Her film career began at age 16 in Germany. She did a total of five German films by the age of 19. It was her fifth film Ekstase(Ecstasy) in 1933 that catapulted her to international fame. Lamarr appeared nude in the film.
The film was an international scandal and made her famous enough to get a contract with a major US studio. There was only one problem: she was married.
Marriage and escape
Lamarr married at age 19 to a man 13 years her senior. He was a Austrian Fascist who ran an arms factory name Fritz Mandl. Fritz was a jealous husband and tried to control his young beautiful wife. He was embarrassed by the film Ekstase and tried to buy all the copies floating around Europe to have them destroyed. Lamarr wrote in her autobiography that he often locked her away in their mansion under lock and key.
Lamarr escaped from her husband by drugging her maid, stealing her uniform and slipping out as a servant. In her biography it states that as part of her escape she hid in a brothel that was searched by her husband. In order not to break cover she slept with a customer. Lamarr later sued the publisher saying that many parts of the biography were fabricated.
Lamar had a very successful Hollywood career and was one of the top female stars of the 1940s. She was active for the twenty years spanning 1938-1958 but peaked with Samson and Delilah(1949) the top grossing movie of 1950. Interestingly, she turned down the staring role in Casablanca (1942) a film that would have cemented her status as a film icon.
Frequency-hopping spread-spectrum communications
During the decade of the 1940s Lamarr was one of Hollywood's top stars, she stared in dozens of movies, she was married twice and had three children. But in the midst of all of this she somehow found time for a side engineering project that would revolutionize communication technology.
Together with George Antheil, her childhood neighbor from Austria, she was granted a US patent for a idea to guide torpedoes using 88 different frequencies and an algorithm for hopping between frequencies. The idea was intended to make torpedoes more difficult to jam. Not only was Lamarr promoting war bonds and generating up to 7 million dollars in a single rally she was inventing new advanced weapons.
Unfortunately the idea of frequency hopping was before its time and the technology of the day could not handle it. Frequency hopping was not used by the US military until the early 1960s. Lamarr and Antheil's patent is considered the the basis of modern spread-spectrum communications. Lamarr has since been widely recognized for this achievement. In 1989 she sold 49% of the patent to a Canadian company for an undisclosed sum.
Life after Hollywood
After 1951 Lamarr's Hollywood career started to fade. She married three more times, moved to Florida and lived to the ripe old age of 85. During this time her life was not boring. She was charged with shoplifting in both 1966 and 1991. This made worldwide headlines (she was found innocent in 1966 and given probation in 1991).
In her 1967 autobiography Lamarr details an affair with a young attractive Bohemian artist. There are few details of her life after her autobiography but around this time she said "I'm fifty-one years old, but I'm not through yet. I have lived a full life, and intend packing in quite a lot more." Having lived to 85 years of age she no doubt lived up to this prediction.
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