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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 short 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 »
If anyone is looking for a factual account of the life of Thomas Alva Edison this ain't the film for you. In fact Edison the Man is the second film that MGM did on him. Young Tom Edison had come out before this one and Mickey Rooney played a boy's life version of him. At the conclusion of that film there was a preview that Edison the Man would be coming out soon starring Spencer Tracy.
The widow Edison who was still alive at the time gave her personal stamp of approval on casting Spencer Tracy as her husband. Who wouldn't want his life's story portrayed by Tracy. But among the many things not shown was the fact that she was the second Mrs. Edison. The first Mrs. Edison, played by Rita Johnson in the film died in the 1880s and Edison married again the Gay Nineties. He had three children with each wife. So you can see a lot of the personal life has been left out.
The film is told in flashback as an aged Edison is sitting at a banquet table listening to the toastmaster tell of his life. We only see about 10 years of it from the time he arrives in New York to when he proves the validity of the electric light by powering a section of New York.
One of the great quotes from Edison is that genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Inventing the electric light was the result of trial and error running into the thousands of methods and that is the part of Edison graphically shown.
Edison is always held up as the great example of the American success story. He was a man with little formal education at all who had ideas and the natural ability and will to see them through. It should always be remembered that Edison gained his fame during the Horatio Alger era. He was the living embodiment of those stories about the poor kid who succeeds through hard work.
The part of Edison that's not so nice, his battles over patents with other inventors, his ruthlessness in business exploiting those patents, that all comes later. It would take a mini-series to really do his life justice.
But I think Edison himself would have loved to see the way MGM handled his life in both films. He certainly would have seen himself as Spencer Tracy plays him, the wise benevolent man, with an iron perseverance.
Just don't anyone doing serious research on Edison use this film as a guide to his life.
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