Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

Documentary Bombshell shows that screen beauty Hedy Lamarr was so much more than just a pretty face

Film Review by Gianni Marini | 07 Mar 2018
Film title: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story
Director: Alexandra Dean
Starring: Hedy Lamarr
Release date: 9 Mar
Certificate: 12A

Hedy Lamarr invented the revolutionary idea of ‘frequency-hopping’ (basically a proto-Bluetooth that was used by the US Navy during the Cuban missile crisis) but was never fairly compensated for this astounding achievement. Bombshell tells Lamarr’s story: from her childhood in Austria and a string of unhealthy relationships with men, to her becoming the icon of Hollywood on-screen beauty.

The documentary is built around a series of phone interviews that Lamarr had with then-Forbes journalist Fleming Meeks. Her lightly accented voice explains how throughout her life everyone she met saw only her captivating beauty and had no interest in finding out who she was beyond it. She is acerbic and intelligent as she describes her rise to fame and her attempt to carve her own way through a male-dominated industry and world.

Lamarr’s patent for the design of a radio guided missile is only one of several extraordinary achievements that the film reveals. She produced movies by herself, almost unheard of in a time when movie making was dominated by big Hollywood studios.

Ultimately, Lamarr’s story is tragic. Never truly recognised in her lifetime for her great mind, instead suffocated by the attention paid to her physical appearance and personal relationships, Lamarr became reclusive in later life, drawing herself away even from her own children. Decades of drug abuse, financial difficulties and misogynistic stereotyping took their toll.

Alexandra Dean’s documentary helps rectify some of these wrongs by introducing us to Lamarr’s inner life – one travailed by false images. Interviews with Mel Brooks, Robert Osborne, as well as Lamarr’s sons and granddaughters, help humanise the story. But it is her letters to those she felt closest to that reveal a brilliant but frustrated person whose search for freedom seemed thwarted at every turn. Bombshell tells Hedy Lamarr’s story effectively without ignoring her beauty, but makes it clear how unimportant it really was.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story screened at Glasgow Film Festival 2018
Released 9 Mar by Dogwoof

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