An Author’s Inspiration
A Novel of Hedy Lamarr
By Margaret Porter
Margaret Porter and Hedy Lamarr.
From my teenage years, I was aware of Hedy Lamarr’s existence. My father made no secret of the fact that she was his adolescent movie crush. When he grew up, he married a more attainable brunette beauty—my mother—but he never forgot Hedy. Whenever I paraded before him in an evening gown, or played an ingenue role in a play, his highest praise was, “You look like Hedy Lamarr.” I didn’t, but I appreciated the compliment. I never imagined, back then, that in the future I would know far more about Hedy as a novelist than he ever did as a moviegoer.
When I was a graduate student in film studies, I encountered the famous—and in its day, infamous--Czechoslovakian art film Ecstasy, and its place in cinematic history. I don’t remember making the connection between young Hedwig Kiesler, the teenager in a nude swimming scene and a scandalous—for its time—sex scene. I was unaware of the movie’s impact on Hedy the person, or the extent to which it clouded her career, her first marriage, and her reputation in Europe and after she emigrated from Austria to America. Golden Age Hollywood has always fascinated me, but for a long time Hedy Lamarr was but one of many glamorous actresses who were featured in black and white movies.
The desire to write about Hedy resulted from various serendipities. Not many years after her death, I conducted internet search, hunting down information on 1930s and 40s film stars—her near contemporaries. I kept hitting articles about her recently publicized technological achievement. I filed this tantalizing fact the in the recesses of my mind—it was quite surprising and unexpected. Not long after, a couple of nonfiction biographies of her were published, and a later came another book focused primarily on her increasingly famous invention, which became the basis of satellite technology for defense and commercial uses, remote control devices, Bluetooth, wifi, mobile phones, and more.
Although I was writing biographical fiction about people of 17th and 18th century England, gradually I pondered whether I should look to Hedy Lamarr as the protagonist of a novel. I’ve written several books about performing artists, so that was a part of her appeal. There were challenges—for instance, the time period was well outside my comfort zone. Yet I’d extensively studied cinema history as a graduate student, and after earning my M.A. I continued reading about related subjects just for pleasure. And I’ve always been a fan of old movies.
Before long, Hedy had slipped into my brain and entirely co-opted my attention. My research began with the two fine biographies and the book about her invention, and I located numerous other explorations of her life and career. Even so, Beautiful Invention is based mostly on my own primary research. There was so, so much available material to pore over.
|Margaret & a Hedy Lamarr magazine cover.
In the novel that resulted, I reveal a character who is both obscure and well-known, depending on whether a person is a fan of classic cinema from Hollywood’s Golden Age, or perhaps viewed the documentary film Bombshell, or possesses knowledge of female inventors in general or has heard that Hedy was responsible for frequency-hopping and spread-spectrum technology specifically
This is my 13th work of fiction, and Hedy by far is the most challenging character I’ve ever written. There are multiple reasons, more than I’ll take time to explain. But certain aspects of her life aligned with my own. I was able to draw on my own past—my professional work in theatre and film. Like Hedy, I spent time examining costume sketches and standing like a statue for fittings. I recall the thrill of receiving visitors to my dressing room after a stage performance. I know what it's like to stand on a soundstage, waiting for the producer and director and the technicians to complete their tasks so I can begin mine. Admittedly, I never achieved the degree of fame that Hedy Lamarr did. But I understood her working environment.
Beautiful Invention presents Hedy Lamarr as an actress, inventor, patriot, and survivor. One of my goals for the book was to uncover and reconstruct truths that were obscured by the MGM publicity machine, or by Hedy herself, and I was determined to refute persistent myths about her. Thus, another significant inspiration for writing Hedy’s fascinating story was to present the complex, intelligent, conflicted woman who was both blessed and cursed with one of the most beautiful faces of all time.
Hedy Lamarr, MGM publicity photo.
A Novel of Hedy Lamarr
By Margaret Porter
Hollywood Beauty. Brilliant inventor. Hedy Kiesler, Austrian actress of Jewish heritage, scandalizes Europe with her nudity in the art film Ecstasy. Her hasty marriage to a wealthy munitions merchant disintegrates as he grows increasingly controlling and possessive. Even worse—he supplies deadly weapons to Hitler’s regime. She flees husband and homeland for Hollywood, where Louis B. Mayer transforms her into Hedy Lamarr, an icon of exotic glamour. Professional success clashes with her personal life as marriage and motherhood compete with the demands of studio and stardom. Roused to action by the atrocities of World War II, Hedy secretly invents a new technology intended for her adopted country’s defense—and unexpectedly changes the world.
One of the Top 12 Hollywood Historical Novels recommended by Bustle.com
“Captivating . . . Porter’s insightful account of a gifted yet often misunderstood inventor and movie star makes for a winning novel.” ~ Publishers Weekly
“Fast, fun, fascinating, enjoyable, intriguing, and recommended.” ~ Historical Novels Review
Pick up your copy of
Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr
MARGARET PORTER is the award-winning, bestselling author of Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr and twelve other historical novels for U.S. and foreign-language publishers. After studying British history in the U.K., she worked professionally in theatre, film, and television. A historian and avid traveler, Margaret returns annually to Great Britain and Europe to research her novels. She lives in New England with her husband and their dogs, dividing her time between an architecturally unique book-filled house in a small city and a waterfront cottage on one of the region’s largest lakes. More information is available at her website, www.margaretporter.com.