‘Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.’ As the fascinating documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story makes clear, the woman who coined this quote was anything but stupid.
Hailed as the most beautiful woman in the world during her 1940s Hollywood heyday, Austrian-born actress Hedy Lamarr also had a sideline as an inventor, in 1941 co-devising with composer George Antheil a frequency-hopping technology for secretly guiding torpedoes to their target. The US Navy rejected the invention, only to use it years later, paving the way for the spread spectrum communications technology underpinning Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi.
As it happens, Lamarr’s life was full of bitter ironies. Unhappy that people failed to look beyond her dazzling beauty, she tried desperately to hang out to her looks in later life, undergoing a series of ill-advised plastic surgeries that left her a recluse. Indeed, although a string of famous talking heads – from Mel Brooks to Diane Kruger – pop up here to celebrate Lamarr’s remarkable achievements, the sense of wasted gifts gives director Alexandra Dean’s film an underlying sadness.
Certificate 12. Runtime 88 mins. Director Alexandra Dean
Dogwoof release Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story on DVD & Digital from 23 April.