Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World [NOOK Book]


Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.
Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." ...

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Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.
Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we've come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio's genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

One would not expect to see the names "Richard Rhodes" and "Hedy Lamarr" on the same cover. Rhodes is the National Book Award and National Critics Circle Award-winning author of books on the nuclear history and Lamarr is the Austrian actress (1913-2000) who Max Reinhardt called "the most beautiful woman in the world." (For obvious reasons, the name stuck once she got to Hollywood.) In addition to her beguiling face, Lamarr possessed a rigorous, innovative mind. After fleeing fascist Austria in 1937 and Europe at the beginning of World War II, the Jewish beauty came to America. At a Tinsel Town dinner party, she met avant-garde composer George Antheil (1900-1959). Their conversations, which began with a discussion of breast enhancement evolved into something ultimately more stimulating: the invention of spread spectrum technology, an innovation that not only aided the Allied war effort, but is also an integral part of millions of digital devices. An utterly fascinating story; Richard Rhodes has done it again.

Dwight Garner
Mr. Rhodes's book, culled from biographies, unpublished memoirs and other sources, doesn't present a great deal of new information. By cropping these two lives down to the size of their short-lived technological collaboration in the early '40s, however, he has isolated and framed a resonantly weird story. It's got the makings—war, glamour, obsession, the intellectual underpinnings of the digital age—of a great Errol Morris documentary.
—The New York Times
John Adams
Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics…Behind the uniqueness of this story lie deeper themes that Rhodes touches upon: the gender biases against beautiful and intelligent women, the delicate interpersonal politics of scientific collaboration and, perhaps most important of all, the never-ending, implacable conflict between art and Mammon in American culture.
—The New York Times Book Review
Tim Page
…Rhodes is one of those few writers capable of explaining complicated scientific ideas to the general public, invariably with clarity and precision and sometimes wit and poetry as well. This is a smart, strange and fascinating book, which deserves to find an audience.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

Praise for Richard Rhodes’s Hedy’s Folly:

"Fascinating. . . . mixes thorough techno research with Hollywood glam. . . . Rhodes drops quite a bombshell."--USA Today
"A smart, strange and fascinating book."--Washington Post
"It's to Mr. Rhodes's credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible."--New York Times
"Unveils the inquisitive brain behind the beauty.... [It] reads at turns like a romance novel, patent law primer, noir narrative and exercise in forensic psychology.” —Los Angeles Times
"Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics."--The New York Times Book Review
"[A] charming and remarkably seamless book."—Salon
"Fascinating . . . shows Hedy Lamarr to have been a secret weapon in more ways than one."—Newsweek
"Richard Rhodes is the perfect historian to describe the abilities of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil as scientists and inventors."--Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine
"Richard Rhodes's book should be celebrated: he shows that even in the "information" age, there is a way to write about an American movie star that gives readers something new."--The New Republic
"Hedy Lamarr, glamorous Hollywood star. Hedy Lamarr, glamorous genius inventor.
That's the gist of Richard Rhodes' Hedy's Folly . . .  although, of course, it's far more complicated than that. And far more fascinating."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Hedy's Folly is a reminder that neither time nor gravity can diminish the allure of a beautiful mind."--Bloomberg Business Week
"Rhodes, who has written about everything from atomic power to sex to John James Audubon, is apparently incapable of writing a bad book and most of what he does is absolutely superior."--The Daily Beast
"A riveting narrative, propelled by the ambition and idiosyncrasies of the inventors at its core."--Science News
"[A]n unusual and worthwhile read."—Washington Times
"[C]aptivating."—Boston Globe
"A focused glimpse into one actress’ remarkable life, and the rare mix of war, patriotism and intellect that fomented her unlikely invention."—Dallas Morning News
"Rhodes...manages to capture the sheer improbability of these unlikely Edisons."—Entertainment Weekly
"Rhodes puts Lamarr’s inventive spirit into coherent context.... [His] book gives us the whole Hedy — a closet geek in peacock feathers — and makes that mix believable."— Nature
"Riveting. . . . There’s enough technical and military history here to keep Rhodes’s hard-core fan base satisfied. But the cultural history is just as interesting, and Rhodes tells both stories with a sure and supple hand."—The New York Observer 

