As long as I can remember, I have loved the famous actors and actresses of the 1930s and 40s. I adored Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey”, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Philadelphia Story” – where I also worshipped Katharine Hepburn’s independent spirit.
One famous actress I wasn’t aware of during that era was Hedy Lamarr. I learned about her approximately eight years ago when I was an instructor for a hands-on science enrichment program for children pre-school to fifth grade. It was then that I learned about this female inventor.
“This scientist”, we told our students, “was a well-known actress known for her beauty but her intelligence and contribution to science and present-day technology has been overlooked.”
So, I was excited to learn that Netflix produced the documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” and looked forward to watching the film to learn about this inventor and her life. Of course, this film directed by Alexandra Dean, focuses on the actress’ life as a celebrity who just so happened to be an unidentified inventor. As a result, my review may have a different outlook and twist than most reviews for this biographical film.
The documentary shares the eclectic twists and turns of Lamarr’s story. Born in Vienna as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914, the film follows her life from her early career in a highly controversial film, secretly leaving her husband and being discovered in London by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer.
The film highlights the early successful years in Hollywood, her marriages (married and divorced six times) and the many relationships she had, including one with aviation tycoon, Howard Hughes.
“Bombshell” also looks at her reason for inventing a secure, radio-controlled torpedo guidance system, known as “frequency hopping,” that is the basis of WiFi, Bluetooth and cellphone technologies used today. The film also follows her downward spiral of failure, scandal and reclusiveness.
Although her beauty and brilliance were eventually overshadowed by scandal and disaster, “Bombshell” is sensitive to highlighting her story without diminishing her wonderful contributions to society.