“We hold a piece of women’s history in our hands every day... a piece of history created - in a roundabout fashion - by Hedy Lamarr.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s a quote from the Author’s Note of Marie Benedict’s novel The Only Woman in the Room. It’s based on the life of Hedy Kiesler, or as we know her from the American film industry, Hedy Lamarr.
The fact is that she wasn’t just a pretty face. Her role as Empress Elizabeth on the Austrian stage entranced the wealthy and powerful armaments manufacturer Friedrich “Fritz” Mandl. After convincing her to marry him, he used her as part of the beautiful backdrop for dinner parties with his powerful friends. Underestimated as the only woman in the room, she heard about issues with the mechanics of the Third Reich’s weapons. She not only listened, but remembered and pondered.
Right before the Anschluss in Austria, she managed to escape from her husband’s clutches and emigrated to America where she met Mr. Mayer who changed her name and helped her secure roles in movies. Wanting desperately to help her fellow Austrians during the war, she partnered with George Antheil , a talented musician, to invent a more accurate way to shoot torpedos. Unfortunately, although the Navy thought their invention was a good one, they refused to use anything invented by a woman.
Author Benedict wrote, “If only people had been willing to look behind 'the only woman in the room' to examine the person she was beneath, they might have seen a woman capable of greatness, and not only on the screen.”
If you’re interested in reading a story of a smart, beautiful film star, then you must read The Only Woman In the Room by Marie Benedict.