Men Only Believed In Her Beauty


‘Behind every successful woman is a man…” I stopped reading the quote painted in big letters on the wall because a woman came up and asked if she could help me with anything.

“Yes, I like these plants and I’m looking for a bit of a sturdy hoe.”

“Our garden tools are here, follow me.”

Wasn’t it really ‘behind every successful man’?, I thought, as I followed her. This garden center had been recommended to me by all my neighbors when I said I was going to tackle my garden: “It’s a short drive but then you have the best of everything. It’s next to MacFarlane’s garage, the nursery belongs to Mrs. MacFarlane.”

“Spear and Jackson is a robust brand,” she pointed out. I watched her walk back to the counter. Among the ferns and hanging plants, I searched for the large letters that dominated the entire back wall of the store to read the rest:

“Behind every successful woman is a man who didn’t believe she could do it.”

Well, Mrs MacFarlane, don’t make your heart a murder pit. Curious, I looked at the woman sitting under this quote. She looked very modest, small, petite, her graying hair in a bun, a khaki work blouse that was more functional than charming. I chided myself with a quote from Hedy Lamarr:

“Any girl can be glamorous, all you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

T his woman was not busy cutting her blouses but running the largest garden center in the region. And apparently on its own.

“That was it? Sorry for the mess, the administration takes so much time.” She pushed aside a stack of papers and quickly and skillfully began feeding my plants and tools.

Had her husband not believed in it or had he been actively against it? And what did he think of her writing that on the wall?

Again I thought of Hedy Lamarr. A little weird, because if something isn’t glamorous it was this trip to the garden center on a windswept Scottish hillside a bit outside the city. But the night before I had seen a documentary about the most beautiful woman on the silver screen and the inventor of a precursor to WiFi: ‘Bombshell’.

Sex bomb and inventor of a torpedo control system. As I watched, I was amazed at how many great men had been behind Lamarr’s success. And her success had been ignored.

“They are beautiful, aren’t they, sun hats, they don’t like too much moisture. And two bags of compost soil?” The woman whose husband hadn’t believed she could do it gave me the receipt.

„Thank you. I’ll be right back to fetch the earth.”

From the parking lot where I loaded my plants into the car, I had a good view of the whitewashed home of the MacFarlanes. Bordered by a small lawn, it stood in the middle of the activity: to the left the garage stretched out in stark necessity of iron sheds and red lift bridges, to the right a wooden building with colorful banners and rows of flowering plants and trees. He on the left, she on the right. Just finished an illustration Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

Early life

Lamarr had just resided between Mars and Venus. Her father was a banker, her mother a pianist and she grew up in a wealthy Jewish environment in Vienna in the early twentieth century. She was fascinated by technology and she was stunning. Director Max Reinhardt believed in her beauty and persuaded her to attend his drama school. After that, the Czech director saw in her the long-sought lead actress for Ecstasy.

With this avant-garde film, Gustav Machatý won the laurel wreath for best director at the Venice Film Festival in 1934 and Lamarr had the honor of being the first woman to run naked through the screen and have an orgasm close-up.

Now just pick up the two bags of compost and I was done.

The patent drawing by Hedy Lamarr’s 1942 Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum. PHOTO ANP

From the stairs in front of the store you have a good view of the garage area. Father and three sons are in charge; quiet, laconic men with always time for a joke or a chat. Had Mrs. MacFarlane developed a need for her own business before or after the three sons? And who made lunch for whom?

Far-fetched story

Most of Lamarr’s life story sounds like an above-average far-fetched Hollywood story. And even more difficult to imagine when you’re standing with your arms full of plants trying to click your car open with the handy remote control that is only useful when the battery is not nearly empty. Lamarr married a weapons manufacturer who believed in her as a valuable addition to his celebrations and parties, where he networked with all the great powers of Central Europe.

Hitler did not come, Mussolini did. An exciting role for a couple whose husband and wife had a Jewish background. Lamarr fled in 1937 from her tyrannical husband and the threat of war. In London she met Louis B. Mayer of MGM Studios who was there to intercept European actors who had fled and to sign them for a bargain price. Lamarr thought his offer was too low and walked out of the hotel. At least she believed in herself.

She sold her last jewels and secured a seat on the boat Mayer took back to America. To give him the opportunity to see the effect she had on a hall, she walked into the ship’s dining room in a haute couture dress. He offered her three times the amount and then she signed her contract.

Enough men who then believed in her as an exotic beauty with little text. Not for Casablancawell for White Cargo in which she plays a nymphomaniac who brings down men. While she roamed in front of the cameras in a bikini during the day, she was busy at night devising a frequency hopping system to prevent German U-boats from throwing Allied torpedoes out of orbit. The composer Georg Antheil designed a machine for this frequency hopping and they got a patent for it. The US Navy thought the device was too big and saw no use for it. They asked Lamarr to dance for the troops. A man who didn’t believe she could do it.

Twenty years later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, someone understood the possibilities of the concept. Lamarr’s invention forms the basis for the development of wireless communication technology such as WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.

“Should I carry them for you?”

“No.” That would be something, Mrs. MacFarlane was a head shorter than me. “No, it’s all right.” I hesitated for a moment, then nodded at the text above her head and asked, “Was it such a struggle?”

She followed my gaze, then turned back to me, a smile in her eyes:

“Ah, sometimes they have to be convinced.” I carried my bags of soil to the car and drove down the driveway. Past the sign: MacFarlane & MacFarlane: Garage and Garden centre.

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Source: Netherlands


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