Library Journal
Thank your Hollywood stars that Hedy Lamarr, who trained as an engineer, invented spread-spectrum radio with avant-garde composer George Antheil. Allowing the rapid switch of communications signals through a range of frequencies, spread-spectrum radio makes cell phones, GPS, and radio-guided torpedoes possible. I've heard this story but suspect that multiaward winner Rhodes will make it even better.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of The Twilight of the Bomb (2010) returns with the surprising story of a pivotal invention produced during World War II by a pair of most unlikely inventors--an avant-garde composer and the world's most glamorous movie star. Pulitzer and NBA winner Rhodes offers the stories of his two principals in alternating segments, sometimes chapter-length. The diminutive pianist/composer George Antheil--who worked with Stravinsky, Ezra Pound, Balanchine, DeMille and other notables--was also a prolific writer and inventor. And Lamarr (born Hedwig Kiesler), smitten by the theater in her native Austria, married a wealthy man charmed by Nazis; she later fled for Hollywood, where she quickly established herself as a major star in such films as Algiers and Ziegfeld Girl. She crossed trails with Antheil, who'd also moved west. Rhodes shows us that Lamarr (a new surname name suggested by the wife of Louis B. Mayer) was extremely bright (though poorly educated), a woman who had an area in her house devoted to inventing. And Antheil--who'd once composed a piece requiring 16 synchronized player pianos--had inventing interests that dovetailed with Lamarr's. They worked together to invent a way to radio-guide torpedoes and to use a technique called frequency-hopping to insure that the enemy could not jam their signals. Lamarr and Antheil secured a patent, but the U.S. Navy did not adopt the device, which, as Rhodes shows, would form the foundations of today's Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other wireless technologies. Antheil died before earning any recognition for this achievement, but Lamarr, late in her life, did receive awards. The author quotes liberally--perhaps overly so--from the memoirs of his principals. A faded blossom of a story, artfully restored to bright bloom.
The Barnes & Noble Review
Hedy Lamarr is remembered most for the asset she valued least: her beauty. Richard Rhodes, himself best known for doorstop histories including 1986's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, is out to change that with Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World. The slim volume may lack the gravity of the Pulitzer Prize–winning author's four–part history of the nuclear age, but it certainly doesn't lack for charm or contemporary relevance. For in addition to being a legendary screen siren, Hedy Lamarr was an inventor whose contributions to the technology that now surrounds us (you may be employing some of it to read this article) have largely gone unheralded.

Rhodes begins his captivating narrative in Vienna, where the young Hedwig Kiesler, born in 1913, dropped out of school at the age of sixteen to become an actress. Within a year she'd won the lead role in a Czech film, Ekstase, which was so steamy for its time that Hedy's father forced the family to walk out during the premiere. Two short years later found her married to Fritz Mandl, a wealthy Austrian arms dealer almost twice her age. Mandl had become obsessed with the young actress after seeing her on the stage, but after their marriage he not only prohibited her from acting but fruitlessly attempted to buy up every existing copy of Ekstase.

While the unhappy union left her feeling, as she later wrote, like "an object of art which had to be guarded," it also introduced her to the subject of modern weapons development, as apparently chatty Austrian and German politicians, diplomats, and engineers were guests at the couple's frequent parties.

In 1937, Hedy finally escaped her marriage, fleeing to London, where she met film mogul Louis B. Mayer, who was visiting from Hollywood. She managed to book passage on the same transatlantic ship as Mayer; by the time they arrived in the United States, he had signed her to his MGM Studios and rechristened her Hedy Lamarr. Her American film career was launched with 1938's Algiers, which made her a star.

Lamarr, possessed of a restless intellect, "didn't drink and?didn't like to party, so she took up inventing" to fill the idle months between movies, Rhodes writes. Her early projects included a tissue–box attachment to hold used tissues and a bouillon cube that, when dropped in water, would create cola. But with the start of World War II, her inventing took a more purposeful turn, particularly as German forces attacked British passenger ships evacuating children from London to protect them from the Blitz. Devastated by the September 1940 sinking of the SS City of Benares, which left seventy–seven children dead, Lamarr "decided the Allies had to do something about the German submarine menace. She began thinking about how to invent a remote–controlled torpedo to attack submarines."

Around this time, the actress met the avant–garde composer George Antheil, whose story Rhodes tells in alternating chapters with Lamarr's. Once she'd freed herself from Mandl's clutches, Lamarr's path to stardom was relatively effortless. Antheil had a more difficult time. Performances of his far–out compositions were enough to cause riots, and he struggled to make a living in both Europe and America. A gifted polymath, he'd begun writing to earn extra money and had published a series of articles on his theories of endocrinology for Esquire. In his bestselling memoir, Bad Boy of Music, Antheil claims that the actress had requested the introduction from mutual friends in the hopes that Antheil could apply his knowledge of glandular science to helping her enlarge her breasts.

