tv Amanpour on PBS PBS March 10, 2018 12:00am-12:31am PST
♪ ♪ welcome to "amanpour on pbs," tonight as the fight for women's rights gain new momentum, we look back at the extraordinary life of reddy lamar, the hollywood bombshell who helped invent wi-fi. plus the singular annie lennox, she tells me why she's staying loyal to oxfam and why she's helping to fight for women around the world and she's giving a very special performance. ♪ ♪
amanpour on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalynn p. walter. >> 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 francis mcdormand's rousing speech to international women's day and while the me too 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 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, blew tooth and gps, but all of the
attention was always focused on her looks and want on her invention and hedyy literally had to wait until her looks faded and her movie career was over to get the scientific breakthrough and now the new documentary bombshell, the story of hedy lamarr tells the full account and i sat down with alexandra dean in the studio. >> welcome to the program. >> thank you so much for having me. >> it almost sounds too good to be true. we always say these days that not enough girls are in s.t.e.m., the science and technology, and here we have the bombshell that was one of the greatest inventors of all time. how did you discover that? >> 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 doesn't seem right and does it seem possible that the whole world looks like thomas edison. i've been doing a series on
inventers and i felt like there must be someone that explodes our notion of who invents our world and why. >> what led you to hedy lamarr and our producer, katherine drew gave it to me and i was reading it and it felt like an electric lightning bolt and there was a person who would make us reconsider how things are invented. >> could you have done this if you didn't happen to stumble on these tapes that a reporter had, he had four tapes of interviews that he'd done with hedy lamarr. i want to play this from your documentary. >> where did i find it? i found it behind that blue -- i had stuff stored there and i moved it out of the way and there it was. all in all there were four tapes and this is the first one. ready?
>> yeah. >> oh, thank you so much! >> you're very welcome. >> i loved it! >> i am very pleased. >> this reporter remembers, discovers that this gold mine. >> yes. >> is hidden behind his trash can. >> it was six months into filming. i had a ton of footage and we're basing the film around her letter to her mother, written in german which was problem attic because she didn't really mention the inventing and she didn't mention much about her life in the letters and so it wasn't, woing. >> i remember coming into the office and saying we'll 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, and anyone related to her. anyone and we called and begged for anything, a scrap of paper, a post-it note. it didn't matter, and i felt that there would be tapes and there one a recorded sound of
her voice and we went down two or three times without luck and finally realized we had the wrong e-mail. the reporter from that clip. when we found him at barron's we called him up and he was angry. i have been waiting 25 years for you to call me. >> that is amazing. >> so let's go back to the beginning and here was this woman who grew up in a jewish family in austria and wor w ii was breaking out a they had to flee. >> she was a jewish girl growing up when anti-semitism was on a rise in vienna, and she was a bit clueless about it for a while because she was in her lovely, precious bubble that her parent his constructed for her and she was a wealthy child and she was an only child and she had a father who adored her and loved her as the complex being she was and the little girls that loved dolls and had the mind for invention and encouraged that and invented
with her and put things apart and put them back together again and that world that she lived in was like a 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 someone like hedy even though she became a prominent actress in austria was afraid of being sent to the concentration camp. >> she eventually escapes. escapes a marriage 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? >> that's right. and then she becomes this hollywood star which is this woman and we see lots of amazing pictures and tell us from this inventor and this complex girl, what did she become in hollywood? >> in hollywood she becomes this mega star almost overnight. six months she's there trying to find her seat, and once she's
