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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
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 Thomas A. Edison but by Nikola Tesla. (Tesla held over 700 patents, including Radio. Guglielmo 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 like the fact that Edison was nominated for the Oscar for best Original Story. How many biopics can claim that honour ?
Spencer Tracy is excellent as the dynamic American inventor. Although he was a 40 year old playing a 25 year old he produced sufficient energy to overcome the obstacle of years. This is a fine piece of acting and is well supported by the bit-parts and by the director who clearly enjoys telling the story of Edison's finest achievements, the invention of the light bulb and of the recording device.
The main problem with the film is its lack of balance. We don't hear enough about his theft of patents and his failure to give credit to his co-workers. Edison is a metaphor for America in the early twentieth century, exciting, inventive, thrusting, dynamic but also shallow and lacking in grace.
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