Hedy Lamarr: American Masters

Hedy Lamarr: American Masters

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 9:00pm - 10:30pm

Pictured: Hedy Lamarr

Credit: Courtesy of Everett Collection

Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr (Ziegfeld Girl, Samson and Delilah) was known as the world’s most beautiful woman – Snow White and Cat Woman were both based on her iconic look.

However, her arresting appearance and glamorous life stood in the way of her being given the credit she deserved as an ingenious inventor whose pioneering work helped revolutionize modern communication. Hedy Lamarr: American Masters premieres on Friday, May 18, 2018 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV. 

An Austrian Jewish emigrant who invented a covert communication system to try to help defeat the Nazis, Lamarr was ignored and told to sell kisses for war bonds instead. It was only toward the very end of her life that tech pioneers discovered that it was her concept that is now used as the basis for secure WiFi, GPS and Bluetooth technologies. 

Lamarr never publicly talked about her life as an inventor and so her family thought her story died when she did. However, in 2016, director Alexandra Dean and producer Adam Haggiag unearthed four never-before-heard audio tapes of Lamarr speaking on the record about her incredible life, finally giving her the chance to tell her own story. Family, friends and colleagues, including Mel Brooks and the late Robert Osborne, also share their personal memories of Lamarr, explaining the atmosphere that created the disconnect between her brilliance and her beauty. 

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