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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (1939)

One of those famous film titles everybody knows, but no one seems to have seen. That’s been the fate of this sweet-natured bio-pic about how Don Ameche invented the telephone. Turns out, it’s a darn good historical entertainment, at least for the first two acts, with Ameche losing his signature mustache to claim his signature role as teacher of the deaf & master of the traveling sound wave. Lots of good support, too, with Loretta Young and her lovely real-life sisters, and a stand-out perf from Henry Fonda, relaxed & funny as second banana/lab assistant. Too bad about that last act; the storyline switches from the miracles of modern science to the patents rights court docket and then the pregnant wife rides to the rescue. Yikes! But more fun, more accurate, and less hoke than you expect. Well paced by light-weight megger Irving Cummings and superbly shot by Leon Shamroy.

DOUBLE-BILL: M-G-M must have paying close attention, coming out with a double dose of American Inventor biography the next year with Mickey Rooney as YOUNG TOM EDISON and Spencer Tracy as EDISON THE MAN. (Neither any great shakes.) Rooney couldn’t have grown up to look like Spence, but he might be Ameche’s kid brother. Maybe Young Tom Edison became Don Ameche!

 

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