Star Wars Episode III: Hedy Lamarr (YMRT #29) / by Karina Longworth


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Hedy Lamarr was a pioneer in more ways than one. After inventing the movie sex scene scandal as the Austrian teenage star of the banned film Ecstasy, she gave up acting to become a trophy wife to a Fascist arms dealer. Then, on the brink of world war, she fled her marriage, hopped a boat to New York, and talked her way into a contract at MGM. In Hollywood, the exotic Hedy was held up as a fresh new face in contrast to the "box office poison" girls of the late 1930s. With her first Hollywood film, Algiers, Lamarr became a major star, and the so-called "most beautiful girl in the world" had a promising career ahead of her. But she was bored in Hollywood, and in the midst of World War II, she used her free time to co-invent a radio-control technology meant for 1940s-era torpedoes, which would ultimately pave the way for cell phones, wifi, bluetooth, and drone warfare. She also accumulated six ex-husbands, stumbled onto an inventing partner through her quest to increase the size of her breasts, publicly disowned her own autobiography, sued Mel Brooks for making fun of her, and got arrested and tried for shoplifting from a Beverly Hills department store a full decade before Winona Ryder was even born.


Hedy Lamarr is not exactly a household name these days, but there has been enough interest over the past 25 years in her contributions to our wireless culture that I wanted to make sure I wasn't simply retreading familiar territory. The good news is that her life encompassed so much that there would be enough for a full episode even if I had left out her her groundbreaking invention (and in fact, after this episode was in the can, I regretted somewhat not going into more detail about her later marriages, particularly the one to Howard Lee, who divorced Hedy and immediately married Gene Tierney -- the subject of next week's episode). The bad news is that most modern-day sources of information about Hedy both acknowledge that her autobiography Ecstasy and Me was fictionalized by its ghost writer, and also reiterate stories told in that autobiography as though the source's reliability isn't in question. In this episode, I quote from Ecstasy in order to talk about Hedy's opposition to the book, but I tried to find other sources to back up its version of events elsewhere. The two most significant other sources (although both are, at times, guilty of sourcing from Ecstasy and Me) were Hedy's Folly by Richard Rhodes (which isn't very interested in Hedy's movies, or any aspect of her life outside of her inventions, but gets credit for having one of the best book covers of all time), and Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer.


Preludes for Piano No. 1 by George Gershwin

A Froggy Day performed by Cyril Grantham and his orchestra

Goodbye Emmanuelle by Serge Gainsbourg, performed by Tricky

Stars by Warpaint

Au coin de la rue by Marco Raaphorst

Sleeping with the TV On by Double Dagger

White by Frank Ocean

Man O’ War by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

OLPC by Marco Raaphorst

The Operation by Morrissey

The Waxen Pith by Aphex Twin

 Oh, Lady Be Good performed by Teddy Wilson and his Orchestra

No Joy in Mudville by Death Cab For Cutie

Dark Paradise by Lana Del Rey

Divider by Chris Zabriskie

Cylinder One by Chris Zabriskie

The Future by Prince