Hedy Lamarr was a remarkable woman – and for a long time, the general public had no idea she achieved much more than the notoriety of her early career and the fame gained through Hollywood productions. Alexandra Dean’s documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story highlights Lamarr’s struggle to balance her scientific mind with a sexist society, both in her professional and in her personal life.
Beauty features heavily in Lamarr’s biography: it’s a double-edged sword of finding fame through her striking looks, and the way she was valued only her exterior, rather than the intelligent mind underneath it all. “I was always inventing something,” Lamarr says on tape, and there is proof of that in the patent for a frequency hopping device she created with her friend, the composer George Antheil. Ignored at first, the patent was later used by the US Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and now serves as the basis for Wi-Fi, cell phones, and other modern technologies. Forgotten for decades, it was only towards the end of Lamarr’s life she was awarded the recognition she deserved for her achievement.
Using audio tapes and archival clips, as well as interviews with friends and family, Dean traces Lamarr’s early years, her career, and her inventions, but also the more troubled aspects of her personal life. Though there is an effort to create a well-rounded examination of Lamarr’s life, Bombshell’s second half has some difficulty looking past the surface of plastic surgery and family drama.
The documentary is informative and thoroughly engaging with its narrative fluidity. Dean packs much of this incredible and action-filled life into an all too brief period of 90 minutes, which leaves little room for added depth. Still, it functions well as a condensed introduction to Hedy Lamarr, who undoubtedly deserves to be remembered for more than her magnetic screen presence.
CAST: Nino Amareno, Charles Amirkhanian, Jeanine Basinger, Bill Birnes, Peter Bogdanovich, Manya Hartmayer Breuer
DIRECTOR: Alexandra Dean
WRITERS: Alexandra Dean
SYNOPSIS: A documentary about the life of the Hollywood actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr.