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  • Don Ameche has the title role in "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell" in this 1939 film starring Henry Fonda, Loretta Young, Charles Coburn, Gene Lockhart, and Spring Byington.

    This movie was a big hit - it must have been, because in 1941's "Ball of Fire," Barbara Stanwyck teaches Gary Cooper slang and refers to the telephone as "the Ameche," as others have mentioned here. As far as how accurate the story is - for Fox, not bad at all. The background of Bell's teaching experience and family history of working with speech and sound is correct, he did have a demonstration of his new device, he did have patent problems, he did take on the little boy and Mabel as deaf clients to teach, he did teach finger-spelling, he did have patent problems, he did marry Mabel, their first child was a girl, and Mabel's father was one of his investors. The Fonda character, Watson, was also real, though Bell had two other assistants, and the scene where Bell finds out the telephone works when he calls for Watson is accurate. Also, Bell mentions a great interest in aeronautics in the movie - he indeed did a lot of work in aeronautics later on.

    Don Ameche does a great job as Bell. Before Tyrone Power appeared at 20th Century Fox, Ameche was set for many more lead roles; Power's popularity pushed him into second leads. If Ameche seems melodramatic in the courtroom scenes, that was the style of the day. He gives a serious, intense, and sincere performance. It's probably the role for which he's best remembered. Henry Fonda is wonderful - he's funny and relaxed, positively excellent. In another year, he'd be starring in his own movies. Loretta Young as Mabel is believable as well as lovely, and her sisters in real life -- Sally Blane, Polly Young, and Georgiana Young - play her sisters here.

    Gene Lockhart as Sanders is another standout in a poignant performance as a man who wants his deaf son to be able to speak. Charles Coburn plays Mable's no-nonsense, gruff father very well.

    Considering that the movie "Suez" is fiction from beginning to end, 20th Century Fox is to be commended for bringing so much real history into this film and making it so entertaining.
  • jotix10013 April 2005
    This biopic about the invention of the telephone proved to be a surprise. Not having seen it, we took the chance and it proved to be a real charmer. Under the direction of Irving Cummings, we get to know a great deal, not only about the invention itself, but a little bit about the man.

    Alexander Graham Bell was an ambitious man who was interested in helping a young deaf-mute boy, as the picture opens. We see him toiling at a prototype for the telegraph, and stumbling into the transmission of sound through wires, thus creating something that revolutionized society, business and the world at large. In retrospect, one can only imagine how could anyone survived without it! Thanks to Mr. Bell, his invention is something that benefited all of us.

    Don Ameche makes an intense Alexander Graham Bell. He was a charming actor who never ceased to amaze us in all the movies he left behind. Loretta Young, makes a wonderful Mabel Hubbard, Mr. Bell's beloved wife who had to struggle with her own deafness. A young Henry Fonda is seen as Bell's loyal friend Thomas Watson.

    The cast assembled for the film shows the best Hollywood could offer. Charles Coburn and Spring Byinton play the kind Hubbards. Gene Lockhart is also quite good as Thomas Sanders. Two of Loretta Young sisters Polly Ann and Georgiana play two of the Hubbard girls, as well as Sally Blane who is the fourth daughter.

    This is a film that is instructive as well as fun to watch because of the subject matter and the cast that made the story come alive.
  • If are looking for an accurate and detailed lesson about either the life of Alexander Graham Bell or the invention of the telephone, this film is far from perfect. Often it takes liberties and omissions--all in the aim of producing an entertaining film first and foremost. However, if you understand that it is NOT great history but purely there to entertain, it's pretty good. I would not put in on par with the Edison films at MGM or the wonderful Warner Brothers films on Pasteur and Erlich, but it is quite good.

    The movie only concerns the period just before the telephone was invented as well as the process of inventing and marketing the device. So, if you want information about his work as a deaf educator or about his interesting family background, this film is maddeningly silent. I would LOVE to see a film talk particularly talking about his hatred of sign language (as he felt the deaf MUST be forced to learn to talk and function like the hearing) or the disdain many deaf today have for him. Perhaps this sort of discussion would be best dealt with in a documentary, but it IS fascinating stuff.

    As far as this film goes, Ameche, Fonda and Young are all very good here, the direction very nice and the entire production is polished and pleasant from start to finish.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Alexander Graham Bell came from a family of elocutionists. His grandfather and father were both published on the subject. He trained also to become a teacher, but having a deaf mother, he came to desire more than just teaching.

