It’s Hedy, Not Hedley – How I’m Thrilled A 1940s Film Star Is Today’s Google Doodle And Why You Should Be Too
I was a bit of an odd child. Some people who know me might say that this should come as no surprise, seeing that I am a bit of an odd adult. I’d love to be able to say “fuck them, what do they know?” but I’d be on shaky ground as far as empirical evidence goes if I’m being honest with myself.
The reason I was a bit of an odd child – other than wonky genetics- is that I was also a sickly child. I spent a lot of time off school ill. Back in the 1970s, there was very little to do when you were confined to your house. The telly was rubbish and you had to be pretty rich to own an Atari console. So I would normally entertain myself by retreating into my over-active imagination.
This is great fun, but it can turn you a bit peculiar. Or turn you into a writer. Frequently both.
Not that there was absolutely nothing to do when I was off school with whatever malady happened to be laying me low at the time. My dad had bought me a full set of Encyclopaedia Britannica. For you youngsters out there, Encyclopaedia Britannica was a bit like The Internet, only in book form. And in alphabetical order. And without the mucky pictures.
Not that I spent my fevered hours searching an encyclopaedia for mucky pictures. Well, not initially anyway. But then I got to that age. The age when the idea of girls starts to give you a bit of a trouser tingle but you’re not entirely sure why.
My fellow schoolboys satisfied their curiosity by raiding their big brothers’ porn stashes. I didn’t have that option available to me. My big brother had left home to make his way in the world and naturally he had taken his porn stash with him.
He had left some old movie annuals from the 1950s behind though. I was strangely fascinated by these. So, my fledgling notion of sexual fantasy did not cut its teeth on images of Sharon(23) from Weston-super-Mare. My idea of what sexy looked like was formed by photos like this:
The girls I drooled over were not called Sharon. They were called Cyd and Grace and Audrey. The pictures were glamorous and far more innocent in nature. Though to be fair, that last one of Audrey Hepburn is very nearly an upskirt pic. Almost, but not quite.
But the lady I returned to again and again was this one:
Hedy Lamarr was described, back in the day, as “The Most Beautiful Woman In The World”. Admittedly, it was her mentor, Louis B Mayer, who described her that way, but the rest of the world did seem to agree with him. She was, indeed, a bit of a stunner.
There was more to Hedy than met the eye though. She wasn’t just a pretty face. She was a bit of a smarty pants too. She uttered many memorable phrases. Here’s my favourites:
“Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”
“Men are most attractive and most virile between the ages of 35 and 55. Under 35, a man has too much to learn and I don’t have time to teach him.” (As a 47 year old man, I particularly like that one.)
“Because you don’t live near a bakery doesn’t mean you have to go without cheesecake.”
I have absolutely no idea what she meant by that one, but I like to think that its meaning is disgustingly sexual. It’s amazing how disgustingly sexual you can get without using any overtly sexual words.
I first encountered this phenomenon when my dad asked me “Do you want to hear a dirty joke without any swearwords?” I nodded yes and my dad said “Boy Scouts, Girl Guides.” I was 12 when he told me this, and all the other adults in the room fell about laughing. I didn’t get it. I do now, of course.
My favourite example of this kind of joke is in an episode of Hancock’s Half Hour called “The Missing Page”. The subject of the episode is a pulp fiction detective novel called “Lady, Don’t Fall Backwards”. Which is an absolutely filthy joke if you think about it carefully enough. I’m certain Hedy would have thoroughly approved.
One thing Hedy didn’t thoroughly approve of though was Nazis. In a previous life, she had been married to an arms dealer and as a result she knew a surprising amount about how things like torpedoes worked. So she decided to use her knowledge and her equally surprising scientific chops to help in the war effort.
Torpedoes during The Second World War were guided by radio. But the signals guiding them were easily jammed. To stop them from being jammed, Hedy and a musician friend called George Antheil invented a system called “frequency hopping”. The enemy could only jam one frequency at a time and thus the Allied torpedoes became unjammable. Or they would have done if the US Navy hadn’t mothballed the project until the 1960s.
And this Frequency Hopping system is the reason why you should be as delighted as I am that Hedy is today’s Google Doodle, on what would have been the occasion of her 101st birthday. Because without this innovation there would be no mobile phones and no WiFi. Hedy’s invention is used in almost every form of mass communication used today. Without her, you wouldn’t have been able to read this blog.
Ok, fair enough. That last point may be a bit of a mixed blessing.
Oh, one final point. Some of you may have happened on this article because I included the phrase “cute kittens” in the tags. So, here’s a picture of a cute kitten.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015