Hoored at a banquet for his sixty year career as an inventor, scientist, and businessman, 89 year old Thomas Alva Edison reflects back on his long career, which includes such achievements as the stock market ticker, the phonograph, the light bulb, and the motion picture. Written by
This was one of the films that Spencer Tracy really believed in and actively supported not because he starred in it, but because he was a great admirer of Thomas Edison. This was unusual as Tracy was known throughout most of his career to disparage his own gifts as well as the importance of motion pictures. Also, prior to this film Spencer Tracy had been a very active member of the "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences". He even hosted the awards show on at least one occasion. However when the nominations came out for the best films of 1940, Tracy was appalled that "Edison the Man" was so overlooked in the nominations. It was only nominated for best writing. Tracy swore he would never attend another academy award ceremony again. He never did. Not without irony is that although he was nominated another 6 times over the next 28 years, Tracy never won another Oscar after that after winning two in a row in the previous two years. See more »
The montage sequence depicting Edison's inventions lists "electric power transmission" over a shot of a massive transmission line and the tower that holds it up. That technology was actually developed not by Edison but by Nikola Tesla. (Tesla held over 700 patents, including Radio. Marconi stole the radio patent from Tesla. The US Patent office has since revoked Marconi's claim, giving it to Tesla.) Edison insisted on powering his lights with direct current, which could only travel sort distances from the generators that produced it. Tesla used alternating current, which could be run through transformers to increase its voltage so it could be moved over long distances, then reduced in voltage again for home use. Tesla's alternating current, not Edison's direct current, quickly became the standard and is what we use today. See more »
I keep worryin' about Bunt. I guess I won't get a wink of sleep tonight.
Thomas A. Edison:
Ah, Mr. Els, you shouldn't try to do two things at once. If you're gonna sleep, sleep. If you're gonna worry, why stay awake and make a good job of it.
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The opening credits appear as 19th Century sampler embroideries. See more »
The more things change, the more they remain the same. We hear current scandals and corporate ruthlessness now and in past history. This picture paints the "Hollywood" side of Edison, but he too has a ruthless side.
Edison certainly deserves much credit, but he had his vices. He invested heavily in Direct Current (DC) technology; good for many applications, but not for the needed power and lighting applications Edison envisioned. No mention is made in the movie of Nikola Tesla. Edison invited him to the USA from Croatia to work in Edison's labs. Edison made him work from 10:30 am to 5:00 the next morning, seven days per week. Even though Tesla did not believe in Edison's direct current motors he worked hard to improve them. Edison told him if he could do that he would give him a bonus of $50,000. He came up with twenty-four new designs to replace the old ones of Edison's. Edison was delighted with the results but did not pay Tesla the $50,000 he had promised. When Tesla finally asked him about it, it is said that Edison told him, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor." That is when Tesla left the Edison Co. and eventually worked for Edison's rival George Westinghouse. Westinghouse was ruthless as well, but he and Tesla got along, and secured the contract to supply generators at Niagara Falls.
Films such as these are great to bring initial awareness. My hope would be they prompt more investigation. That in mind, I'll take these "Hollywood biographies" over what often comes from the current film industry: recycled garbage.
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