Lessons from a “Bombshell”

I recall walking in the streets of Collingwood and coming across a striking piece of graffiti art of a beautiful woman who was clearly from another era and seemed familiar. Enquiring among friends confirmed the woman was Hedy Lamarr, a famed Hollywood golden era movie star.

Not long after, filling in hours on a long flight, I found the movie menu offered a documentary about the same Hedy Lamarr, curiously titled, “Bombshell”. The film told the amazing story of Hedy’s life, fleeing Europoe in the 30’s to Hollywood where she boldly crafted a career billed as the “most beautiful woman in the world.” What was most surprising and completely unknown to me ( and I feel certain to anyone else viewing the film) was Hedy’s lifelong activity as an “inventor” which she valued much more than the fame and fortune which movie stardom bestowed upon her.

In essence in the early years of WW11, in partnership with the avant garde American composer George Antheil, Hedy created the concept of radio frequency-hopping to provide a torpedo guidance system which the enemy would be unable to block and defend against. Hedy and George took their patented idea to the USA military establishment which indefensibly shelved the concept without due consideration and, insultingly, telling her to stick to what she did best, by which they meant being beautiful and helping to sell “war bonds” to finance the military effort. Eventually Hedy and George returned to their respective careers in movies and music.

Setting aside the complex machinations which occurred in the wake of Hedy and George’s amazing achievement – most particularly the deceit of the military and political establishment which led to the unauthorised (by Hedy and George) use of their original idea, and the complete lack of any financial payment to the original inventors – what we all need to know is this simple fact. Hedy and George’s original idea is directly responsible for much of the digital technological revolution which today shaped life on our planet.

An amazing story, by any standard, which reminds us that individuals are complex with capacities we often overlook or undervalue. But what is most moving in this tale of a woman whose achievements have been so inaccurately presented until the present day is a series of simple, but essential, principles for living which Hedy provided to an interviewer towards the end of her life.

This is what the amazing Hedy said which we might reflect on:

“People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centred; love them anyway.”

“If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, alternative motives; do good anyway.”

“The biggest people with the biggest ideas can e shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds; think big anyway.”

“What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight: build anyway.”

“Give the world the best you have and you will be kicked into the sea; give the world the best you’ve got anyway.”

These words resonate with me very strongly and I hope with others who may read this!

Hedy, I thank you!

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