Have you heard the song about Hedy Lemarr and wondered who she was?
Hedy Lemarr was better known as a Hollywood actress from the 1940s to the 1950s, but she was also an inventor who loved science and technology.
She adored her father, a banker, who took the time to explain different technologies to her. Although gifted in chemistry, Hedy left school at 15 and soon became an actress.
She became famous for starring in the Czechoslovakian film Ecstasy. During the war, she fled to London where she met the MGM studio head. He agreed to pay her a weekly salary if she’d act in his films. Hedy starred in Algiers, Lady of the Tropics, Boom Town, White Cargo, and later Samson and Delilah.
During this time, the public knew Hedy as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’ and she often appeared on the cover of magazines. She was the muse for Snow White and the original comic character Catwoman.
Hedy often had a dedicated science studio in her house with a drafting table and lab equipment. Her bookshelf was full of engineering and science books. Her son said she loved to solve problems.
She developed a radio system that could not be hacked known as ‘frequency hopping’. This enabled secure radio communication. Today, the fundamentals of this technology are widely used in Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
She explained her idea to composer George Antheil and he understood it immediately, together they documented the idea and signed it off to the Navy.
However, The Navy originally dismissed her invention and instead encouraged her to sell war bonds as the best way to help with the war efforts. It’s believed Hedy’s patriotic efforts raised $343 million in war bonds for her adopted country.
The invention was granted a patent but it had expired when the Navy decided to use it in their military communications. One of the Navy’s contractors was using the idea successfully. Hedy was never financially compensated for her invention, which is estimated to be worth $30 billion today.
Later she met Howard Hughes and he respected her intelligence and talent. He provided her access to his engineering staff to test out her ideas about creating a faster plane. She conducted research on the fastest fish and birds and then suggested they use swift wings instead of box wings on Howard’s aeroplanes.
There were rumours that Hedy was a spy and that she had stolen the invention from the Nazis. However, there is no evidence the Germans were using this technology during the war.
Later on in her life, she was arrested for shoplifting eye drops (the charges were later dropped. It was a misunderstanding and she was acquitted).
Hedy was at the forefront of trying plastic surgery and even suggested some new techniques to her surgeon. However, she had a number of unsuccessful plastic surgeries.
Her autobiography was mostly ghostwritten and she unwittingly signed off on it, without seeing the final version. She sued the publishers for a book riddled with fiction and lies.
As a result of some negative press, she kept to herself and became a recluse. She became legally blind. Fortunately, Fleming Meeks interviewed her on tape for Forbes magazine and she’s been the subject of some more accurate biographies and documentaries.
At the end of her life, she did not want to accept credit for her invention. Her son attended the ceremony in her place. Hedy received the Pioneer Award of the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as the Invention Convention’s Bulbie Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award.
About This Is A Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr
Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp have collaborated on a single from their album 18 to pay homage to the actress and inventor, called “This is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr.”
Johnny asked Jeff to play the lead on a tune he’d written. Beck says it was the catalyst for the collaboration and is one of his favourite songs on the new album. “I was blown away by it,” he says. “That song is one of the reasons I asked him to make an album with me.”
Johnny said, “It’s an extraordinary honour to play and write music with Jeff, one of the true greats and someone I am now privileged enough to call my brother.”
The pair challenge each other in the studio and like to get out of their comfort zones with different songs. “I haven’t had another creative partner like him for ages,” Beck says. “He was a major force on this record. I just hope people will take him seriously as a musician because it’s a hard thing for some people to accept that Johnny Depp can sing rock and roll.”
The pair show an incredible emotional range and musical talent on the album with songs ranging from The Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs,” the Everly Brothers’ ballad “Let It Be Me” and Marvin Gaye’s soul classic “What’s Going On.” You can look forward to enjoying Beck’s guitar prowess with stunning versions of Davy Spillane’s “Midnight Walker” and two songs from the Beach Boys’ masterpiece, Pet Sounds – “Caroline, No” and “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder).”
The duo’s 13-track album, titled 18 has a release date of 15 July 2022. 18 will be available on CD and digitally, with a 180-gram black vinyl version coming on 30 September 2022.
This Is A Song For Miss Hedy Lamarr is an amazing tribute to an intelligent and beautiful woman.
Photo credit: Malcolm Connolly, Supplied by Deuce Music limited