Whether or not that eyebrow–raising claim has any truth to it, the two soon began to collaborate on a project of indisputable seriousness. After discussing the war, they commenced work on Lamarr's concept for the remote–controlled torpedo. The actress's idea was to create a frequency–hopping radio signal and to synchronize the frequency changes between a ship or plane and its torpedo, thus preventing the enemy from jamming the signal; Antheil's role, according to Rhodes, was "to help her reduce [the idea] to practice." He was an appropriate partner: not only had he been a onetime munitions inspector for the U.S. government, but as a composer, he was, Rhodes writes, "something of an expert on making machines talk to each other in synchrony." His infamous Ballet Mécanique had involved the synchronization of 16 player pianos.

The two worked tirelessly and received a patent for their efforts in 1942, but the military, after evaluating their system, declined to use it. Years later, unbeknownst to Lamarr and Antheil (who died in 1959, the year their patent expired), the government secretly revived research on the frequency–hopping system. It became the basis of spread–spectrum technology, which makes wireless networking possible, but the two remained uncredited, which Lamarr noted with bitterness late in her life. Recognition, though long delayed, did come at last, and in 1997, the eighty–two–year–old Lamarr, by then married and divorced six times and living alone in Florida, received the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award, three years before her death.

Rhodes uses this fascinating sliver of history to ruminate on the "strange business" of invention. He also touches on the "misogynistic debate" about Lamarr's contributions, which has seen detractors insisting that she must have lifted her idea wholesale from Mandl's circle. Indeed, for some it might be simply impossible to accept not just that a woman, but a woman as beautiful and glamorous as Lamarr could also be so brainy. When the Navy rejected her idea, Lamarr turned to a more conventional route for helping with the Allied effort, traveling the country, using her fame and face to sell war bonds. They sold like gangbusters.

Barbara Spindel has covered books for Time Out New York, Newsweek.com, Details, and Spin. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385534390
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/29/2011
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 159,319
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author

RICHARD RHODES is most recently the author of The Twilight of the Bombs, the last volume in a quartet about nuclear history. The first, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, won the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award.
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Read an Excerpt

One: A Charming Austrian Girl

She was Viennese, not yet seventeen in the spring of 1931 but already a professional actress, in rehearsal for a play. Hedwig Kiesler (pronounced HAYD-vig KEES-lur)-Hedy-had won a small role in the Berlin incarnation of The Weaker Sex, which the celebrated Austrian impresario Max Reinhardt was directing. When Reinhardt restaged the play in Vienna that spring, she had single-mindedly quit the Berlin cast and followed him home. "Are you here too, Fraulein Kiesler?" he'd asked her in surprise. "Are you living with your family? All right, you can be the Americaness again." Édouard Bourdet's play was a comedy with a pair of boorish stage Americans as foils. Reinhardt had assigned the actor George Weller, Hedy's husband in the play, to teach her some American songs. "I took this as a mandate to make an American out of Hedy Kiesler," the young Bostonian recalled.

She was eager to be transformed. "Hedy had only the vaguest ideas of what the United States were," Weller discovered, "except that they were grouped around Hollywood." She idolized the California tennis star Helen Wills, "Little Miss Poker Face." Wills, focused and unexpressive on the courts, all business, was the world's number-one- ranked female tennis player, midway that year through an unbroken run of 180 victories. "Watch me look like Helen Wills," Hedy teased Weller when they rehearsed together. "Du, schau' mal, hier bin ich Kleine Poker Face." Her lively young face would grow calm, Weller remembered, "expressionless and assured, her brow would clarify, and for a moment she would really become an American woman." Commandeering the property room, Hedy and George practiced singing "Yes, Sir, That's My Baby," "Yes, We Have No Bananas," and an Austrian favorite, Al Jolson's lugubrious "Sonny Boy." It melted the matrons at matinees, many of them mothers with sons lost in the long slaughter of the Great War.

