“I must quit marrying men who feel inferior to me. Somewhere there must be a man who could be my husband and not feel inferior. I need a superior inferior man.”
Nice quote, coming from someone who got married six times! When I heard that the woman who played the first orgasm in mainstream cinema was also the co-inventor of one of the key contributions to develop WIFI technology… Well, I thought it was a story worth spreading! I mean, sex and internet: two of my favorite things in life. Here we have a complete pioneer:
Born in Austria as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, Lamarr began her life as an actress at 17 years. In 1932 she starred in German film Ekstase (Ecstasy) directed by Gustav Machaty. The film and Lamarr became notorious for her performance in a controversial love-making scene, showing Lamarr´s face while she is having an orgasm (min 1:40). This scene was a key inspiration for my XConfessions film SPECTROPHILIA . Watch it and compare! You’ll probably be as amazed as I was the first time with its explicitness, considering the times:
The film made history for a second time in Cinema with a brief, but close-up scene of Lamarr nude, swimming and running through the woods. Her nipples caused as much controversy as Miley Cyrus and her boobs cause today. Maybe we haven´t come quite as far as we first thought!
But Lamarr had a husband, and not a very nice one. He was Friedrich Mandl, a munition manufacturer and reputed third richest man in Austria, with close ties to Hitler and Mussolini. Two gentlemen who were indeed invited to dinner parties in the Mandl residence… Lamarr described her husband as a chauvinistic control freak, preventing her from perusing her acting career. Indeed, feeling the film exploited his wife, Friedrich decided to buy as many copies of Ekstase as he could to avoid it being viewed by the public.
“If you use your imagination, you can look at any actress and see her nude. I hope to make you use your imagination.”
Of course Lamarr got tired of her slaver husband, and did what any girl would do at the time to regain her independence: Fly to Paris! One version of the legend says that she was disguised as a maid, others say that she actually had an affair with her maid, who helped her to escape, and a third version states that she got dressed for dinner wearing all her jewelry and then just disappeared.
In Paris she met Louis B. Mayer, the legendary founder of MGM studios, and moved to Hollywood afterwards. She starred in her first Hollywood film, Algiers, in 1938. This film was followed by Boom Town (1940) with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy as well as John Steinbeck´s Tortilla Flat (1942) and White Cargo (1942).
But Lamarr wasn´t just known as “the world´s most beautiful woman”. She also had an impressive intelligence and interest for science. Having been introduced to military technology attending meetings with Mandl, Lamarr and composer George Antheil created the “Secret Communication System” originally used to prevent enemies blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles during World War II. Later, the advent of the transistor and its downsizing made Lamarr´s idea very important for both the military and cell phone industry, and now the global use of WIFI. This led her to be induced into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014, 14 years after her death.
My business and creativity being both so tied to internet, I can’t help but feeling thankful to this unique and controversial woman… I’ll accept the paradox that maybe it was her husband’s jealousy who played an important part in her discoveries, by forcing Hedy to attend his work meetings in the first place!