Actress Gal Gadot won applause around the world for her portrayal of the title character in Wonder Woman. Now she’s pursuing a project in which she plays a real-life woman who many consider a wonder: the Austrian-born actress and brilliant inventor Hedy Lamarr.
“Sources tell Variety that Gadot is near a deal to star in and executive produce a Showtime series based on the life and career of Hedy Lamarr,” Variety magazine reported in early August 2018. “The series has not been formally picked up at the premium cabler, but it would be a limited series should the deals become finalized.”
Gadot was a model and former Miss Israel before she became an actress. She first played the DC hero Wonder Woman, who appeared in comic books in 1941, in the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before getting her own film. Gadot is currently filming Wonder Woman 1984.
The Hedy Lamar project is being spearheaded by Sarah Treem, the creator of the Showtime series The Affair. The Handmaid’s Tale producer Warren Littlefield and Endeavor Content are also participating.
Called “the most beautiful woman in films,” Lamar, whose birth name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, first appeared onscreen in a German film at the age of 17. She worked in German and Czechoslovakian productions until the 1932 German film Exstase brought her to the attention of Hollywood.
Once in the U.S., she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and starred in her first Hollywood film, Algiers in 1938, co-starring Charles Boyer. Her leading men included Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, and Jimmy Stewart. Her films ranged from John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat (1942) to White Cargo (1942) and Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949).
However, it was in her scientific inventions that Lamarr truly excelled.
As The Guardian wrote, “There can hardly be any more extraordinary story from the Hollywood golden age than that of Hedy Lamarr; a very beautiful star with a moderate acting talent but an untutored brilliance in science and engineering that should by now be getting her compared to Nikola Tesla, or maybe even a neglected female scientist like Rosalind Franklin. Her tragedy was that she was in the wrong business, precisely that business that promotes beauty over brains – the movie business.”
Hedy Lamarr patented an idea that later played a key role in secure military communications and mobile phone technology. In 1942, Hedy and composer George Antheil patented what they called the “Secret Communication System.”
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The original idea, meant to solve the problem of enemies blocking signals from radio-controlled missiles during World War II, involved changing radio frequencies simultaneously to prevent enemies from being able to detect the messages.
How did this come about?
It was the early 1940s, and Lamarr wanted to contribute to the war effort; Europe was in flames, while the film industry in the U.S. continued production uninterrupted. She turned to her friend, the composer George Antheil, with whom she would resume her inventor’s career.
Antheil was quoted in the recent publication by Richard Rhodes, Hedy’s Folly, which examines the actress’s innovative side: “We began talking about the war, which, in the late summer of 1940, was looking most extremely black. Hedy said that she did not feel very comfortable, sitting there in Hollywood and making lots of money when things were in such a state. She said that she knew a good deal about munitions and various secret weapons and that she was thinking seriously of quitting MGM and going to Washington, DC, to offer her services to the newly established Inventors Council.”
Lamarr’s personal life also fascinates. She was married six times; after her final divorce in 1965, she stayed unmarried for the last 35 years of her life.
Nancy Bilyeau, a former staff editor at Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, and InStyle, has written a trilogy of historical thrillers for Touchstone Books. For more information, go to www.nancybilyeau.com.