An only child, entertaining herself with her dolls, Hedy had dreamed since she was a little girl of becoming a movie star. "I had a little stage under my father's desk," she recalled, "where I would act out fairy tales. When someone would come into the room they would think my mind was really wandering. I was always talking to myself." Her tall, handsome, vigorous father, Emil, an athlete as well as a successful banker, told her stories, read her books, and took her on walks in their tree-lined neighborhood and in the great park of the Wienerwald- the Vienna Woods. Wherever they went together, he explained to her how everything worked-"from printing presses to streetcars," she said. Her father's enthusiasm for technology links her lifelong interest in invention with cherished memories of her favorite parent.

Hedy's mother was stricter, concerned that such a pretty, vivacious child would grow up spoiled unless she heard criticism as well as compliments. "She has always had everything," Trude Kiesler said. "She never had to long for anything. First there was her father who, of course, adored her, and was very proud of her. He gave her all the comforts, pretty clothes, a fine home, parties, schools, sports. He looked always for the sports for her, and music." Trude had trained as a concert pianist before motherhood intervened. In turn, she supervised Hedy's lessons on the grand piano in the Kiesler salon. "I underemphasized praise and flattery," Trude determined, "hoping in this way to balance the scales for her."

The Kieslers were assimilated Jews, Trude from Budapest, Emil from Lemberg (now known as Lviv). Hedy kept her Jewish heritage secret throughout her life; her son and daughter only learned of it after her death. In prewar Vienna it had hardly mattered. The Viennese population's mixed legacy of Slavic, Germanic, Hungarian, Italian, and Jewish traditions was one of its glories, one reason for the city's unique creative ferment in the first decades of the new century. Sigmund Freud's daughters attended the same girls' middle school that Hedy later did, and after the war Anna Freud taught there.

Vienna is an old city, with ruins dating to Roman times. The emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his third book of Meditations on that rough Germanic frontier. Set in the broad Danube valley at the eastern terminus of the Alps, it grew across the centuries through great turmoil to become the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A wide ring boulevard supplanted its medieval wall after 1857, opening it up to its suburbs. By 1910, two million ethnically diverse Viennese, reading newspapers published in ten languages, took their leisure in sparkling coffeehouses, and the beneficence of the emperor Franz Josef had filled the city's twenty-one districts with parks, statues, and palaces. To the Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, his birthplace was "a city of a thousand attractions, a city with theatres, museums, bookstores, universities, music, a city in which each day brought new surprises."

If Vienna was old, it made itself radically modern in the years around the Great War in music, theater, and art. Austrian culture had prepared the way, Zweig believed: "Precisely because the monarchy, because Austria itself for centuries had been neither politically ambitious nor particularly successful in military actions, the native pride had turned more strongly toward a desire for artistic supremacy." Vienna was the arena of that desire. The roll call of important early-twentieth-century artists, musicians, writers, scientists, and philosophers active in the Viennese milieu is startling: the artists Gustav Klimt, Josef Hoffmann, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka; the writers Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Arthur Schnitzler, Robert Musil, and Joseph Roth; the composers Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton von Webern, and Alban Berg. Sigmund Freud invented psychoanalysis in Vienna. Ludwig Boltzmann and Ernst Mach contributed importantly to physics there. Rudolf Carnap, Kurt Gödel, Otto Neurath, and, most famously, Ludwig Wittgenstein transformed philosophy.

"The whole city was at one," Zweig saw, in its "receptivity for all that was colorful, festive and resounding, in [its] pleasure in the theatrical, whether it was on the stage or in reality, both as theatre and as a mirror of life." For Zweig, theater was the core Viennese experience:

It was not the military, nor the political, nor the commercial, that was predominant in the life of the individual and of the masses. The first glance of the average Viennese into his morning paper was not at the events in parliament, or world affairs, but at the repertoire of the theatre, which assumed so important a role in public life as hardly was possible in any other city. For the Imperial theatre, the Burgtheater, was for the Viennese and for the Austrian more than a stage upon which actors enacted parts; it was the microcosm that mirrored the macrocosm, the brightly colored reflection in which the city saw itself. . . . The stage, instead of being merely a place of entertainment, was a spoken and plastic guide of good behavior and correct pronunciation, and a nimbus of respect encircled like a halo everything that had even the faintest connection with the Imperial theatre.

What else but theater, and by extension motion pictures, would a bright, pretty, single-minded Viennese girl choose? "I acted all the time," Hedy recalled. "I copied my mother. I copied the way she walked and the way she talked. I copied her mannerisms, her facial expression. I copied the guests who came to our house. I copied people I saw in the streets. I copied the servants. I was a little living copybook. I wrote people down on me."

