The Only Woman in the Room

Written by Marie Benedict
Review by Elicia Parkinson

Vienna, 1933. Hedy Kiesler stands on stage embracing the accolades she receives for her performance as Bavarian Empress Elizabeth. During her performance, a man sits in the audience who, during a brief courtship, soon becomes her first husband: munitions manufacturer Friedrich “Fritz” Mandl. It quickly becomes apparent that Mandl wants the beautiful Hedy to be the glorious object of his desire, rather than an equal partner, or acknowledged for her brilliance or any other attributes outside of the physical. After their relationship becomes physically as well as emotionally abusive, Hedy stages a fantastic and secret effort to remove herself from the marriage.

Hedy’s escape takes her to America, where she makes her way to the sound-stages of Hollywood. It is there that she meets famed film producer Louis Mayer, and soon the relatively unknown young woman known as Hedy Kiesler becomes the famed actress, Hedy Lamarr—the woman all women wanted to be, and the woman all men wanted.

Throughout Lamarr’s life, she struggled to be known for more than her looks. She was a highly intelligent woman who helped create the concept of frequency hopping, which could have helped war efforts in the 1940s and saved many lives from being lost. Benedict’s story brings Lamarr to life on the page and shows that she was, in fact, more than the only woman in the room.

Recommended for readers interested in Hedy Lamarr’s life, though some may be disappointed that the story does not stray far from the same information included in the 2017 documentary, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story.