    In his early stages of teaching, he begins by teaching a young mute boy (Bobs Watson) while being paid by the father of the boy (Gene Lockhart). The money he earns from this, he uses to work on first the telegraph, then the telephone.

    The mute boy's father is so pleased with the way his son can communicate using a special alphabet glove,that he introduces Bell to his friend (Charles Coburn) who has 4 daughters, including a daughter who became death after having scarlet fever when she was younger. The father kept speaking of his 'little girl'. Imagine Bells surprise when it turned out to be a grown woman (Loretta Young) who, along with her three sisters, play the roles of the business man's daughters.

    Mabel (Young) 'fell' for him at first sight as she accidentally runs into him when he is coming to their house, not realizing he is the man her father invited to help her. Thinking this business man is going to be able to help him finance the telegraph, he begins to tell him of his invention until the father says he wants Bell to help his daughter. They can talk of the invention another time.

    The two fall in love, with Young playing a woman who not only backs Alec's (Bell/Ameche) grand ideas and inventions, but encourages him not to give up hope and occasionally puts her foot down when it comes to him not giving up the idea of inventing the telephone and when Bell later is attacked by a firm who claim he stole their invention and sued Bell.

    Bell got this news right when it seemed things were going the best for him. Queen Victoria had agreed to wire the castle with the telephone and what the queen did was often imitated throughout the world! Plus Bell finds out he is to be a father. But he also gets a letter from his father in law that a company is suing him for copyright stealing.

    He determines to return to the States, fight the lawsuit with truth to defend not only his invention, but his father-in-law, his friend, the mute boy's father (both of whom backed him to the hilt on the telephone), his partner in experiments Watson(Henry Fonda) and for all inventors who are poor and have their ideas copyrighted, only to be stolen by those with less scruples and more money.

    When she hears how badly the trial is going due to lack of evidence, Bell's wife and mother come to the trial. It seems that for lack of available paper, Bell had written a love letter to his dear Mabel on the back of an important bit of evidence that could be the key to him winning the lawsuit and keep he and his partners from being robbed of his invention and going bankrupt.

    Interestingly, both Lockhart and Coburn also are important players in the story 'Edison, the Man' but with Coburn being the more sympathetic and Lockhart the heavy. In this one Lockhart is usually more sympathetic and Coburn usually more cynical. Both have added beards and mustaches that change the appearance to a degree. This film, I believe, was released first.

    Yes, it is likely that Hollywood may have embellished the biography a bit and why not? It is an inspiring film that shows that there is much hunger, pain and even delays in being married when someone follows their dream to invent. But it also is often well worth it if the inventor sticks with it. Of course it's no guarantee all stories will turn out as well as this one and, ironically, in "Edison, the Man", Edison also has to defend his invention of electricity in court.

    Not sure if anyone else caught it, but I think they did make one goof in the film. Towards the end, the mother of Bell's wife (Spring Byington) knocks on the door of the room Bell and his wife are in. I believe Bell may ask who it is, but when the mother says it's mom, Bell's wife (deaf) says 'come in Mom'. Either a clever guess on her part, or an error revealing that she can really hear. Nothing had been said (that I could see...)to show if he was somehow able to help her hear or to give her a clue as to who it was at the door.

    To the commenter that was deaf and asked about Young's character Mabel being born deaf or becoming it: the father says it was from scarlet fever as a young girl and she was sent to England (I believe) to study how to read lips.

    Considering that it was 1875-6 that the story was set in and that the film was release only about 10 years into 'talkies', I thought it was quite a good performance on Young's part.

    An enjoyable movie. Even one that older kids can watch and learn about how what is now so taken for granted (not only telephones that can call across countries and around the world, but mobile phones, phones that can send photos and video as well as voice, etc.), but something that would have been quite impossible without someone to invent it.

    I hope the incentive to invent things that are beneficial to humanity is never taken away and maybe films like this one will help encourage people to keep trying and to aim for something that will benefit many people as Alexander Graham Bell did.
  • This film has a unique place in movie history. The Story of Alexander Graham Bell not only gave Don Ameche his signature role, but Ameche's very name entered the English slang. Still today, a telephone is sometimes referred to as an "ameche."