Acting was in the air. In his school classes, Zweig remembered, "in keeping with the Viennese atmosphere . . . the impulse to creative production became positively epidemic. Each of us sought some talent within himself and endeavored to unfold it." Four or five of Zweig's classmates wanted to be actors. "They imitated the diction of the Imperial players, they recited and declaimed without ceasing, secretly took lessons in acting, and, during the recesses at school, distributed parts and improvised entire scenes from the classics, while the rest of us formed a curious but exacting audience."

Hedy took more direct action, as her father had taught her. "He made me understand that I must make my own decisions," she said, "mold my own character, think my own thoughts." She had met Max Reinhardt, the director and impresario, at a party in 1929, when she was fifteen, and he had seemed interested in her. "He had encouraged me by telling me to hold fast to my dream and that if I held fast it would come true."
She held fast, and it did.

After an unhappy term at a Swiss finishing school that she finessed by running away home to Vienna, she scouted a motion-picture studio, Sascha-Film, the largest in the city. To buy time for her assault, she added a zero to a school absence request her mother had signed, turning one hour into ten-two school days. "I knew that the studio employed script girls. I did not have any idea of what script girls are supposed to do, but I knew that they were on the sets all the time watching the actors work-and that was enough for me." She slipped into the studio and presented herself. "They asked me, 'Do you know how to be a script girl?' and I said, 'No. But may I try?' " Probably because she was pretty as well as brash, the script supervisor laughed and took her on.

She had that day and one more to make good. The film then in production was called Geld auf der Strasse (Money in the Streets). There was a minor part for a girl in a nightclub scene. "I applied for it and right away I got it," Hedy recalled. In this account, for an American magazine, she translates her starting salary as "five dollars a day." Then she had to tell her parents that she was dropping out of school at sixteen to become a professional actress. As she remembered the negotiation in 1938:

Well, it was not too bad. They were bewildered a little but not very surprised. They were never surprised at anything I did. And besides, I had been talking movies for so long that they were really prepared for this. My dear father finally laughed and said, "You have been an actress ever since you were a baby!" So my parents did not try to prevent me. They were willing to give me this great wish of my heart.

She recalled it differently later in life. She had persuaded the director, Georg Jacoby, to give her the part. Her parents, she wrote, "were much more difficult to persuade than [Jacoby], because it meant my dropping school. But at last they agreed. My father had never forbidden his little princess anything, and besides, he reasoned that I would soon enough quit of my own accord and go back to school."

When Geld auf der Strasse wrapped, a better role followed as a secretary in Sturm im Wasserglas (Storm in a Water Glass), another Jacoby project. Then Reinhardt cast her in The Weaker Sex. "Reinhardt made me read, meet people, attend plays." She followed him back to Vienna when he restaged the play there. "Yes, we have no bananas."

"When you dance with her," George Weller remembered, "as I did every night for about three months, she is a trifle stiff to the touch. Reedlike, that's what Hedy Kiesler is, sweet and reedlike, and when she wants to talk to you she doesn't lean over your shoulder and arch herself out behind like a debutante. . . . She leans back from you [and] takes a good look in your eyes and a firm grip on your name before she will allow herself to say a word."

Weller was present when Reinhardt gave Hedy her lifelong byname, a christening later claimed by the Hollywood studio head Louis B. Mayer:

It was at the rehearsal of a cafe scene in a comedy, and the Regisseur [that is, the director] was Reinhardt. There were Viennese newspapermen watching. Suddenly the Herr Professor, a man not given to superlatives, turned to the reporters and mildly pronounced these words: "Hedy Kiesler is the most beautiful girl in the world." Instantly the reporters put it down. In five minutes the Herr Professor's sentence, utter and absolute, had been telephoned to the newspapers of the [city center], to be dispatched by press services to other newspapers, other capitals, countries, continents.

