I can’t help wondering if she would’ve been happier if she could have just worked peacefully as an inventor. From what I can tell, she was very unhappy, and stardom didn’t please her. She was beautiful, and I’m pretty sure she was talented—I haven’t seen enough of her movies to be completely sure—but I think probably she was the kind of person who would have preferred to live a quiet life with no pressure beyond that of figuring out the next detail of her invention. In fact, I think we all would’ve been better off if she’d done that. Not that her movies were bad, but my goodness her invention was valuable.
She did, on the other hand, want to act from an early age; she dropped out of school to break into the movies. In her infamous appearance in Ecstasy, she was nineteen. It wasn’t the first movie with female nudity, but its portrayal of female sexual pleasure was considered shocking. It’s kind of tame by today’s standards, but in the early ’30s, not so much. Her first husband, Friedrich Mandl, tried to buy every print, but he failed. When she went to Hollywood, she changed her name in part to distance herself from the Hedy Kiesler who was so notorious in Europe.
She is, in fact, on the list of people who left Europe just in time. Although her mother had converted to Catholicism, both Trude and Emil Keisler, her parents, were Jewish. Interestingly, that first husband was an absolute fascist who was also himself half-Jewish; his love of the Nazis was definitely not reciprocated. But Lamarr used her American connections to get her mother out of Austria, her father having died in 1935, and I can’t help suspecting she took a certain amount of pleasure from his rejection by the Nazis, given how cruel he’d apparently been to her.
Not, really, that you can know much of anything about her with accuracy. Most of the information out there about her seems to be derived from her autobiography, Ecstasy and Me, but she sued the publisher, claiming that the ghost writer had invented much of it himself. So did she escape from Mandl by disguising herself as a maid? Who knows? It seems likely that the number of husbands is true—at six—and I’m pretty sure there’s evidence that her “adopted” child was her biological son born out of wedlock. But do we know much beyond that for certain? Not really.
Except that she seemed to have become a recluse, communicating almost exclusively by telephone in her later years. She sued Warner Bros. over the “Hedley Lamarr” joke in Blazing Saddles. She sued Corel for using her image on the packaging of their software. She became estranged from her oldest son and left him out of her will. And despite how valuable her frequency-hopping technology has turned out to be, she was pretty much told not to worry her pretty little head with inventing and to stick to acting instead.