Atlas engine ignition, one, zero, and liftoff!

-The Milstar satellite system provides protected, secure communications for the president of the United States and high-priority military users.

The work that Hedy Lamarr did in her patent, Milstar took that technology in order to implement frequency hopping on the system, and that's what we trust our most important nuclear command and control messages with.

-The Navy, Milstar, and Lockheed Martin actually gave Hedy an award, thanking her for coming up with her idea, and when I called her, I said, 'Mom, they're going to give you an award,' but she just didn't want to be seen.

-The award I'm about to present is in recognition of a famous actress turned inventor -- Hedy Lamarr.

[ Light laughter ] -I gave a talk to about 800 people, but right in the middle of it... If I have seen farther... [ Cellphone ringing ] Oh, my God.

[ Laughter ] Are you serious?

[ Ringing continues ] My mother's here, too. I'll tell you... Hello?

How did it go? I'm in the middle of it.

[ Laughter ] [ Applause ] I just said, 'Mom, if you could say something, what would you say?'

And this is what she said.

[ Applause ] And they all stood up and clapped.

I thought it was really great.

She would have loved to be remembered as someone who contributed to the well-being of humankind.

-She did make her mark.

It's the one thing she did for other people that she's going to be long, long remembered for.

♪♪ -It was New Year's, January 1, 2000.

She called my sister and I separately, 'Turn on the TV. It's Vienna, Vienna! You'll see Vienna.'

And so, we turned on the TV, and the Viennese Symphony Orchestra was playing on TV.

[ Orchestra playing ] ♪♪ She died a few days later.

She fell asleep, and she just didn't wake up.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -♪ She ♪ She ♪ She ♪ She ♪ She cut a hole in the fence, and she ran ♪ -Good morning.

-♪ She left a troublesome prison behind ♪ -'American Masters.'

-♪ She didn't want to fuel the fire ♪ -Pbbt! Whoo!

-♪ She didn't want to lose her desire ♪ ♪ She ♪♪