But she wasn't just a pretty face. As the trophy wife of an arms dealer working for the Nazis in her native Austria, she was taken to meetings to be shown off. Like other possessors of trophy wives, her husband never thought she might actually be listening to the secrets he and his customers were discussing. No doubt he thought that any brain in that beautiful head was occupied with clothes, make-up and the next party.
Little did he know...
Hedy - then Hedwig Kiesler - had a very good brain, one she was not going to use in support of the Nazis. She ran off to Paris(there's a story about her drugging her maid in her escape). There, she met Hollywood producer Louis B Mayer, who offered her a contract.
In the U.S. she wanted to become a part of the National Inventors' Council. Instead, she was asked to raise money for the war effort by selling kisses. She did this, raising a lot of money in one night by selling kisses at $25,000 each! Her lips must have needed a retread after all that...
Hedy Lamarr was not a spy. What she did was contribute - potentially, anyway - to blocking enemy interference with, or eavesdropping on, submarines. At a party she met a composer called George Antheil. Between them, the composer and the actress worked out something based on player piano rolls. It's called frequency hopping and it's still in use, but not for counter-intelligence or blocking the enemy.
It was not adopted by the U.S. Navy till the patent ran out, well after the war.
Nowadays, you use the invention of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil every day, whenever you use your smart phone. The principles went into WiFi, CDMA and Bluetooth. As a result, the two of them were inducted into the Inventors' Hall Of Fame.
When the elderly Hedy was invited to come and collect an award for contributions to science, she snorted, "Hmph! About time!"
It certainly was. And nice to know that someone who could have been a femme fatale spy instead became an inventor.
Tomorrow: M is for Herbert Dyce Murphy, the Aussie Cross-Dressing Spy