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|Hedy Lamarr (/ˈhɛdi/; born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, 9 November 1914 – 19 January 2000) was an Austrian and American actress and inventor. After an early film career in Germany, which culminated in her controversial nude scenes in the film Ecstasy (1933), Lamarr moved to Hollywood at the invitation of MGM head Louis B. Mayer, and soon became a star during the studio’s golden age.|
In Hollywood, Lamarr began inventing. Her most significant contribution to technology was her co-invention, with composerGeorge Antheil, of an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, which paved the way for today’s wireless communications. The invention in 1941 was deemed so vital to national defense that government officials would not allow publication of its details. At the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Sixth Pioneer Awards in 1997, she and George Antheil were honored with special awards for their “trail-blazing development of a technology that has become a key component of wireless data systems”, and in 2014 Lamarr was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Lamarr appeared in numerous popular feature films, including Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, I Take This Woman(1940) with Spencer Tracy, Comrade X (1940) with Clark Gable, Come Live With Me (1941) with James Stewart, H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) with Robert Young, and Samson and Delilah (1949) with Victor Mature.
The woman many critics and fans alike regard as the most beautiful ever to appear in films was born Hedwig Eva Kiesler in Vienna, Austria. She was the daughter of Gertrud (Lichtwitz) and Emil Kiesler, who were both from Jewish families. Hedy was a student of theater director Max Reinhardt in Berlin. She began her career in 1930 in Czech and German films. It was the Czech production Ecstasy(1933), in which she caused an international sensation by appearing nude and simulating orgasm, that brought her worldwide attention. The resulting notoriety got her called to Hollywood, and she was signed by MGM. The studio changed her name to the more elegant “Hedy Lamarr” and put her in a series of exotic adventure epics such as Algiers (1938) and White Cargo (1942). Her biggest success was in Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular Samson and Delilah (1949) as the title temptress, but her career declined from that point as her looks began to fade and a new crop of beauties supplanted her. She left the screen in 1957.
Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler was born in Vienna, Austria, to a banker and his wife. Hedwig, who obviously became Hedy, had a rather calm childhood, but it was cinema that fascinated her. By the time she was a teenager she decided to drop out of school and seek fame as an actress. Her first role was a bit part in the German film Geld auf der Straße (1930) (aka “Money on the Street”) in 1930. She was attractive and talented enough to be in three more German productions in 1931, but it would be her fifth film that catapulted her to worldwide fame. In 1932 she appeared in a German film called Ecstasy(1933) (US title: “Ecstasy”) and had made the gutsy move to be nude. It’s the story of a young girl who is married to a gentleman much older than she, but she winds up falling in love with a young soldier. The film’s nude scenes created a sensation all over the world. The scenes, very tame by today’s standards, caused the film to be banned by the US government at the time. Hedy soon married Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer and a prominent Austrofascist (not the same as Nazi). He attempted to buy up all the prints of “Ecstasy” he could lay his hands on (Italy’s dictator, Benito Mussolini, had a copy but refused to sell it to Mandl), but to no avail (there are prints floating around the world today). The notoriety of the film brought Hollywood to her door. She was brought to the attention of MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer, who signed her to a contract (a notorious prude when it came to his studio’s films, Mayer signed her against his better judgment, but the money he knew her notoriety would bring in to the studio overrode any “moral” concerns he may have had). However, he insisted she change her name and make good, wholesome films. Hedy made her American film debut as Gaby in Algiers(1938). This was followed a year later by Lady of the Tropics (1939). In 1942 she landed the plum role of Tondelayo in the classic White Cargo (1942). After World War II her career began to decline and MGM decided it would be in the interest of all concerned if her contract were not renewed. Unfortunately for Hedy, she turned down the leads in both Gaslight (1940) and Casablanca (1942), both of which would have cemented her standing in the minds of the American public. In 1949 she appeared as Delilah opposite Victor Mature’s Samson in Cecil B. DeMille’s epic Samson and Delilah (1949). This proved to be Paramount Pictures’ most profitable movie to date, bringing in $12 million in rental from theaters. The film’s success led to more parts, but it was not enough to ease her financial crunch. She was to make only six more films between 1949 and 1957, the last being The Female Animal (1958). Hedy then retired to Florida, where she died on January 19, 2000