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Hedy Larmarr: "The Bombshell" Who Helped Invent Wi-Fi; The Activism Of Singer Annie Lennox. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Tonight, as the fight for women's rights gains new momentum, we look back at the extraordinary life

of Hedy Lamarr, the Hollywood bombshell, who helped invent Wi-Fi.

Plus, the singular Annie Lennox, the Eurythmics frontwoman, tells me why she is staying loyal to Oxfam, how she is fighting to help women all over

the world and she gives us a very special performance.


Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

At the end of a week where women's rights have been front and center, from Frances McDormand's rousing speech at the Oscars to International Women's


And while today the #MeToo and Time's Up movements are keeping the struggle alive, women have been pushing for gender parity for decades. Their

efforts and accomplishments so often overlooked as they battled in vain to be heard or taken seriously.

Just like the actress Hedy Lamarr, one of the biggest stars during Hollywood's golden age and also an inventor, whose idea for a remote

communication system in the 1940s became the blueprint for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.

But all the attention was always focused on her looks, not on her inventions. And Hedy literally had to wait until her looks faded, her

movie career was over to get any credit for her scientific breakthroughs.

Now, a new documentary, "Bombshell: The Story of Hedy Lamarr" tells the full account. And I sat down with the director Alexandra Dean right here

in the studio.

Alexandra Dean, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: I mean, honestly, it almost sounds too good to be true. We always say these days that not enough girls are in STEM, the science and

technology, and here we have this bombshell who was one of the greatest inventors of all time. How did you discover that?

DEAN: Well, I was really asking myself this question at the time. Can it be that one kind of person invented our world and it just didn't seem

right. It didn't seem possible that our whole world was invented by people who look like Thomas Edison.

I've been doing a series as a reporter on adventures called "Innovators" and I felt like there must be someone that explodes our notion of who

invents our world and why.

AMANPOUR: What led you to have Hedy Lamarr of all people?

DEAN: Richard Rhodes' book. Richard Rhodes wrote a book in 2011 called "Hedy's Folly" and our producer Katherine Drew gave it to me. And I was

reading it and it felt like an electric lightning bolt. It was just, oh, there she is. There is the person that will make us reconsider how things

are invented.

AMANPOUR: Could you have done this if you didn't happen to stumble on these tapes that a reporter had had. He's got four tapes of interviews

that he had done with Hedy Lamarr. I want to play this clip from your documentary.


FLEMING MEEKS, "FORBES" JOURNALIST: Where did I find it? It's embarrassing. Behind that blue trash can. I had had stuff stored there

and I moved it out of the way and there it was.

So, in all, there were four tapes. And this is the first one.


Yes, this is Fleming Meeks with "Forbes".

Oh, hello. Thank you so much for the roses.

MEEKS: Oh, you are very welcome.

LAMARR: I love them.

MEEKS: I'm very pleased.


AMANPOUR: This reporter remembers, discovers that this gold mine is hidden by this trash can.

DEAN: It was six months into filming actually. I had already had a ton of footage and we were basing the film around her letters to her mother,

written in German, which were problematic because she didn't really mention the inventing and she didn't mention much about her life in these letters,

and so it wasn't working.

I remember coming into the office and saying to everyone, we're going to treat this as the way investigative journalists do. We're going to make a

list of everybody alive who could possibly have these tapes and it was about 72 people, I remember. Anyone related to her. Anyone.

And we called and begged for anything, a scrap of paper, a post-it note, it didn't matter. But I felt there would be tapes. I felt that there would

be recorded sound of her voice. We went down the list two, three times without luck.

Finally, realized that we had the wrong email for Fleming Meeks.

AMANPOUR: The reporter in that clip?

DEAN: The reporter in that clip. And he had moved from "Forbes" to "Barron's Magazine". When we found him at "Barron's", he called me up

immediately and he was angry. He said, "I have been waiting 25 years for you to call me."

[14:05:06] AMANPOUR: That is amazing.

DEAN: Because he had these tapes.