    Bell was a Scottish immigrant who came by way of Canada to the Boston area. At the time the film opens, Don Ameche is a teacher of deaf children. He's also employed as a private tutor to one particular child, Bobs Watson who is Gene Lockhart's son. There scenes have a particular poignancy.

    Ameche also woos and wins Loretta Young, a deaf woman who is the son of prominent businessman, Charles Coburn, who later backs him in his scientific work and business ventures.

    As you can imagine living in a world with a whole lot of silent people and a natural scientific bent made him curious about sound. In inventing the telephone, Bell sought to break the sound barrier which was then limited by how loud the loudest person could shout.

    The famous scene with assistant Henry Fonda when Bell's own voice goes over a wire for the first time is there. And his later patent struggles are also well documented.

    But it is Don Ameche's sincere and straightforward interpretation of Alexander Graham Bell that makes this film memorable. And he's matched every step of the way by Loretta Young as his wife. Ms. Young by the way got to be in this film with all three of her sisters, playing her sisters, a rare treat.

    Given Bell's lifelong interest in the deaf, I'm sure that today with the invention of TTY lines to help deaf people communicate by phone, he'd be doubly proud of what he had accomplished.

    A good film and a great tribute to a great scientific and humanitarian individual.
  • mark.waltz20 February 2013
    Warning: Spoilers
    Our obsession with the telephone.

    Every trendy invention has a past, and in case of today's outlandish use of gadgets, it began with a dream in 1875. Busy enough creating a form of communication for the deaf and dumb, Alexander Graham Bell (the likable Don Ameche) puts aside his desire to improve the telegraph to create something we now know as the telephone. More complex than two Styrofoam cups and a string, he tries, fails, and finally succeeds. And as always happens, someone comes along to step on his toes, claiming that they had a patent that pre-dated Bell's.

    As there is always the case in these biography films, there is a lovely young woman, and in Bell's case, it is the deaf Loretta Young, the daughter of one of Bell's benefactors, the imperious Charles Coburn. Cynical against Bell's dreams, Coburn at first stands in their way, but the gentle Gene Lockhart (for once cast against type as a truly likable character) completely supports him as Bell has taken interest in his young deaf son (the adorable Bobby Watson), giving Lockhart a touching Christmas present that is a four hankie moment. In a smaller role, Henry Fonda plays Bell's assistant, Mr. Watson, who is there for the ground-breaking moment.

    This lavish production features a huge cast of character performers, including Spring Byington (Coburn's dingy wife), Elizabeth Patterson (a cantankerous landlady), Beryl Mercer (the imperious Queen Victoria), Zeffie Tilbury (Lockhart's lovable mother) and Harry Davenport (as the judge in the patent trial). Loretta Young is joined on-screen by her real-life sisters as her character's sisters.

    Overshadowed in memory because of so many masterpieces released in the same year (1939), it was still Ameche's most famous role among dozens in which he simply held court for leading ladies like Young, Alice Faye and Betty Grable. Ameche's wide-eyed enthusiasm, which has sometimes been mocked, is actually engaging. It is just what America needed in 1939 to remind them after a lengthy depression and the onslaught of war in Europe of the achievements of the past century in the wake of some truly tough times ahead.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a very entertaining biopic of the inventor of the telephone starring the great Don Ameche as the title character, Loretta Young, a very young Henry Fonda and Ameche's "Heaven Can Wait" co-star Charles Coburn, all of whom give excellent performances. Don Ameche is one of my favourite actors. Watching him in a film, whether he's in his 30s or in his 80s, is the cinematic equivalent of wrapping myself in a warm blanket on a cold night. He is like Gregory Peck and Christopher Reeve in that respect.