The Weaker Sex
played in Vienna for one month, from 8 May to 8 June 1931. "Almost before we knew it," Weller recalled, "another play was in rehearsal." Hollywood was buying up European actors as it rapidly expanded film production, a trend that would accelerate after 1933 when the Nazis took power in Germany and then in Austria, and Jews saw their civil rights stripped away. The play, Film und Liebe (Film and Love), satirized the earlier, commercial phase of the exodus. Weller won the role of "a brash Hollywood director who thought . . . that Central European talent could be seduced by American gold into immigrating to California." The female lead as Weller remembered it called for a character "who simply recoiled at the sight of a Hollywood contract," which would have been a stretch for Hedy. In any case the director offered her a smaller role.
She rejected it. "I've never been satisfied," she explained. "I've no sooner done one thing than I am seething inside me to do another thing. And so, almost as soon as I was inside a studio I wanted to be acting in a studio. And as soon as I was acting in a studio, I wanted to be starring in a studio. I wanted to be famous." Her stage roles had been limited and her reviews mixed. Weller thought she simply "decided for herself . . . that she wanted no more stage."

Berlin was the center of filmmaking, and to Berlin she returned that August 1931, looking for work. She found it with the Russian émigré director Alexis Granowsky, who cast her as the mayor's daughter in a comedy, Die Koffer des Herrn O.F. (The Trunks of Mr. O.F.). The cast included her rising Austrian contemporary Peter Lorre in his fourth film role. When Trunks wrapped, in mid-October, Sascha-Film obligingly offered her the female lead in another comedy to be shot in Berlin, Man braucht kein Geld (One Needs No Money), opposite Heinz Rühmann, a German film star. Hedy turned seventeen midway through the November production. Die Koffer des Herrn O.F. premiered in Berlin on 2 December. Man braucht kein Geld followed in Vienna on 22 December. "Excellent work by a cast of familiar German actors," the New York Times would praise Man braucht kein Geld on its New York opening the following fall, "reinforced by Hedy Kiesler, a charming Austrian girl." It was her first American notice.

Then a truly starring role came to hand. The Czech director Gustav Machat_ found Hedy in Berlin and offered her the lead in a Czechoslovakian film, Ekstase (Ecstasy), a love story. She was thrilled. "When I had this opportunity to star in [the film]," she recalled, "it was the biggest opportunity I had had. I was mad for this chance, of course."
Shooting was scheduled for July 1932. To fill the intervening months, she replaced one of the four actors in Noël Coward's comedy Private Lives at the Komödie Theatre.

Whether or not Hedy's parents read the script of Ekstase isn't clear from the remaining record. Since she was still a minor, however, they did try to protect her:

I could not go, my father said, unless my mother went too. But I did not want my mother to go. . . . I was young enough to want to be on my own. What kind of a baby, what kind of an amateur would they think me, I said, if I had to have my mother along to take care of me! Besides, I felt embarrassed when my mother was in the studio, was on the sets watching me. I felt stiff and self-conscious then. I could not feel free and grownup like that. I finally prevailed upon my father to allow me to go with the members of the company. There could be no harm in this.

Eventually, she revealed another reason she had insisted on traveling unaccompanied: "I went to Prague because I was in love with somebody." She wanted no chaperoning mother to interfere.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Hedy Lamarr, Inventor 1

1 A Charming Austrian Girl 7

2 Bad Boy of Music 30

3 Mechanisms 57

4 Between Times 78

5 Leaving Fritz 97

6 Cinemogling 114

7 Frequency Hopping 133

8 Flashes of Genius 154

9 Red-Hot Apparatus 170

10 O Pioneers! 194

Afterword 215

Acknowledgments 220

Notes 222

References 238

Illustration Credits 247

Index 249

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful and clever

    Rhodes tells the quite interesting story of frequency hopping or as it is now called spread spectrum, a technology that is the basis for GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and much more. He weaves together the different personalities, especially the actress Hedy Lamarr and the composer George Antheil, the original inventors. If you get nothing out of this book, you must understand that women are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly clever.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    An unexpected side of a Hollywood star - very surprising .

    Not a Hollywood expose, rather a look at the intellectual and free thinking side of a glamorous Hollywood star. The book describe's Hedy Lamarr's inventiveness and natural curiosity, her ability to reason and use information that she learned in practical applications. It provides a glimpse of how she was influenced by people and events in her lifetime, and how loyal and patriotic she was to her adopted country, the United States. The book is very informative, but not linear in its storytelling. There is a great deal of jumping back and forth between characters while filling in background details. I found the story interesting because contributions to military technology were developed by some decidedly "unmilitary" people. It is definitely worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    Enjoyable Read

    Great story
    A real surprise to discover Hedy's other talent!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Great story

    Good read

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    Posted December 3, 2011

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    Posted December 3, 2011

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    Posted March 6, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews

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