AMANPOUR: So, let's go back to the beginning before we get to the inventions. Here was this woman, grew up in a Jewish family in Austria.

World War II was breaking out and they had to flee.

DEAN: She was a Jewish girl coming up in a time when anti-Semitism was on this ferocious rise in Vienna. And she was a bit clueless about it for

awhile because she was in her lovely precious bubble that her parents had constructed for her.

She was a wealthy child. She was an only child. She had this father who adored her and loved her as this complex being she was. Let her be this

pretty little girl who loved dolls and acting and at the same time had this mind for invention and encouraged that. Invented with her. Took things

apart, put them back together again.

And that world that she lived in was like a little - it was like little fairytale that couldn't last because all around it were gathering the

clouds of the Second World War.

And what was going to happen is that someone like Hedy, even though she became a prominent actress in Austria, was in danger of being sent to the

concentration camps.

AMANPOUR: So, she eventually escapes, she escapes a marriage, escapes the life there and goes to London. And there she meets Louis B. Mayer, the

great MGM founder, and from there she gets onboard the ship that's taking him back to the United States and she goes with him, right?

DEAN: That's right.

AMANPOUR: And then, she becomes this amazing Hollywood star, which is this woman. And we are going to see lots of these amazing pictures. So, tell

us from this inventor, this complex girl, what did she become in Hollywood?

DEAN: In Hollywood, she becomes this mega star, almost overnight. Six months she was there trying to find her feet, but once she's discovered and

she gets onscreen, she changes the look of Hollywood.

She's got this very fair skin and dark hair parted down the middle. Nobody else has that. At the time, it was all about the blonde bombshell. Hedy

came and changed that and affected the way everybody else wanted to look.

So, all of a sudden, you have all these stars parting their head down the middle, dying it black, trying to look like her. Just think of Vivian

Leigh. She was one of the first ones to totally replicate Hedy Lamarr's look.

AMANPOUR: So, maybe it was the face. As you said, this opportunity that opened doors not just on the silver screen, but into her invention world

because she then meets Howard Hughes, who not only was this really rich Hollywood guy, but he was a bit of an inventor himself.

We're going to play this clip and then we'll talk about it.


HEDY LAMARR, ACTRESS: He relied on me. I thought that the aeroplane was too slow. I decided that's not right. They shouldn't be square, the

wings. So, I bought a book of fish and I bought a book of birds, and then used the fastest bird, connected it with the fastest fish. And I drew it

together and showed it to Howard Hughes and then he said, "You're a genius.'"

MEEKS: You did?



AMANPOUR: Honestly, it really is - life is stranger than fiction. It's even today hard to imagine this beautiful woman - I'm sorry, I'm being

sexist as well - in love with this dominant Hollywood figure, this eccentric Howard Hughes, who really changed science. This woman changed

the course of how we live today.

DEAN: Yes, she really did. I had the same feeling as you do right now when I began working on this. I'm trained as an investigative journalist

and I really didn't let myself launch into this project until I had convinced myself that this was true, that this was 100 percent true.

AMANPOUR: Her really major invention was not necessarily helping Howard Hughes build better and faster planes, but it was the so-called frequency

hopping that she apparently devised to try to block torpedoes of the U- boats, the German U-boats were shooting British and other allied ships. So, we're going to play this clip and then we'll talk about it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One day in the summer of 1940, a shipload of children was torpedoed. All hands lost, including 83 children.

At the time, the German U-boats were on the verge of winning the war. This seemed to be unthinkable because they easily outmaneuvered the outdated

British torpedoes.

In times of crisis, most of us feel powerless, but a discover in themselves unexpected strength. And Hedy being Hedy, she said, I mean I mean going to

do something about that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in this article, Hedy says, I got the idea from my invention when I tried to think of some way to even the balance for the

British, a radio-controlled torpedo I thought would do it.


AMANPOUR: Was she credited with it at the time?

