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*Starred Review* Literary luminary Rhodes is not the first to write about movie star Hedy Lamarr's second life as an inventor, but his enlightening and exciting chronicle is unique in its illumination of why and how she conceived of an epoch-shaping technology now known as frequency-hopping spread spectrum. As intelligent and independent as she was beautiful, Jewish Austrian Lamarr quit school to become an actor, then disastrously married a munitions manufacturer who got cozy with the Nazis. Lamarr coolly gathered weapons information, then fled the country for Hollywood. As she triumphed on the silver screen, she also worked diligently on a secret form of radio communication that she hoped would boost the U.S. war effort but that ultimately became the basis for cell phones, Wi-Fi, GPS, and bar-code readers. Lamarr's technical partner was George Antheil, a brilliant and intrepid pianist and avant-garde composer whose adventures are so fascinating, he nearly steals the show. In symphonic control of a great wealth of fresh and stimulating material, and profoundly attuned to the complex ramifications of Lamarr's and Antheil's struggles and achievements (Lamarr finally received recognition as an electronic pioneer late in life), Rhodes incisively, wittily, and dramatically brings to light a singular convergence of two beyond-category artists who overtly and covertly changed the world.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Here's a recipe that might surprise you: take a silver-screen sex goddess (Hedy Lamarr), an avant-garde composer (George Antheil), a Hollywood friendship, and mutual technological curiosity, and mix well. What results is a patent for spread-spectrum radio, which has impacted the development of everything from torpedoes to cell phones and GPS technologies. This surprising and long-forgotten story is brought to life by Pulitzer Prize winner Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb), who deftly moves between Nazi secrets, scandalous films, engineering breakthroughs, and musical flops to weave a taut story that straddles two very different worlds-the entertainment industry and wartime weaponry-and yet somehow manages to remain a delectable read. Verdict Hedy Lamarr is experiencing something of a renaissance, and Rhodes's book adds another layer to the life of a beautiful woman who was so much more than the sum of her parts. It will appeal to a wide array of readers, from film, technology, and patent scholars to those looking for an unusual romp through World War II-era Hollywood.-Teri Shiel, Westfield State Univ. Lib., MA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000) is probably the only Hollywood star who had a drafting table in her home and a dedicated work space to concentrate on her inventions. Her unusual collaboration with composer George Antheil during WW II, when she conceived of a weapon that could attack German submarines that were devastating Allied shipping, has received the full attention of biographers Ruth Barton (Hedy Lamarr: The Most Beautiful Woman in Film, CH, May'11, 48-4974) and Stephen Michael Shearer (Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr, 2010), both of whom Rhodes cites in his notes. As all three writers note, Lamarr's invention of a wireless technology makes her one of the progenitors of the contemporary world. What Rhodes's compact study adds to scholarship about Lamarr is not clear. Certainly, he is far less interested than are his predecessors in Lamarr's film career, or even in whether she could act. He whisks her off the screen with unseemly haste, even when he is discussing her defining role in Algiers (1938), and instead quotes hyperbolic statements from Cecil B. DeMille and others rather than assessing his subject as a whole person. This is an intriguing story, but not useful in the academy. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers only. C. Rollyson Bernard M. Baruch College, CUNY