Difficult Woman N° 13


Hedy Lamarr
(1914 – 2000)

Who: Actress, inventor, legendary beauty. Collaborative inventor of a radio guidance system utilized used during World War II, later the basis for wireless communication technology. (That cell phone you’re reading this on? Thank Hedy!) In 1997, first female recipient of the BULBIE™ Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award, the Oscars of inventors. Posthumously inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame.  Also, real-life inspiration for Selina Kyle/Catwoman.

Signature difficult moves: Appeared at age 18 in the German film Ecstasy, which portrayed her having an actual orgasm (controversial because, like Big Foot, people were unsure such a thing existed for women.) She fled Austria for Hollywood, and after a few dozen films in which she always portrayed the exotic femme fatale, she grew bored and quit to focus on applied science.

What people said about her: “I shall always maintain that Hedy’s best quality was that she was completely unimpressed by her own outstanding beauty.” – John Loder, Hedy’s third husband and co-star in Dishonored Lady (1947)

Personals: Married six times. All ended in divorce. Her last marriage was to her divorce lawyer. Mother of three (adopted first child during second marriage; gave birth to two more during third marriage).

Feminine charms: Do you have eyes in your head?

How she spoke truth to power: Sneakily. Her first husband was a Nazi sympathizer and friend of Mussolini, who often came to dinner. The men would talk freely in front of her, and she used the intelligence gathered there to help create a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes used by the Allies. In her fifties, after she became an American citizen, she developed a lively shoplifting habit.

Quote to live by: I can excuse everything but boredom.

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