DEAN: No. She wasn't credited with this invention right away. In fact, the navy didn't understand this invention. Our torpedoes, the US torpedoes

were hopelessly defective at the time. They were too lightweight, and they did not hit Nazi submarines very often at all.

[14:10:13] And what Hedy was inventing for them was something light years ahead of what they needed. They just needed a functional torpedo. She

invented the supercharged, super high-tech remote-controlled torpedo, which was the fantasy of the Nazis at the time.

Frequency hopping was the idea that if you rapidly change frequencies, according to a code that only the ship and the torpedo know, then they can

communicate, and the Germans can hack in all they like, but they'll only hit one frequency for a little split second and it won't affect

communication channel.

AMANPOUR: Courtesy a Hollywood star.

DEAN: Exactly.

AMANPOUR: And her life, kind of for many, many different reasons, the progression was downwards. She was like many Hollywood stars we now know

were given drugs to stay up, to go to sleep. She became addicted. She was depressed. She had multiple facelifts and plastic surgery, which really

turned her into a bit of a monster by the end.

What was her life? She was a recluse by the end, right?

DEAN: Yes. She withdrew from the world feeling that the world had treated her like a joke, instead of honoring her for what she had given it.

And you have to realize these inventions, they were really the best of Hedy Lamarr. She was in some ways flawed. She was in some ways a difficult

character. But when she invented, that came out of some part of herself that was completely spontaneous and genuine.

AMANPOUR: And just to say that the frequency hopping actually is used in today's technology, right?

DEAN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: So, that's astonishing thing.

DEAN: Really, the astonishing thing about this story is that Hedy's invention was dug out of the filing cabinets and given to some people who

were working on new military technology throughout the 50s. And those military technologies evolved into what we have today for Bluetooth and Wi-

Fi and GPS.

AMANPOUR: It does end kind of happily. She does get recognized. We are going to play this little clip of her son accepting an award and

congratulations 50 years after she came out with his invention.


ANTHONY LODER, SON OF HEDY LAMARR: And I just said, mum, if you could say something, what would say. And this is what she said?

LAMARR: I'm happy that this invention has been so successful. I appreciate your acknowledgment, of you honoring me and it was not done in

vain. Thank you.

LODER: Perfect.



LAMARR: I love you.

LODER: Love you too.



AMANPOUR: I mean, it's amazing. Finally, they recognized it. And then, didn't sort of navies use it anyway without crediting her?

DEAN: Yes. So, it goes into these multibillion dollar military satellites that are rotating around the Earth waiting for the president to call, if

there's a nuclear command. It goes up to this military satellite and that satellite uses the technology that Hedy Lamarr patented.

AMANPOUR: And she was a feminist?

DEAN: I could think she was a great feminist. I think she wasn't in the era where that title fits very neatly. I'm not sure she would have

advocated for women's rights, for instance. She had very conflicting things to say about the role of women and she would change day to day.

But I think that's - it's messy when you're talking about something like feminism. Ideas evolve. I think, today, she would be a pioneer in the

Time's Up and #MeToo movement.

AMANPOUR: And it is extraordinary that the film is coming out right now.

DEAN: It's almost like Hedy chose the moment. She wanted to reveal her story now. And I'm lucky enough to have been the one who stumbled upon it.

AMANPOUR: Alexandra Dean, thank you very much.

DEAN: Thank you so much.

AMANPOUR: What an incredible story of a woman underestimated and misunderstood her entire life.

My next guest also marches to the beat of her own drum, but she has never been underestimated.

The musician Annie Lennox made strong her brand, tooted and hooted her soulful voice, took the Eurhythmics to the top of the chart and a wildly

successful solo career that has seen her win every music award on the book several times over.

Now, she's dedicating her life to activism, a tireless campaigner for women's empowerment in the developing world. Annie Lennox joined me as her

own charity, The Circle, celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Annie Lennox, welcome to the program. Let's start at the beginning. You are an only child and you grew up in Scotland. It wasn't obvious that you

were going to become this major force in rock and roll, soul, this major, major force.