discovered and gets on screen, she changes the look of hollywood. she's got the very fair skin parted down the middle and nobody had that. at the time it was about the blond bombshell and hed, why affected all of the way they wanted to look you had all of these stars parting her hair down the middle and think of vivian lee and she was the first one to replicate hedy lamarr's look. >> it opened doors into her invention world because she them meets howard hughes who wasn't just a hollywood guy, but a bit of an inventory himself. we'll play this clip and then we'll talk about it. >> he relied on me. i thought the airplane was too low, and he decided it was not right. it shouldn't be with the wing and i bought a book of fish, and i bought a book of birds and used the fastest bird and connected it with the fastest
fish, and i drew it together and showed it to her and that was genius independent you did? >> yeah. >> it is 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. >> yeah. >> who really changed science. this woman changed the course of how we live today. >> yeah. >> she really did. i had the same feeling as you do right now when i began working. i have investigative journalist and i convinced myself this is true. this was 100% true. >> her major invention was not necessarily helping howard hughes build a better and faster plane, and it was the frequency hopping that she apparently
devised to block torpedos and the german u-boats were shooting british and other allied ships and we would play this clip and then we'll talk about it. >> one day in the summer of 1940, a ship load of children all hands lost, including '83 children. at the time the german u-boats were on the verge of winning the war. they seemed to be unthinkable because they easily outmaneuvered the outdated british torpedos. in times of crisis, most of us feel powerless, but a few discovering themselves unexpected strength and hedy being hedy, she said we need to do something about that. >> so in this article, hedy says i got the idea for my invention which i tried to think of some way to even the balance for the
british. a radio-controlled torpedo, i thought would do it. >> was she credited with it at the time? >> no. she wasn't credited with this invention rid away. in fact, the navy didn't understand this invention. our torpedo, the u.s. torpedos were hopelessly defective at the time. they were too lightweight and they did not hit the submarines very often at all and what hedy was inventing for them was something light years ahead of what they needed. they just needed a functional torpedo. she invented this super charged, super high-tech remote control torpedo which was the fantasy of the nazis at the time. frequency hopping was the idea that if you rapidly changed frequencies, according to a code that only the ship in the torpedo know then they can communicate and the germans can hack in all they like, but they only hit it for a split second and it wouldn't affect the channel. >> courtesy of a hollywood star.
>> exactly. >> her life for many, many different reason, the progression was downward. 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 and had multiple facelifts and plastic surgery which turned her into a bit of a monster by the end. >> yes. >> what was her life? she was a recluse by the end, right? >> she withdrew from the world feeling that the joke had treated her like a joke instead of honoring her for what she had given it and you have to realize the inventions were the best of hedy lamarr, she was in some ways flawed and that came out of some part of herself that was completely spontaneous and genuine. >> the frequency hopping is used in today's technology. >> the astonishing thing about this story is hedy's invention was dug out of the filing cabinets and given to people who were working on thank you
military technologies in the '50s and those military technologies evolved into what we have today for bluetooth, wi-fi and gps. >> it does end kind of happily and she does get recognized and we'll play this clip of her son accepting an award and congratulations 50 years after she came up with this invention. >> if she could say something what would she say? >> i am happy that this invention has been so successful. i appreciate your acknowledgement and you honoring me, and it was -- thank you. >> perfect. >> okay? >> okay. >> love you. >> love you, too. bye. >>. >> i mean, it's amazing. finally, they recognized it and then didn't the navy use it
anyway without crediting her? >> yes. yes. >> it goes into the multibillion military satellites that are rotating around the earth waiting for the president to call if there was a nuclear command and it goes up to the military satellite and that satellite you can use it for technology that hedy lamarr patented. >> she was a foreign ministemin? >> i think she was a great feminist and i don't think she was in the era where the title fit very neatly. i'm want sure she would have advocated for women's rights and she had con flicking things to say about the role of women and she would change day to day. it's messy when you're talking about something like feminism and ideas evolve and i think today she would be a pioneer in the me too movement and it is extraordinary that the film is coming out right now. >> 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.
