To be blessed with great beauty is truly miraculous. To be gifted with a great mind is genuinely extraordinary. But to be the beneficiary of both is a dream beyond measure – or at least that’s what most of us probably believe. As it turns out, though, that belief may not be as true as we might think, a conundrum brought to light in the informative new documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” (web site, trailer).
In the 1930s, ʼ40s and ʼ50s, actress Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) was arguably the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. In the years before World War II, the Jewish Austrian émigré fled her homeland and made her way to the U.S., where she rocketed to stardom as one of the biggest names in motion pictures, appearing in such films as “Algiers” (1938), “Boom Town” (1940), “Ziegfeld Girl” (1941) and “Samson and Delilah” (1949). She also became the standard of glamour after which many other aspiring actresses patterned themselves. Her iconic looks even inspired the appearance of such fictional characters as Snow White and Cat Woman.
But there was more to Lamarr than just a pretty face. She also had quite a mind for science, something she eagerly developed while in grade school in Austria. Despite no formal training, she had a robust curiosity and a natural knack for determining how things work and how things could be made to work to fulfill particular purposes. And, even though she was probably best known for her on-screen work, she quietly developed a respected reputation among scientists and inventors who became aware of her insights and abilities. For instance, she befriended aviation industrialist Howard Hughes, helping him with fashioning the wings for his new jet technology, an inspiration that came to her by simply observing the angular wing and fin shapes of fast-flying birds and fast-swimming fish and applying the concept to aircraft design. Her ideas thus helped Hughes overcome a fundamental design issue that his own team of engineers was previously unable to solve.
However, Lamarr’s greatest scientific accomplishment came about as a result of something more near and dear to her own heart. As World War II ramped up, German U-boats sank Allied vessels virtually at will, and their targets included not only warships, but also transport craft ferrying refugees to freedom. With so many dying at sea, Lamarr believed something had to be done to stop the carnage, especially since she had relatives who were similarly looking to escape Europe and the tyranny of the Third Reich.
Lamarr was interested in developing measures to counteract the German U-boats, specifically technology to undermine the submarines’ jamming capabilities for sending Allied radio-controlled torpedoes off course, missing their targets. Working with her friend George Antheil, a composer and pianist well acquainted with player piano mechanics, Lamarr developed a frequency hopping system that would enable the torpedoes from being jammed or detected, allowing them to reach their German targets. For their efforts, the duo received a patent, one in which the U.S. Navy initially expressed interest but eventually dismissed for technical implementation issues. Despite this disappointment, Lamarr still wanted to do her part to aid the American war effort, seeking to join the National Inventors Council, but she was instead told that she could do more for the country by conducting rallies to sell war bonds. Her looks, it seems, were deemed a more effective weapon than anything she could develop technologically.
Years later, however, Lamarr’s invention was rediscovered by tech pioneers who successfully used it in developing military defense applications and as the basis for creating secure WiFi, GPS and Blue Tooth devices. Unfortunately, Lamarr received no compensation for her discovery, and, due to a statute of limitations issue, she was unable to sue for patent infringement. That cost her greatly, given that experts estimate the technology’s application value at upwards of $30 billion.
With her looks and movie career fading with age, Lamarr began to live a more secluded life. It was also a time when she began experiencing a variety of other issues. She lost a fortune trying to launch her own film production company (a rarity for a woman in those days), largely because she struggled with locating distributors for her movies. In an attempt to revive her career, she became preoccupied with plastic surgery, but the procedures often did more harm than good. What’s more, she wrestled with a meth amphetamine addiction, a problem that led to behavioral issues, including several scandalous arrests for shoplifting despite having large stashes of cash in her possession at the time. And, on top of all that, she became embroiled in several high-profile lawsuits involving the publication of her autobiography and with filmmaker Mel Brooks over the use of a variation of her name in the bawdy Old West comedy “Blazing Saddles” (1974).
As Lamarr sank deeper into her seclusion, details about her life – particularly her scientific endeavors – were becoming lost to history. However, in 2016, filmmaker Alexandra Dean came across never-before-heard audio tape interviews with Lamarr conducted by Forbes magazine journalist Fleming Meeks. Through those tapes, Lamarr’s life comes alive, including details about her largely unknown technological accomplishments. An undiscovered multidimensional persona thus emerges but one about which Lamarr herself laments a woman of her day could have beauty or brains but not both.