    It's fictionalised in parts - for instance since Bell only went to Canada (and later the US) in his 20s, he should really have a Scottish accent - but I think that it's fairly accurate for the most part. Bell's two daughters Elsie - who is depicted in the film as a baby - and Marian were still alive when it was released. I wonder if they saw it and what they thought of it. The film was so popular that "the Ameche" was a widely used slang term for the telephone throughout the 1940s.
  • Irving Cummings does an excellent job directing the cast of assembled actors in this film. The story itself is taken from the memories of the daughter of Alex Bell and follows through with all the trials and tribulations of Bell himself. Beginning with the decision he gave up teaching the deaf and dumb to speak and through the obscure and menial existence of an inventor, up through the difficult task fighting for his invention in court. Don Ameche plays Alexander Graham Bell, who does so with such spirit and vitality, audiences will later realize why this actor is so synonymous with the character. The same is true with Henry Fonda who plays Thomas Watson who also is easily identified with this movie. Loretta Young, Charles Coburn and Gene Lockhart are magnificent and help insure this black and white becomes a solid standard in any collection of what we now understand as Classic films. ****
  • Warning: Spoilers
    1939 was indeed a magical year for Hollywood, and this classic biopic of one of American's most celebrated inventors during his most interesting period is one of the less remembered highlights. I was very surprised at the rather few reviews at this site, compared to the several hundred reviews of "The Grapes of Wrath", released the following year. Both were shot in high quality B&W. Although it much simplifies, and often grossly fictionalizes, the details relating to the invention of and subsequent patent battles relating to the first practical telephone, it definitely succeeds as a vibrant theatrical presentation of Bell and his associates during this exciting time period. Bell makes a particularly appealing subject for this sort of film because of his primary interest, during this period, in teaching the deaf(including his future wife) to communicate by visuals and speech training(although he was very opposed to a special sign language!). Also, his status as a poor(overly emphasized) lone inventor, trying to scoop some well financed competitors.

    Ironically, the invention of an auditory means of instantaneous long distance communication served to further isolate the deaf from mainstream society, being at least partially dependent on visual communication. The profoundly deaf would have to await the advent of relatively cheap FAX machines and PCs to participate directly in relatively fast long distance communications, other than using the telegraph...The viewer should also be aware that it was Tom Edison's subsequent invention of the carbon-based transmitter-receiver that finally provided clear speech over long distances, and thus greatly increased the utility of the telephone.

    The casting was near perfect. The classy, infectiously hyperactive, Don Ameche and gorgeous, always empathetic, Loretta Young had played husband and wife before, in "Ramona", and were a very charismatic match in this film. Loretta mostly just had to look lovely, supposedly learn to communicate using lip reading, and be continuously supportive of Bell's 'crazy' inventive obsessions. Having her real sisters play her stage sisters was a nice embellishing touch.

    Some complain that Ameche constantly grossly overacted. But, to me, his hyperenthusiasm about whatever he was doing translated into greater interest in the film proceedings. He personifies the obsessive enthusiasm of the inventor or scientist who feels he is on the verge of a great discovery, as well as the dogged determination of the healer, who feels his efforts make a life-changing impact on his patients.

    Just as Dr. Watson was indispensable to Sherlock Homes. and Jim Watson partnered with Francis Crick in figuring out the structure of DNA, young(20-22y.o) Tom Watson was hired to make Bell's experimental efforts at an improved telegraph and telephone. Bell was not mechanically gifted, thus required such a person to make his ideas a practical reality. Some complain that Henry Fonda's Watson was too much the opposite of Ameche's hyperenthusiatic, sometimes nearly hysterical, Bell: laconic, frequently complaining and pessimistic. However, theatrically, Fonda's Watson serves to help balance Ameche's Bell, giving the audience a respite. He also served to articulate the many frustrations and sacrifices typically involved in trying to invent something revolutionary.

    The very familiar character actors Charles Coburn and Gene Lockhart play their usual roles as mature authority figures, serving as Bell's reluctant source of financing during this period, Coburn also playing Bell's future father in law. They are later characterized as risking their entire fortunes in financing Bell's patent war. Thus, they also achieve the status of heroes in this film.

    There is a villain in this story, in the form of competing inventor Eliza Gray and his supporting corporation :Western Electric, who file a patent infringement suit against Bell's fledgling company. Both filed a patent for very similar devices on the very same day, thus the assumption is that one must have stolen the idea from the other, but who did the stealing? Things look bad for Bell during most of the trial, but it's resolved in fictitious melodramatic style when Loretta unexpectedly reads a dated love letter from Bell to the court, then, oh, incidentally, reveals that it was written on the back of a diagram of his key thinking and breakthrough apparatus. Historically, Eliza Gray was no villain, but a competent inventor of other things. This trial segment afforded Ameche the opportunity to articulate a memorable impassioned plea not to allow well-healed corporations to bully poor individual inventors into giving up legal credit for their inventions. This speech reminds me of a number of other impassioned speeches in films of this era, such as those of Paul Muni , when playing Louis Pasteur, or Emile Zola, and Spencer Tracey, when playing Henry Stanley, or defending Clark Gable's character in "Boomtown", for example.

