Hedy Lamarr Comes to life at the National WWII Museum

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NEW ORLEANS—Programming at the WWII Museum is back after a pandemic hiatus. The first full production is a play about one of the most recognizable actresses and scientists in history, Hedy Lamarr. The play features Heather Massie, who portrays all characters in the solo play. The play was originally scheduled to run last year but was delayed.

Erica Jensen is the Managing Director of Entertainment at the National World War Two Museum and says, “we’re back and we’re very excited to see audiences again after 14 months and having to close our whole season down. We have some Victory Belles performances and some War Time Piano Happy Hours. “HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr; is our first program after the shutdown. We know people are ready to get back out and support the arts and Hedy is the perfect story to kick that off!”

The real woman that the play is about is well-known by name and image. In the 1950’s and 1960’s Hedy Lamarr was proclaimed the “most beautiful woman in the world.” However many don’t realize that her brain was equally breathtaking.

In 1937, Hedy left her ancestral home in Austria and made her way towards a new life on the stages of Hollywood in the United States. Hedy was also a scientist who was self taught and influenced by both her husband and father in mechanics.

Heather Massie says Hedy’s intelligence was overlooked because of the misogynistic culture of the age saying, “I believe she wanted people to know her has a full person and not just her face.  She called her face a blessing and a curse.  People didn’t listen to her very well when she was alive.  In this play, she gets to tell her own story. She was quite committed to helping her new country.” 

The play begins with Hedy stepping on stage, being honored for her invention, the Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum Technology, patented as the “Secret Communication System.” She then notices the audience and seizes her opportunity to reveal her full self, brains and beauty.

The Secret Communication System, used the concept of the player piano and music box for torpedo guidance, using radio frequencies.

“We use that technology now in cell phones, wifi, GPS and bluetooth.  Her idea from the 40’s has revolutionized modern communications,” says Heather.

Hedy’s invention wasn’t used during WWII. The Navy shelved her patent. It was rediscovered and used in the late 1950’s and 1960’s during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite this, Hedy believed deeply in her country and still sold 25 million dollars worth of war bonds to help with the allied forces during WWII.

Heather is perhaps the best women in the world to play Hedy because she is also an actress with a scientific background. Heather says the mission of the play is to inspire young women interested in STEM fields and to put a spotlight on one of the most beautiful brains in the golden age of Hollywood.

To watch Hedy at the WWII Museum Friday or Saturday, or to see any of the BB’s Stage Door Canteen’s other programming, click here.

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