82 year old inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison is honored in 1929 and he reflects back on his sixty year career of scientific achievement.82 year old inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison is honored in 1929 and he reflects back on his sixty year career of scientific achievement.82 year old inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Alva Edison is honored in 1929 and he reflects back on his sixty year career of scientific achievement.
In 1940 Edison was a national hero. Nobody was quite like him, although Alexander Graham Bell (soon to be subject of a film starring Don Ameche) was a figure of great interest too. So was Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, and Eli Whitney, inventor of the Cotton Gin. However no films were made about them. There was a film with Fred MacMurray and Alice Faye about Robert Fulton and his steamboat, but none about the Wright brothers.
Because of the period of history it was made in, film biography rarely was totally dispassionate. All Americans heroes were flawless, so all questions about Edison's stealing credit from assistants or other inventors was pushed aside (his involvement in the patent battles about the telephone is not mentioned). Nor were his flop inventions: pre-fabricated houses made of cement (actually a good idea, but ahead of it's time), the attempt to be the biggest gold ore refiner in the East (using huge machines to grind the ore out of rocks), the electric car motor. His bigoted feelings towards foreigners (Jews, rival inventors like Nicola Tesla) were not mentioned, nor was his rejection of the offer of a joint 1911 Nobel Prize for Physics (for the accidental discovery of the Edison Affect of carbonization in electricity) because he had to have it with Tesla for discovering alternating current. None of this is mentioned...only the string of great inventions he had a major hand in from 1868 to 1894. As a surface study of his career it is passable, and Tracy and the cast (in particular Gene Lockhart as his critic and nemesis Taggart) are splendid. You'll be entertained, but read A STREAK OF LUCK by Robert Conot for the true story.
- Nov 13, 2004