‘Bombshell’: A deeper look into one woman’s incredible life
The documentary about Hedy Lamarr tells of a fiery, independent, and unrecognized woman who was ahead of her time
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Directed and Screenplay by Alexandre Dean
Produced by Alexandra Dean, Adam Haggiag, and Katherine Drew
Soundtrack by Keegan DeWitt and Jeremy Bullock
Hedy Lamarr fled from her homeland in Austria and her marriage to a Nazi supporter and came to America to be an actress. It was very clear she was an independent woman from the start of her life. She was offered a job from Louis B. Mayor, who was a major talent scout from America. She turned his measly offer down until he was forced to raise it. This theme continued throughout her life. She wasn’t a woman to stand by idly. She wouldn’t be trapped by her agents or her various husbands over the years.
Yet she was never seen how she wanted to be seen. She called her beauty a curse, and it was the only thing people saw when they looked at her. People “never saw what was inside.” She left her six husbands because none of them treated her with love and respect and only wanted a trophy wife.
Her solace was her inventions. Despite the idea at the time that beautiful women were stupid, Hedy’s main invention impacts the modern world greatly. During the war, ships couldn’t control torpedoes because the radio signals could be easily jammed. Despite not yet being a U.S. citizen, Hedy wanted to do something for the war effort and seriously considered quitting being an actress and moving to Washington D.C. to offer her services to the Inventor’s Council.
To help the Navy, she invented a system to control the torpedoes that would be impossible to hack and then jam. She called it radio hopping, and the basic idea was that the frequency that the torpedo was controlled by change rapidly so the enemy couldn’t find one frequency and then jam that signal. She and one other inventor filed and received a patent for their invention, which they then brought to the military. Hedy Lamarr never received compensation for her invention that helped the Navy and led to so many other innovations such as wifi, bluetooth, satellite communication, cell phones, and GPS.
Her brilliant mind and her strong will led her daughter to call her “ahead of her times as a feminist.” In addition to her inventions, she produced 18 films, something unheard of from a woman, in addition to being a single mother to her two kids.
While this movie does highlight the hardships and injustices Hedy Lamarr faced, she was still human, and so viewers see her flaws as well. She was addicted to pills and plastic surgery, and she was arrested for shoplifting a couple of times, eventually becoming a complete recluse later in her life.
The documentary, while slow at times, showed all these aspects of Hedy Lamarr’s life. The director had interviews with multiple people who were close to Hedy and then overlaid their voice with photos or videos of Hedy at different stages in her life. Most of the voice used was a taped interview with Hedy Lamarr herself, so viewers were able to hear her point of view on all of the events in the past.
While the documentary covered many interesting facets to reveal the person behind the beauty of Hedy Lamarr, it was slow at times, losing me in places such as her dwindling career or her multiple marriages.
My favorite quote from Hedy Lamarr came at the end of the documentary. She tells her interviewer, “People are unreasonable, illogical, and self centered. Love them anyway. Do good. People will accuse you of selfish alternative motives. Do good anyway. The biggest people with the biggest idea can be shut down by the smallest people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. Give the world the best you have and you’ll be kicked into the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway. And if I may add to that: Life can be very hard. Live anyway.”