“Bombshell” brings forth Lamarr’s many sides – including the triumphs, the missteps, the successes and the downfalls – through her own words, as well as those of her family and friends and of film industry experts who have studied her life and work. The documentary effectively combines these conversations with clips from Lamarr’s movies and historical footage and photos from her personal and public life. In doing all this, director Dean gives viewers an insightful look into the life of a Hollywood legend who had talents far beyond her acting ability and intellectual attributes equal to her iconic beauty, most of which were unknown, overlooked or downplayed by a society not ready to accept a woman who possessed both qualities. This film thus does justice to someone for whom such accolades often eluded her.
Lamarr’s story essentially details what it means to struggle for recognition of our abilities in a world that, unfortunately, is often all too unable or unwilling to recognize them for what they are. It’s gratifying to see efforts like this that help to make up for those oversights, and, one would hope, that we don’t make the same mistake again.
A full review will appear in the near future by clicking here.
Seeking Justice or Vengeance?
When one’s life falls apart as a result of the atrocities of others, there’s a natural tendency to want to seek justice. However, considering the powerful emotions often associated with such situations, it’s possible we may be so eager to right such wrongs that our desire for justice may spill over into a quest for vengeance. Learning what it means to balance one’s grief while holding the responsible parties accountable provides the basis of the new, heartfelt German thriller, “In the Fade” (“Aus dem Nichts”) (web site, trailer).
Katja Şekerci (Diane Kruger) leads a pleasant, contented life in Hamburg, happily married to her Turkish-born husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), and mother to her young son, Rocco (Rafael Santana). Even though things were a bit troubled in the family’s past – Nuri did time in prison for drug dealing and Katja was known to partake of various recreational substances – life today is settled and stable.
That all changes one fateful afternoon, however, when Nuri and Rocco are killed during an explosion involving what appears to be a homemade bomb. Needless to say, Katja is devastated. But, even in the throes of her grief, she’s determined to find out who is responsible and to seek justice against the perpetrators of this tragic act. After reviewing the evidence and consulting the lead investigator on the case (Henning Peker), Katja learns that the architects of this heinous crime were a pair of neo Nazis, André and Edda Möller (Ulrich Friedrich Brandhoff, Hanna Hilsdorf), who targeted Nuri simply because of his ethnicity. With what appears to be a solid case against the terrorists, Katja, backed by her attorney (Denis Moschitto), heads to court to seek justice for her loss, all the while still struggling to cope with her unrelenting despair.
However, as Katja soon discovers, things may not always appear to be as clear cut as one would suppose, and such complications only compound the suffering she experiences. With the possibility of justice not being served, Katja must decide what to do in light of the circumstances. And, through this experience, she learns what it means to make the distinction between justice and vengeance.
Although a bit slow-paced in a few sequences, the movie overall successfully traverses a fine line in balancing its depiction of the protagonist’s personal anguish and a fervent desire for justice in the face of her incensed outrage. Kruger delivers one of the best lead actress performances of 2017, capably capturing the many moods of a woman on a mission under extremely trying circumstances. Though sometimes painful to watch, the film delivers a variety of powerful messages about the nature of seeking restitution while maintaining our humanity – and sanity – through the process, something that may not always be as easy to achieve as one might believe, even in the face of supposedly clear and convincing evidence.
Among foreign language film releases, “In the Fade” has received a fair share of 2017’s most coveted accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and a Critics Choice Award. The picture also came up a winner at the Cannes Film Festival, earning a best actress award for Kruger and a Palme d’Or nomination, the event’s highest honor. With a résumé like this, though, it’s somewhat surprising that the film failed to capture a comparable nomination in this year’s Academy Awards competition.
The search for justice is undoubtedly a noble cause, but it can be one in which the nobility can become lost. Remaining steadfast and true to our intents becomes crucial under such circumstances. But, in doing so, we mustn’t lose sight of what we’re seeking to achieve. Falling prey to the temptation of retribution can derail us, taking us away from what we want to achieve and, essentially, lowering us to the level as those against whom we express our grievances, a development that can’t help but prompt us to ask ourselves, where’s the justice in that?
Bring Me 2 Life!
Join host Selo Closson and yours truly for a special episode of the Bring Me 2 Life radio podcast, available by clicking here. We’ll discuss my new book, Third Real: Conscious Creation Goes Back to the Movies, as well as how films (including current releases) reflect conscious creation/law of attraction principles.
Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.