Produced by Adam Haggiag,
Alexandra Dean, Katherine Drew
Executive Produced by Susan Sarandon
Regina K. Scully Michael Kantor
Written and Directed by Alexandra Dean
Featuring Hedy Lamarr, Peter Bogdanovich,
Mel Brooks, Diane Kruger, Robert Osborne,
Jan-Christopher Horak, Stephen Michael Shearer
If you have never heard of the actress/ inventor Hedy Lamarr, you would not be alone.
In her time, though, she was known as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Unfortunately this title and the conventions of the time period made it so the asset that gave her so much opportunity also pigeonholed her later as Lamarr’s talent as an inventor was generally disregarded.
The importance placed on a woman’s looks and how they tied to her worth became a mentality that Lamarr kept till she passed, not because she believed in it outright but because the situations of her life continuously reinforced it.
This documentary directed by Alexandra Dean and co-executive produced by Susan Sarandon does an excellent job of educating without sounding too preachy about the hazards of fame for beautiful women. Seamlessly blending stock forage from hits like Cecil B. DeMile’s Samson and Delilah with photos from later in life and some of the last phone interviews Lamarr gave before passing show an intimate portrait of the Hollywood legend. It covers the time from her birth to Jewish parents in Vienna and her first marriage at 19 (to an arms dealer that later supplied the likes of Hitler and Mussolini) through her escape out of the country and into Hollywood.
The latter half focuses on her inventions and her struggles with addiction, reclusiveness, and being valued more for beauty than brains. Indeed, I doubt there are many people who know that technology we use today like Wi-Fi utilizes her frequency hopping invention as a foundational element.
This is given more attention than in previous tellings, using animations to describe the intricacies in detail so that we can better appreciate the engineering prowess (and most likely, unrealized potential) shown by Lamarr during World War II.
The film is cut beautifully and follows a progression that feels engaging and makes us deeply sympathize with Lamarr. Having new firsthand accounts significantly adds to the interest, as so many times documentaries referencing this time period depend mostly on historians’ take.
Hearing from her children, now well into their 70s, also provides a rounded view into how her turmoil affected those around her. With that said, the coverage of her years after leaving the public eye are treated with respect, and it is clear that first-time filmmaker Dean wants nothing more than to make sure this case study of beauty as the beast is taken to heart.
Bombshell will surely lead to a newfound appreciation for Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian beauty that could not escape her face to truly pursue the potential of her brain.
It gives a critique of the shallow box that woman of that time period were forced to exist in, and celebrates the resilience of one who refused as often as she could to let it define her.
Because as Hedy Lamarr herself once said, “Any girl can look glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid.”