The long-gestating Hedy Lamarr television series, which Gal Gadot has been attached to as both producer and star, just got its straight-to-series order from Apple TV+. The new streaming service announced the order Thursday, revealing the series will be an eight episode limited series with Gadot as Lamarr, the Austrian-born movie star who during the height of World War II was described as the “most beautiful woman in the world,” all the while she was ignored for her brilliance when she created the technology that led to GPS during the war.
Apple gave the order to the series, which at one time was expected to premiere on Showtime. The series will be executive produced by Gadot and Sarah Treem, the latter of whom also wrote the series. Treem’s previous credits include The Affair, House of Cards, and In Treatment.
In addition to being a sultry movie star of the wartime era, Lamarr was also the inventor of the technology that eventually gave way to GPS and the Wi-Fi in your phone. Dismissed in her time as a pretty face (and a celebrity of renowned litigious vigor, as gleamed by a running joke about “HEADLEY” Lamarr in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles), Lamarr had a fascinating life that included being born to a well-off Jewish family in Vienna, Austria-Hungary during the early 20th century.
Lamarr, already an actress who appeared in the legendarily controversial Ecstasy (1933), was married to Fritz Mandl the same year. Mandl was a weapons manufacturer who would go on to supply the Nazis during World War II, as well as host Adolf Hitler upon occasion. But before the war started—and after Lamarr heard her husband and colleagues discuss the dangers German U-Boats would face due to radio-controlled torpedoes—Lamarr escaped Nazi Germany in disguise before winding up to London… and eventually on the same ship crossing the Atlantic as Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM Studios. Despite knowing limited English, she had a contract by the time the ship made port in New York.
While in Hollywood, she became a star thanks to movies like Boom Town (1940) and Comrade X (1940). She also solved the submarine problem just in time for the American entry into the Second World War.
Upon studying her mechanical piano player, friend George Antheil and Lamarr realized that the same self-playing technology could be used to create frequency-hopping signals, jamming radio-controlled torpedoes. She patented the technology in 1942, but the U.S. Navy declined to use it, suggesting Lamarr continue helping sell war bonds as a beautiful fundraiser. But 20 years later during the Cuban Missile Crisis in ‘62, the Navy actually saw the value in frequency-hopping signals while in showdown with the Soviet Union. The tech would lead to the military breakthroughs in GPS, which in turn has given us the Wi-Fi we all use today.
Lamarr’s brilliance continued to go ignored for the rest of her lifetime, and she died a recluse after the beauty she coveted faded. She also sued Blazing Saddles for the aforementioned joke. Still, this series will hopefully give her some of the notoriety she truly deserved.
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