What was it like first emerging from Scotland and the neighborhood in Aberdeen and being a woman?

ANNIE LENNOX, MUSICIAN: Well, interestingly enough, it's a good question because before I applied for the Royal Academy of Music, I actually had an

audition for the Royal College.

[14:15:05] And, apparently, they were still - at the time when they were saying to women, you might be better becoming a music teacher. That's what

I was told. They said, you know, rather than being a performer, you might be advised to take the teaching course that we offer here because the

performing course is maybe more suited for men, less suited for women.

That's interesting.

AMANPOUR: At this point, I want to play a clip and it's going to be "Here Comes the Rain Again".



AMANPOUR: What do you think looking at that?

LENNOX: I think how much younger I was, if obviously. Obviously. But it's very interesting because I suppose in a way, it's like everybody has

their photo album, let's say, and you look at yourself from when you were a child and an adolescent and all the ways, all the different parts of your

life and you look so different, obviously.

But in my case, it is a little bit different because all those images that came through television screens and magazines and videos have hung around

in the zeitgeist, in the cultural zeitgeist. So, people have a projection of who they think you might be.

AMANPOUR: Oh, there you were with the orange spiky hair, very androgynous, if not dressed as a man. I mean, what was the sort of calculation around

turning up in a suit along with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics?

LENNOX: It was coming from a place, I thought, I don't want to portray myself as a stereotypical woman. I want to find a way where I can have

some power. And it was an experimentation.

And the other side of it was that I had a - I was working in partnership with Dave, who's a man, obviously, and we were kind of intrigued with the

notion of being and looking like equals.

AMANPOUR: And Dave was your romantic partner.

LENNOX: My partner, yes.

AMANPOUR: And your music partner.

LENNOX: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: And you've described him as a really sweet man, as a man with whom you had absolute connection when it came to the creative side and,

obviously, for a while, the personal side. What was the effect on you as a person and you in your music when you broke up as a couple?

LENNOX: Well, it was very devastating. I think all breakups are. Unless you know really clearly that that person is damaging. Then you have to get

away. It was just a very sad time. It was very difficult.

And, of course, we were both trying to move on with our lives in some way, and yet we saw each other more than maybe other people.

AMANPOUR: So, why did you decide to stay together creatively?

LENNOX: It was just obvious. We just couldn't - I mean, he was my counterpart and I was his. So, it was just obvious. It was something we

just wouldn't have - I can't imagine not working with him.

AMANPOUR: You talk a lot about sadness and about these experiences being the sort of genesis of your songwriting. Do you feel you need that side?

Do you feel a creative, an artist, a songwriter needs the tragic side in order to write?

LENNOX: Well, I can only talk from a subjective point of view. And I think every artist, a writer, a painter, a filmmaker comes with their own

agenda and is motivated through their own life experiences and whatever the mojo is that makes them want to express themselves.

And for me, there was a lot of - a kind of buildup of thoughts and feelings and the majority of those thoughts and feelings were more on the dark side

than on the bright side.

So, in a way, it was a way to sort of expunge these things. But at the same time, music is so beautiful and I am so drawn to beautiful things and

beauty in life too.

So, what I ended up understanding about the songs in retrospect was that they are a combination of light and shadow and they are that kind of - it's

a little bit of a cliche, but to say yin and yang. But that life itself, it exists through those contrasts.

AMANPOUR: Let's play a little clip from "Sweet Dreams" because I think this was your first big hit, right? This was the blockbuster that launched

the Eurythmics.


AMANPOUR: Let's play a clip and then we'll talk about it.


AMANPOUR: That is quite an image. There you are again with the orange hair, Dave doing his thing. But the imagery, the computers, the farm, the

cow, what was all that about?

[14:20:04] LENNOX: Well, when I'm looking at it now, I see that, in a way, it's a view towards futurism. You can see that Dave is typing away.

Actually, it's a prototype computer. In a sense, we were like futurists.