    Granted that this film was mainly about Bell's invention of a telephone. However, Tom Watson's essential contribution to this invention has been consistently downplayed, although the easy going Watson never seemed to care. Watson was actually much like Bell in that he easily got bored with a given lifestyle, thus periodically attempted to shed his skin. After a few additional years making all of Bell's early commercial telephones, he decided to play farmer for a few years, but soon grew bored with that. Then, he began making marine motors, and eventually built his company into the Fore River Ship and Engine company, one of the largest in the US. During a period of financial trouble, he quit this and tried his hand at being a geologist, after study at MIT. Not very successful, he then decided to become a stage actor and playwright, later adding public lectures on various topics, in his declining years. His last celebrated dealing with the telephone occurred in 1915, when he joined Bell in the symbolic first transcontinental phone conversation, thus commemorating their first , accidental, phone conversation in the lab. Incidentally, Bell disputed his claim, dramatized in the film, that this conversation was occasioned by Bell spilling acid on himself.
  • Story of Alexander Graham Bell, The (1939)

    *** (out of 4)

    Delightful tale of Alexander Graham Bell (Don Ameche) who while attempting to create the telephone falls in love with a mute girl (Loretta Young). The film really doesn't go into much detail about how the phone was created but instead it focuses on the pain that Bell went through while trying to break through. Ameche is downright brilliant in every shape of the word and his strong performance makes you forget several of the flaws throughout the film. Loretta Young is also very good as his wife and Henry Fonda adds nice support as the assistant. The film has some nice humor to go along with the drama and while I'm sure there are some facts made up, the film is still worth watching if you're a fan of the cast.
  • I always thought of him being an under rated actor. He certainly was versatile. He could sing, play comedy and drama, and if for no other reason, the academy finally realized his talents and gave him an oscar. It was long overdue. As for this film, he was very good and keep in mind Henry Fonda was playing a supporting role. As for Loretta Young..she was very lovely during those years, but her role had me squirming. As a deaf person, she spoke very well and the audience knows she's deaf because she makes it obvious as to her glaring at the actors mouths. I don't recall anyone mentioning if she was born deaf, or acquired it in later life.All in all, a satisfying film..thanks to Don's performance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Movies from the first part of the 20th century that are based on actual facts are combine mostly two elements: one of them is good acting full of passion, joy, excitement, real acting. The other are factual inaccuracies. This thing happened to "Rasputin and the Empress", it happened to "Dracula" (well not actual facts but also not really true to the Bram Stoker novel). The same thing you will find also in this emotional movie. Don Ameche is portraying the role of Alexander Graham Bell full of excitement, as a young man who is dying of showing his telephone to the world, he wants to create something new. But has he really done it? Especially movies with great actors like this (Henry Fonda, Don Ameche, Loretta Young, ... ) creating a new world for the audience. So after watching this movie many people actually believe the legend of Alexander Graham Bell actually invented the telephone, even through it's not true. However now everyone knows or should know that Bell has never invented THE telephone neither the words "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you" are the first words ever spoken in a telephone. It was actually Antonio Meucci in 1860 and Phillip Reis in 1861. The last one make the telephone actually work and spoke the first time in history into the telephone. Afterwards in 1862 he has presented it in Edinburgh, where Bell saw this device and was asked by his father Alexander Bell to make this better. Bell did and made himself a name in history. But this all make the story of the telephone in the movie very inaccurate for a man who takes credit for something he hasn't really done. However this is a feature film, not a documentary about the invention of the BELL telephone, about A telephone.

    I like also that they are not basically are telling about the telephone but about the love to Mabel, great portrayed by Loretta Young, the vision of a young intelligent man and also how he helps deaf people to talk. These aspects make this movie a very good drama movie, that is also recommendable to watch (especially if you know the truth ;-) ).
  • Just how factual all the events are in Fox's biographical account of THE STORY OF Alexander GRAHAM BELL, I don't know, but it seems safe to say they have taken the basic outline of his life and embellished it with a series of vignettes that serve to show us how and why he became the inventor of the telephone.

