Most people know Hedy Lamarr as an uncommonly beautiful actress with a vaguely European background and a lot of ex-husbands scattered in her wake. More recently, we’ve begun to learn about her keen interest in science and the impressive invention she masterminded in an effort to help her adopted country defeat the Nazis.
Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough talks to author Marie Benedict about how and why she decided to research and fictionalize the other life of this alluring Hollywood star.
YZM: What drew you to the subject of Hedy Lamarr?
MB: Since childhood, I’ve been intrigued by the hidden voices in history, particularly the otherwise invisible narratives of women. Over time, I feel as if I’ve developed an antennae of sorts for the unknown stories of historical women. So when an anthropologist friend of mine mentioned to me that there was a famous Golden Age of Hollywood star who was also an incredible inventor, I added her name to the list of women about whom I might write. Bit by bit, I accumulated information about her while writing other women’s stories, and when I learned that aspects of her “secret communication system” — which she hoped would help the Allies in the war effort — led to the creation of wi-fi, I knew Hedy Lamarr’s story needed to be told, particularly since her background and the reason behind her invention are so important.