>> alexandra dean, thank you very much. >> thank you so much. 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, suited and booted her soulful voice to the you're ith micks to the top of the charts and a wildly successful solo career that has seen her win every music award in the books 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 at her own charity, the circle, celebrated its tenth 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 'n' roll, soul, and this major,
apparently the -- they were still at the time when they were saying to women you might be better becoming a music teacher and that's what i was told. 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 and less suited for women. that's interesting. >> at this point i want to play a clip and it will be "here comes the rain again". ♪ here comes the rain again ♪ falling on my head like a memory ♪ ♪ falling on my head like a new emotion ♪ ♪ ♪
i want to walk in the open wing ♪ ♪ i want to talk like lovers do ♪ ♪ i want to dive into your ocean ♪ ♪ is it raining with you ? >> what do you think looking at that? >> i think how much younger i was, obviously. obviously, but it's very interesting because i suppose in a way everybody has their photo album, let's say, and you look at yourself from when you were a child and an adolescent and in all of 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 and the zeitgeist and people have a projection of who they think you might be. there you are with the spiky hair and very androgenous and
dressed like a man. what was the calculation about turning up in a suit along with dave stewart of the eurythmics. >> i don't want to portray myself as a stereo typical woman. i want to find some power and it was an experimentation and the other side is i was working in partnership days, and we were intrigued with the notion of being and looking like equals. >> and dave was your partner. >> your romantic partner and your music partner. >> yes. >> you describe him as a very sweet man and a man that 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? >>. >> well, it was very devastating, i think all
breakups are unless you know very clearly that that person is damaging and then you have to get away. it was a very sad time and it was very difficult and of course, we were trying to move on with our livings in some way and we saw each other than other people, you know? >> why did you decide to stay together creatively? >> it was obvious, we just couldn't. >> 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. >> you talk a lot about sadness and these experiences being the sort of genesis of your song writing. do you feel you node that side? do you feel a creative and artist and a songwriter needs the tragic side in order to write? >> i can only talk from a subjective point of view, and i think every artist, a writer, painter, filmmaker comes with their own agenda and is motivated through their own life experiences and whatever the moenl owe it is that makes them
want to express themselves and for me, was there a lot of -- and a kind of buildup of thoughting and feelings and the majority of those thoughts and feelings were more on the dark side than on the bright side and it was a way to sort of expunge these thing, but at the same time music is so beautiful, and there was beauty in life, too and what i ended up understanding about the storms in retrospect is that they are a combination of light and shadow and they are a little bit of a cliche, but life itself is with those contrasts. >> let's play "sweet dreams." this was the blockbuster that launched the eurythmics. let's play a clip and talk about it. ♪ sweet dreams are made of this ♪ ♪ who am i to disagree
♪ i travel the world and the seven seas ♪ ♪ everybody is looking for something ♪ >> that is quite an image. there you are with the orange hair and dave doing his thing and the imagery and the farm and the cows, what was that about? >> when i lok at it now i see in a way it's a view towards futurism. you can see that dave is typing away and actually it's a prototype computer and in a sense we were like futurists. >> the other night you were on stage in conversation and you sang five songs and it was to celebrate ten years since you started your woman's charity called the circle. what made you want to do that and what is it actually for? >> 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 had
had the opportunity in my life to go to sub isair an africa or other countes in latin america where i saw poverty and how it affects women and girls specifically and how it really, truly just empowered them at every level, and i was so sort of changed by this, it completely changed my paradigm of viewing the world. >> well, you are quite shy about being political or calling yourself political except for the next song we're going to play. ♪ ♪ >> 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 inspired you then? >> i woke up one morning and in
my dream -- half dream state of waking up i was thinking i really want to write an anthem for women to celebrate how far we've come, you know? 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 u.n. global development goal and i think the gender equality is goal number five, they say that the movement of development is a glacially slow and that's my experience. >> i wonder if you agree that this last year has been a real power surge to this particular movement, me too, the reaction against donald trump and the whole women's marches all over the place. >> yeah. >> do you see this as a tipping point now? >> it was encouraging to see women get off their seats and come out into the streets and all across cultures and 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 can be feminists. >> we are talking about altruism. you've been an 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 objects essentially, paying for sex. >> absolutely. yeah. >> what do you think about it, how they reacted to it and why are you still with them? >> first, i was just appalled and 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, and 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, you know? i didn't know truly what was was the truth and i watched how oxfam responded and i wasn't terribly impressed by their response, to be honest and i think they now have to really change their -- i mean, they're forced now. they have to, full transparent and they have to know exactly what to do, if ever there is a whiff of anything that's untoward and they will have to be the squeakiest clean, charitable organization, a charitable organization of anyone. >> all of them. they will be taken to task. >> what about the awful counter effect if people start boycotting them, if people like yourself, if all of the donors were so generous and no longer give them money. >> that's the thing. at the end of the day i thought there are billions, actually, not just million, but there are billions of people without organizations like oxfam whose lives totally depend, 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 heinous acts by some really untoward people in the organization. >> so she's a passionate humanist and women'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 song. she gave us this very special a capella performance to end our program. ♪ well, was there a time ♪ when they used to say ♪ that behind every great man ♪ there had to be a great woman ♪ ♪ well, in these times are changing and know that it is no
longer true ♪ ♪ we're coming out of the kitchen, and there's something we forgot to say to you ♪ ♪ we said sisters are doing for themselves ♪ ♪ >> you put me on the spot. >> that's brilliant! >> annie lennox, thank you so much. >> annie lennox and her legendary feminist anthem, sisters, ending our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs and join us again next time. ♪ ♪ >> amanpour on pbs was made possible by the generous support of rosalynn p. walter.