One of my favorite movies to come on television when I was a kid was an old film by Don Knotts called “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” Knots fall into water turning into a fish and becoming a secret weapon during wartime saving hundreds of lives with his throttle. The satellite signal used to communicate with the submarine is now known to be something called “frequency hopping”. A technology developed by filmmaker, scientist and movie star – Hedy Lamarr.
Deemed as the “Year of Women” in science, at this year’s Sloan Film Summit, it was noted that over half of the filmmakers in the room were women and news was shared about a new program called “Hidden No More”. The Sloan Foundation has long championed work about women scientists including this year’s Oscar nominated hit “Hidden Figures” and the Alexandra Dean directed and Susan Sarandon produced documentary – “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.”
Being someone who has always marched to the beat of my own drummer, I could appreciate that this gorgeous movie star was a self-taught inventor, who thought outside of the box. Besides “frequency hopping’, this brainy Austrian created what looked like a bouillon cube of Coca-Cola for the soldiers overseas to give them a little taste of home while fighting the enemy and sold more war bonds than any other Hollywood star during the war.
Some of you reading this probably think it’s unusual for a woman to be so innovative, but Hedy was encouraged by her Dad to think for herself and depend on no one…especially a man.
Hedy Lamarr was groundbreaking with plastic surgery, producing her own projects and being a single mother during a time where it was considered unpopular and unconventional. Let’s face it, Hedy Lamarr was one of a kind.
A groundbreaking woman in her own right, filmmaker and director of Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story – Alexandra Dean and I sat down recently to discuss Hedy, #MeToo, plastic surgery and frequency hopping.
The Curvy Film Critic: Let’s talk about the #MeToo movement. This is “The Year of The Woman.” What do you think Hedy Lamarr would’ve liked about this whole Year of the Woman thing if she were still her today?
Alexandra Dean: I think THIS is her time. She became a recluse, because she felt like she would never really be understood. She was a misunderstood, complicated, wild woman and the world wasn’t ready to understand her. So, she withdrew from the world. But, this film is hitting right at the moment the world is shifting and ready to listen. Even The momentum of the film is lifting with rise of the MeToo movement. So, the timing just couldn’t be better. I’m actually astonished by at it.
The Curvy Film Critic: What are your personal thoughts about the #MeToo movement?
Alexandra Dean: I’m amazed at this movement and can’t believe it’s happening so fast. The speed of it is frightening and I don’t know where we’re going from here. I almost wish we would slow down a little bit and focus on more predators that I know are still out there.
The Curvy Film Critic: In the film, we learn that Hedy not only is a pioneer with technology, but the plastic surgery is well. I didn’t know until I saw the film that she was responsible for doing the tucks behind ears, chin and knees for certain procedures. Why do you think women, especially beautiful women, are so obsessed with maintain their youth with plastic surgery?
Alexandra Dean: What we think about our personal decisions aren’t our personal decisions at all. We shave our legs. We bleach. We pluck. We totter around on crazy heels…all of that we think makes us feel good. But, it only makes us feel good because that’s what the culture is telling us all the time.
The Curvy Film Critic: You know what? That’s actually a really good point. So, to segue from the superficial to something that is so incredibly relevant today is Hedy Lamarr’s development of “frequency hopping.” I’m sure somebody at some point would’ve figured it out, but I love the fact that it was a Hollywood glamour-puss that figured out frequency hopping that gives us wi-fi, GPS (the GPS I used to get here today), Bluetooth headsets and all of that technology. When I saw Bombshell, I immediately thought about an old Don Knotts film called “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” (1964) in which his character becomes a secret weapon for the military through this throttle sound he makes and connects with submarine satellite signals. Why do you think men in the military suppressed the knowledge of “frequency hopping?” Was it because it was invented by a woman or something the military couldn’t 100% take credit for? Also, why do you think no one informed Hedy Lamarr of the expiration deadline so that she could get paid for something that is now worth billions of dollars?
Alexandra Dean: She was Austrian. With the immigrant thing, you can take property away from an immigrant who is from a country that we might be at war with or that’s aggressive towards us. At the time she was giving this patent to National Inventors Council to try to help our country…we were also grabbing it from her and putting it in our stockpile of stored patents that we took from many Austrian immigrants. Even if they were Jewish, even if they were refugees…we took their property. However, our government has acknowledged her over the years at one ceremony or another…
The Curvy Film Critic: I saw the ceremony in the film, but this is the thing…neither her nor her family have been compensated. That’s a shame and disgrace.
Alexandra Dean: It really is. I’m working with the family right now to see if we can’t get the papers she actually wrote the patent on valued and actually get them some money from that. It’s time for them to go into a museum and it’s time for the kids to get paid…
The Curvy Film Critic: It should be in the Smithsonian…that’s crazy!
Alexandra Dean: That’s where she wanted it to be…it’s time.
The Curvy Film Critic: When people see this film, which is playing in selected theaters now, what is the one thing you want people to walk away from seeing “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story?”
Alexandra Dean: I really hope they take away the message that Hedy is trying to give out at the end of the film. You might feel like the word is rigged against you. You might feel like nobody is ever gonna stand up and give you the applause for the extraordinary things you achieve in your life. But, I m here to tell you…you should do it anyway. Because, you’ll look back and having done something to change the world…to make your mark will be your legacy. That’s what’s going to matter when you are about to die. That’s what you will care about. Think about what you are leaving behind and don’t care about the system that’s working against you . People will recognize you and you will prevail.
The Curvy Film Critic: What’s your legacy gonna be?
Alexandra Dean: Bringing these women back and helping another generation of young women reach further…do more…feel like they can be everything.
Produced by Reframed Pictures and Kino Lorber , Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story can be seen in limited release in a theatre near you