- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 7, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307742954
- ISBN-13: 978-0307742957
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 162 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World Paperback – August 7, 2012
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Praise for Richard Rhodes’s Hedy’s Folly:
"Fascinating. . . . mixes thorough techno research with Hollywood glam. . . . Rhodes drops quite a bombshell."--USA Today
"A smart, strange and fascinating book."--Washington Post
"It's to Mr. Rhodes's credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible."--New York Times
"Unveils the inquisitive brain behind the beauty.... [It] reads at turns like a romance novel, patent law primer, noir narrative and exercise in forensic psychology.” —Los Angeles Times
"Rhodes's talent is making the scientifically complex accessible to the proverbial lay reader with clarity and without dumbing down the essentials of his topics."--The New York Times Book Review
"[A] charming and remarkably seamless book."—Salon
"Fascinating . . . shows Hedy Lamarr to have been a secret weapon in more ways than one."—Newsweek
"Richard Rhodes is the perfect historian to describe the abilities of Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil as scientists and inventors."--Larry McMurtry, Harper's Magazine
"Richard Rhodes's book should be celebrated: he shows that even in the "information" age, there is a way to write about an American movie star that gives readers something new."--The New Republic
"Hedy Lamarr, glamorous Hollywood star. Hedy Lamarr, glamorous genius inventor.
That's the gist of Richard Rhodes' Hedy's Folly . . . although, of course, it's far more complicated than that. And far more fascinating."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"Hedy's Folly is a reminder that neither time nor gravity can diminish the allure of a beautiful mind."--Bloomberg Business Week
"Rhodes, who has written about everything from atomic power to sex to John James Audubon, is apparently incapable of writing a bad book and most of what he does is absolutely superior."--The Daily Beast
"A riveting narrative, propelled by the ambition and idiosyncrasies of the inventors at its core."--Science News
"[A]n unusual and worthwhile read."—Washington Times
"A focused glimpse into one actress’ remarkable life, and the rare mix of war, patriotism and intellect that fomented her unlikely invention."—Dallas Morning News
"Rhodes...manages to capture the sheer improbability of these unlikely Edisons."—Entertainment Weekly
"Rhodes puts Lamarr’s inventive spirit into coherent context.... [His] book gives us the whole Hedy — a closet geek in peacock feathers — and makes that mix believable."— Nature
"Riveting. . . . There’s enough technical and military history here to keep Rhodes’s hard-core fan base satisfied. But the cultural history is just as interesting, and Rhodes tells both stories with a sure and supple hand."—The New York Observer
About the Author
RICHARD RHODES is most recently the author of The Twilight of the Bombs, the last volume in a quartet about nuclear history. The first, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, won the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award.
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It is actually a fascinating slice through the history of the first half of the 20th century, putting the invention of frequency-hopping radio transmission into the unlikely contexts of Hollywood and the European avant garde music scene. It works out, almost certainly because of the availability of sources, to have more about the life of George Antheil, a provocative composer whose music was used to inspire a riot for the benefit of a film, and who was Lamarr's collaborator in developing the invention. There's a lot of information about him, because he wrote lots of letters, many of them begging.
Lamarr was a much more reserved person: her day job was to be a movie actress and "the most beautiful woman in the world"; in the evenings she like to settle down in a corner of her drawing room and work at her inventions. The balance of attention is certainly not because Rhodes undervalues her intelligence; it just seems that she wasn't that much into reading and writing, so she left less trace. What we get of her life, however, illuminates the move from Central European High Culture to Hollywood, which was imposed on so many people because of their Jewish ancestry, and pursued by some others for the sake of money.
Rhodes' writing is nice and crisp, clear, and professional. It doesn't have the annoying mannerisms of many professional authors, but he does make sure that none of his research goes to waste. There's a useful digression on what patent law means by "reduce to practice."
I'm left feeling that I know enough about the origins of spread spectrum broadcasting, for the time being, but inspired to find out more about Lamarr and Antheil.
The actual torpedo story doesn't begin until around page 100 (this is a 220 page book), and from that point doesn't continue as a focus for too long. Although Lamarr and Antheil's concept, and the practical application that could be inferred from the schematics of the patent, would find use in military applications and then consumer applications in future decades, the two's torpedo idea was eventually rejected by the Navy and so was not a part of WW II. Lamarr's burning desire was to contribute to the war effort, which she did do in many other ways. That the idea was able to survive
several layers of bureaucratic weeding out and was awarded a patent is remarkable.
The New York Times put it best. "It's to Mr. Rhodes's credit that he gently makes this implausible story plausible." To make it plausible required Rhodes to cast a wide net indeed. And the title is interesting. The reader is left to judge just how much of a folly Lamarr's pursuit was or was not. However, apparently the idea was not a folly to Antheil, who was something of a polymath. This story from his point of view might be more to the point.
Hedy’s folly is not as much a book about Hedy's life as it is about the birth of her and George Antheil’s invention. Rhodes explains the events in Hedy's and George’s life that were crucial to them being able to invent spread spectrum. He also goes into detail about many important people that were involved with George Antheil and consequently Hedy’s lives. For example, we hear a lot about George's patron, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, and George's many other acquaintances (George was very social), but not a lot of Hedy Lamarr's acquaintances (despite being Hollywood actress, Hedy, was a private person). At times, I personally found this tedious, because I bought the book with the intention of learning more about Hedy Lamarr as an inventor, not just as a Hollywood actress. Accordingly, I found the long back-stories of George Antheil's acquaintances to be a trifle boring.
Nevertheless, the book is very well written and very interesting since it delves into George and Hedy’s personal lives, careers, and their contributions to the Allied war efforts in World War II (outside of inventing).
This book is a good read for anyone who is even remotely intrigued by the origins of our modern wireless technology and its colorful inventors. Hedy's Folly is truly in an inspiring story of how one little Austrian girl's father perchance for inventing spurred her to become one of America's leading actresses as well as one of the greatest inventors of her time.