AMANPOUR: The other night, you were on stage in conversation and you sang five songs. And it was to celebrate 10 years since you started your

women's charity called The Circle. What made you want to do that? And what is it actually for?

LENNOX: There are so many reasons why I wanted to create something that would be a catalyst to gather Western women together to talk about the

issues of girls and women living in the developing world because I have had the opportunity, in my life, to go to sub-Saharan Africa or other countries

like Latin America where I saw poverty and how it affects women and girls specifically and how it really, truly disempowers them at every level.

And I was so sort of changed by this, it completely changed my paradigm of viewing the world.

AMANPOUR: Well, you are quite shy about being political or calling yourself political - in your music, I'm talking about - except for the next

song that we're going to play.


AMANPOUR: So, there you are in duet with Aretha Franklin singing "Sisters." That's your most overtly political song and you did it a long

time ago, more than 20 years ago. What aspired you then?

LENNOX: I woke up one morning. And in my dreams - half dream state to waking up, I was thinking, I really want to write an anthem for women to

celebrate how far we've come.

But I just don't think we've come far enough by any means. That's very evident to me. When you look at the UN global development goals, I think

gender equality is goal number five.

They saw the movement of development is glacially slow and that's my experience too.

AMANPOUR: And yet, I wonder if you agree that this last year has been a real power surge to this particular movement - #MeToo, the reaction against

Donald Trump, the whole women's marches all over the place.


AMANPOUR: Do you see this as a tipping point now?

LENNOX: It was very encouraging to see women get off their seats and come out into the streets as across cultures, all across colors and races and

creeds. This is a gender thing. This is powerful.

But I feel we need to be inclusive of men and that men could be feminists.

AMANPOUR: And I just wonder because we're talking about activism, so I just want to move quickly onto Oxfam because you've been a special

ambassador for Oxfam. And you have resisted breaking up with them over the latest scandal whereby they were alleged, and they've apologized for, using

Haitian girls as sex subjects essentially, paying for sex.

LENNOX: Absolutely, yes.

AMANPOUR: What do you think about it, how they've react to it and why you're still with them?

LENNOX: Well, at first, I was just appalled. I was so disappointed because this is an organization that I have respected. Obviously, I

wouldn't have worked with them all these years unless I had a profound respect for them.

Nevertheless, these are incredibly serious allegations and they took place, apparently. I mean, I'm sure they did.

I waited for a while to respond. I didn't want to respond immediately because I thought that would be something of too soon. I didn't know truly

what was the real truth, wasn't the truth. I watched how Oxfam responded and I wasn't terribly impressed by their response at first to be honest.

And I think that they now have to really change their - I mean, they're forced out. They have to be so clean, so transparent and they have to know

exactly what to do if ever this - even a whiff of anything that is untoward - they are going to have to be the squeakiest clean charitable

organization, global charitable organization of everyone.

AMANPOUR: And a lot of these organization -

LENNOX: All of them. All of them. Now, they're going to be taken to task.

AMANPOUR: But what about the awful countereffect. If people start boycotting them, if people like yourself, if ordinary donors who were so

generous no longer give them money -

LENNOX: Well, that's the thing. At the end of the day, I thought there are billions actually, not just millions, but there are billions of people

without organizations like Oxfam whose lives totally depends - their lives depend on the work that these organizations do.

And they shouldn't - and I use this term throw the baby out with the bathwater just because of a few hideous acts by some really untoward people

in the organization.

[14:25:00] AMANPOUR: So, she's a passionate humanist and a woman's rights champion. But I also ended up putting her on the spot to get a taste of

what that voice is like after all these decades touring and belting out the songs.

She gave us this very special a cappella performance to end our program.

LENNOX: OK. Here we go.


AMANPOUR: That's brilliant. Annie Lennox, thank you so much.

LENNOX: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: A real goose bump moment, that was. And, of course, it was her legendary feminist anthem, "Sisters".

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always listen to our podcast, see us online at and follow me on Facebook and

Twitter. Thanks for watching. And goodbye from London.