Trailblazing through the Decades: Hedy Lamarr (1940s)

In honor of Women’s History Month, NYWIFT looks back at some of the remarkable women who have shaped the film, television and digital media industries through the decades.


By Kathryn O’Kane

During WWII, a hobbyist inventor worked to help the military come up with a secure communication system to combat the Nazis. By manipulating radio frequencies at irregular intervals between transmission and reception, the invention formed an unbreakable code that prevented classified messages from being intercepted by enemy personnel. This patented form of frequency hopping revolutionized modern communications and formed the foundation for Wi-Fi, cell phone, and Bluetooth technology. The inventor’s name was Hedy Lamarr, and she was also a Hollywood star during MGM’s “Golden Age.”

Serving as the inspiration for both Snow White and Cat Woman, Lamarr was often typecast as the “exotic seductress” opposite popular leading men. She made 18 films from 1940 – 1949.

Hedy Lamarr Bombshell

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017, dir. Alexandra Dean)

You can learn more about Lamarr in Bombshell: The Hedy Lemarr Story (2017) directed by NYWIFT member Alexandra Dean, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last year.

“Inventing was her hobby,” Dean told Vanity Fair. “It was her reflex. It was how she dealt with the problems of the world. And she did it in such a quiet way that most people around her didn’t even know.”

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