    Although this is DON AMECHE's signature role (indeed the invention is often referred to as "The Ameche"), he clearly had better roles in his future. Here he overacts to a tiresome degree under Irving Cummings' direction. On the other hand, there's a considerable amount of underplaying by LORETTA YOUNG and HENRY FONDA in subordinate roles. Young is Ameche's deaf wife and Fonda is his laboratory assistant.

    Factual or not, it moves at a slow pace and may not be the kind of biography for everyone, lacking the vigorous style of a story about Jesse James, for example. There's a little too much talk before we get to the crucial scene in the film where Ameche spills acid and calls for help over the wire to Fonda in the next room.

    Supporting cast includes GENE LOCKHART, SPRING BYINGTON and CHARLES COBURN (who must have been one of Hollywood's busiest character actors in the '30s and '40s).
  • Yes it's only a very vague and reminiscent memory from the Summer of 1979 but how I recall best this brief clip in which on Wall Street the display ribbon outside of the building got stuck then when Bell offered to fix it one man told him come back at Christmastime.Then when his boss said "Let him try." He then managed to fix it and then was thanked and Bell said to that other man "Merry Christmas." Then My Mom,My Older Sister and I were Laughing. Yes thus showing how Bell like Edison had many talents beyond the one he was most famous for of which is of course the Telephone.

    Truly, Stephen "Steve"G.Baer a.k.a."Ste" of Framingham,Ma.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I felt compelled to click the "Contains spoiler" box for a story about Alexander Graham Bell, the "spoiler" being that he invented the telephone. What does that tell us about the end of civilization as we know it?

    Actually, this is an engaging movie, although I believed only certain features of its presentation. Alexander Graham Bell was born. He invented the telephone. He died. Of those points I'm sure. I guess his wife was deaf and Bell himself, a Scot by birth, was preceded by two generations of writers interested in the mechanics of speech and associated pathologies. And we know he had an assistant named Watson, Henry Fonda here, because of that famous first voice transmission -- "Watson, come here. I need you." I'm doubtful that it was caused by Bell's having spilled sulfuric acid on his leg. It's true, too, that the success of the device was boosted when it was adopted in the palace of Queen Victoria, or so I was taught years ago in an anthropology course on culture change and innovation.

    But all that doesn't amount to much. The film is an entertaining piece of semi-educational family fare. Bell and Watson suffer through hard times together, punctuated by occasional breakthroughs or epiphanies, usually followed by more hard times. As Watson, Henry Fonda adds some necessary common-sensical and often softly funny observations about the lives they're leading. Too bad he more or less disappears from the movie about half way through, like Lear's fool.

    But it's Boston in 1875 and we see the obsessive Bell making his way through a light snow fall of cornflakes while children throw snowballs at him, a lamplighter lights a lamp, screaming children ride sleds along the sidewalks embanked by fake snow, and horses and carriage jingle their way down the studio streets. There are Christmas carols and mute children who learn to say "father", and Christmas dinners and presents, and a love interest in the appealing form of Loretta Young.

    There's something winning about these old-fashioned studio productions. In this case, the studio was 20th-Century Fox and the producer was Daryl Zanuck, renowned for his ability to polish a script into a nicely structured, well-written, and thoroughly commercial form, and for being a Goy from Wahoo, Nebraska. I love the fake snow and the teary children and the determined scientist distracted by love and the need for money. Even if you don't believe a word of it, it's still a comforting experience.

    Don Ameche approaches his role with the innocent hyperbolic enthusiasm of a child. Fonda seems sleepy and is all legs, like young Mister Lincoln. Loretta Young has calf-like eyes and a sweet smile and is so demure that she manages to suggest barely repressed volcanic passions. The supporting cast are mostly familiar -- Charles Coburn, Gene Lockhart, and Spring Byington -- and they turn in professional performances.

    The climactic courtroom battle is something of a let down. Poor Bell was the victim of innovational inevitability. The telephone was just one example of an endless list of simultaneous discoveries and inventions. I can only think of the gasoline-powered car, oxygen, radar, and the jet engine at the moment. In a way, culture advances in accordance with its own schedule and the inventors and discoverers acclaimed as genius's are its instruments, people who happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right temperament. If I can dig up that list of simultaneous inventions I'll post it on the message board.

