A new book about the great screen beauty Hedy Lamarr has some interesting Wellesian connections, even though the book mentions Welles very little if it all. First, Lamarr was a big admirer of Welles and wanted him to direct her. She pitched several film projects to him and tried out for the part of Lady Macbeth, but lost the part to Jeanette Nolan. Welles had wanted her to recreate her role in ALGIERS for the Mercury's 1938 radio adaptation, but Campbell Soup rejected her, fearing that, not being able to see her beauty on the radio, the audience wouldn't buy her voice.
She had escaped from Nazi Germany, having been the 19-year-old trophy wife of the Austrian arms magnate Fritz Mandl, who is believed to have been one of the main models Welles later used to create the character of Gregory Arkadin. Lamarr had had a fascination with technology ever since she was a child, a fascination instilled by her banker father, and secretly absorbed a lot of top secret technical information from the many high ranking nazi officials she was pressured to consort with at Mandl's parties. She was also an amateur inventor who had already developed a bullion cube that would create a soft drink when dropped in water. She had first gained notoriety for appearing nude in the 1934 film ECSTASY, a film that Mandl tried to destroy every copy of after their marriage.
There is no evidence that Mandl actually pimped Lamarr out to Nazi officials, but the notion is not implausible, and one wonders whether it may have crossed Welles's mind when he wrote the Arkadin screenplay, with the main revelation of Arkadin's past being that he was a pimp for the Nazis. In any event, the Jewish Lamarr saw little future for herself as the Nazis solidified their power throughout the 1930s, and she fled to America in 1935. Welles later wrote about Mandl after the war, when he had become a main transporter of arms between the fascist regimes of Franco in Spain and the Perons in Argentina.
After Lamarr fled to America, she wound up in Hollywood, and became a minor star. Here she met the composer George Antheil, who had scored one of Welles's favorite films, MAKE WAY FOR TOMMORROW, and was also his first choice to score THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI before Columbia studio hired their own composer. Antheil had a Welles-like reputation as an enfante terrible, based on the notoriety of his dadaist work BALLET MECHANIQUE, which caused a near riot at it's Paris premiere in 1924, with it's outrageous cacophony of 10 player pianos, 5 xylophones and several airplane propellers. Welles surely recognized a kindred spirit in Antheil, who like Welles, was also a newspaper columnist on the side.
In fact, it was one of Antheil's newspaper columns on breast enhancement that attracted Lamarr. When Lamarr and Antheil met at a party in 1944, she had already been given research money by Howard Hughes to further develop her bullion cube soda idea. She and Antheil came up with something much more grandiose when they discussed the war. Lamarr told Antheil of her idea for a frequency-hopping torpedo system that would escape detection by Nazi submarines. Antheil proposed using the system he had devised for the player pianos in his infamous early work, and the two quickly obtained a patent for it. Although the system was rejected by the navy during WWII (some suggest out of chauvinism), it would later be used during the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, and eventually become part of the groundwork for many modern inventions such as WiFi, cellphones, GPS, and smart bombs. Lamarr and Antheil were honored in the 90’s as pioneers by the Electronic Fronrier Foundation. The book tells a strange and fascinating story, and an excellent NYT review of it is here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/books ... wanted=all