Passed | | Biography, Drama
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.
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 A. 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.
Thomas A. Edison:
Well, we failed again. That's the net result of nine thousand experiments.
Michael Simon: Too bad, Tom. We know the work you have done. We are as sorry as you are that you didn't get results.
Thomas A. Edison: Results? Man, I got a lot of results. I know nine thousand things now that...
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.
The opening credits appear as 19th Century sampler embroideries.