“Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to address you this evening — though I am in Boston, and you are in Salem.”
Alexander Graham Bell (Don Ameche) falls in love with the deaf daughter (Loretta Young) of a wealthy investor (Charles Coburn) while collaborating with his colleague Thomas Watson (Henry Ford) on numerous inventions — including a “telephone”.
20th Century Fox’s biopic of Alexander Graham Bell’s life was clearly designed for audience appeal: it features a brilliant, intrepid, noble, unassuming hero whose romance with a beautiful lass (Young) is picture perfect (other than the pesky need for him to actually make some money in order to marry her); touching scenes of children and adults impacted by Bell’s work, including a cherub-cheeked deaf boy (Bobby Watson) who learns to communicate with his father (Gene Lockhart) for the first time, thanks to Bell’s pioneering work with Visible Speech; droll humor in the form of Bell’s sidekick (Fonda), who repeatedly points out the need to eat every once in a while; and a final court case in which Bell successfully defends the veracity of his patent against a would-be usurper (Western Union) by agreeing to share a deeply personal letter written to his beloved. Unfortunately, the too-neat storyline fails to elicit as much interest in this astonishingly prolific scientist as the subject matter should warrant, and Young is simply sappy as his all-adoring partner. This flick will primarily be of interest to those who enjoy early Hollywood biopics.
Note: Hardworking Bell was brilliant beyond what he’s best known for. According to Wikipedia:
The range of Bell’s inventive genius is represented only in part by the 18 patents granted in his name alone and the 12 he shared with his collaborators. These included 14 for the telephone and telegraph, four for the photophone, one for the phonograph, five for aerial vehicles, four for “hydroairplanes”, and two for selenium cells. Bell’s inventions spanned a wide range of interests and included a metal jacket to assist in breathing, the audiometer to detect minor hearing problems, a device to locate icebergs, investigations on how to separate salt from seawater, and work on finding alternative fuels.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Touching scenes between a father and his young deaf child who is learning to communicate
No; feel free to skip this one.