Celebrities dabbling as inventors is nothing new; who can forget Will.i.am’s smart watch that (inadvertently) doubles as a needle for drawing blood, or Gwyneth Paltrow’s bath salts that mask natural body odour by making you stink of rotting fruit? But none made a more significant contribution than 1930s and ‘40s movie star Hedy Lamarr, whose invention of frequency hopping technology forms the basis of the satellite, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi systems we use to read Goop today.
Alexandra Dean’s documentary tells Lamarr’s heady story using extensive pictures, animation and contributions from her friends and family, including well-known faces like Mel Brooks and Diane Kruger. From her childhood in Vienna to her reclusive retirement, the film redresses a lack of justice in the world (wrong Lamar), while highlighting the hypocrisy of how the media perceives women.
As the most glamorous inventor this side of Tony Stark, Lamarr felt cursed by her looks, which she believed had always stopped the world from seeing who she really was. You couldn’t be a Hollywood beauty and a scientific innovator, that simply didn’t fit the media’s narrative in the ‘40s; the public wouldn’t believe she invented satellite technology any more than you’d believe that Gerard Butler managed it in Geostorm. So the military were able to effectively steal her frequency hopping system, meaning she was never paid for technology now worth around $30bn.
This meant her legacy rested firmly on her looks instead of her ideas, leading her to drugs and plastic surgery (where she continued to innovate, interestingly enough), only gaining recognition for her pioneering work a few years before her death in 2000. Although a tragic story in many ways, Bombshell succeeds in its mission of vindicating and venerating this remarkable person, who shows that there’s more to being a woman than becoming someone’s Wi-Fi.