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Believe it or not, this essentially happened to Hedy Lamarr. Often proclaimed “the most beautiful woman in the world,” the 26-year-old Lamarr was thriving in Hollywood when, in mid-September 1940, Nazi U-boats hunted down and sank a cruise ship trying to evacuate 90 British schoolchildren to Canada. Seventy-seven drowned in the bleak north Atlantic. Lamarr, a Jewish immigrant from Nazi-occupied Austria, was horrified. She decided to fight back, but instead of the usual celebrity posturing, she sat down at a drafting table at home and sketched out a revolutionary radio guidance system for anti-submarine torpedoes.
Mel Brooks' popular 1974 comedy film Blazing Saddles featured a villain named Hedley Lamarr, who is frequently and inadvertently referred to by other characters as Hedy. In an interview included in the DVD release of the film Brooks says that Hedy Lamarr threatened to sue the producers, believing that the running joke infringed her right of publicity. In one scene, Brooks' character tells the villainous Hedley that "this is 1874 – you'll be able to sue her!" Brooks said they settled out of court for a small sum.