    Anyway, a routine but likable biography from the old studio system, now thoroughly defunct.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There is film and there is history, and often the twain don't meet. Here they do...fairly well. Read the Wikipedia entry on Alexander Graham Bell before you watch the film and you'll see that the gist of the story is accurate, even if some of the details are fudged for Hollywood. In fact, some of Bell's early life was pretty interesting, and could have been brought more into the plot. But again, this is Hollywood, not the Encyclopedia Britannica.

    What is great film-making? I'd say when a film prints an indelible image on one's mind -- that's great film-making. And the last time I saw this film was on television some time over 50 years ago. And yet, the scene where Bell spills sulfuric acid on his leg and says, "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you" remained as fresh and clear in my mind in 2013 as when I first saw the movie on the late show back in the 1960s (or was it the 1950s?).

    I ALWAYS found Don Ameche to be a very appealing actor, and of course, this is his most famous role...and frankly, the film is all his! Of course, he has some fine support here. Loretta Young is fine as Bell's deaf wife. Henry Fonda plays the key role of "Mr. Watson", and does nicely, but he had not fully come into his own yet. Charles Coburn and Gene Lockhart play the old codgers well, and Spring Byington doesn't get enough screen time. And thank God -- Bobs Watson is mute in the film and not only doesn't talk, but doesn't cry! ;-)

    This is one of the great and memorable screen biographies, and despite some flaws is very watchable, interesting, and entertaining. Highly recommended.
  • This was disappointing in that went too far on the love angle instead of the "inventing" angle. After all, Alexander Graham Bell is one of the most famous inventors of all time, so why not emphasize that? No, they went with romance, making to attract the female crowd.

    Actually, Loretta Young was a lot more pleasing to see than Don Ameche (Bell) or Henry Fonda (Bell's assistant.) Ameche overrated brutally in this film, bordering on hysteria in certain scenes. Fonda's character did nothing but gripe and moan and be unenthusiastic as Bell's partner.

    When I think of other uplifting biographical films of this time: Lincoln, Pasteur, Thorpe, Rockne, etc.) this one just doesn't measure up.
  • Don Ameche takes the title role in this biopic of the Boston-based Scotsman credited with the invention of the telephone, and he does bring a certain passion to an otherwise rather procedural drama. The story traces the development of his experiments with his friend Thomas Watson (Henry Fonda) and parallels with his budding romance with Mabel (Loretta Young) and for much of the time, it rather uncomfortably straddles the line between science and melodrama. The last twenty minutes - including a visit to Queen Victoria and a court case to establish the legitimacy of his patents, livens the thing up a bit and the supporting cast of Charles Coburn and Gene Lockhart add value, but it needed to focus more of the reason we know of the man, and of the huge significance of his technological advancement. Worth a watch for Ameche's performance, still, though.
  • Don Ameche stars as the famed telephone inventor in this 1939 biopic. He gives a solid performance, and the film isn't nearly as corny and ridiculous as the two Thomas Edison movies made the following year, but it's not really a top-tier flick. His love interest is Loretta Young, and her sometimes disapproving, sometimes supportive parents are Charles Coburn and Spring Byington. Loretta plays someone deaf who relies only on lip-reading, and her consistency led to her playing another deaf woman in 1944's And Now Tomorrow. If you like her in this one, check out the other, where she really shines. Henry Fonda in the 1930s was usually in movies that showed off his handsome mug, but perhaps he had a yearly quota to fulfil and was forced to play Don Ameche's lazy, perpetually hungry sidekick. He has hardly any screen time, and what little he does have is spent complaining about his growling stomach. I can't imagine he had much fun in this movie, since he's given none of Don's rousing speeches, purpose to the plot, romantic scenes, or memorable contribution.

    In a couple of scenes you'll get to see Harry Davenport, as yet another judge, and Elizabeth Patterson, as Don's cranky landlady. Bobs Watson joins the supporting cast as a mute boy whom Don Ameche tries to cure. His father is Gene Lockhart, and it never ceases to impress me how versatile Gene's roles are. In the same year he played a sleazy slimeball in Blackmail, he plays a devoted, sorrowful father who bursts into tears as easily as Bobs usually does in his movies. It's a perfect father-son casting as they wrap their arms around each other and cry.