Edison, the Man (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

Edison, the Man (1940)




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Movie Info

In 1940, MGM turned out two films on the life of Thomas Alva Edison.The first, Young Tom Edison, starred Mickey Rooney and trotted out all the old Edison folklore, including the now-discredited incident in which Tom loses his hearing by being yanked onto a train by his ears. Edison the Man, starring Spencer Tracy in the title role, downplays certain inconvenient facts (including Edison's strong-arm tactics to protect his patents), but adheres more closely to actual events than its predecessor. The story concentrates on Edison's most productive years, from 1872 to 1882 (surprisingly ignoring his role in the development of the motion picture!) The inventions invented herein include the ticker-tape machine, the phonograph, the Dictaphone, and of course the electric light. Gene Lockhart is on hand to once more perform his movie specialty of the blinkered financier who can see no future in Edison's crazy schemes. The film tries to stir up suspense by giving Edison only six months to complete his dream of illuminating the streets of New York, lest he lose the contract--and, by extension, his credibility. While Young Tom Edison had unexpectedly lost money, Edison the Man was a success; as for Spencer Tracy, he was a versatile enough actor to escape the fate of poor Don Ameche, who was forever and inextricably associated with his portrayal of Alexander Graham Bell.more
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Talbot Jennings, Bradbury Foote, Hugo Butler, Dore Schary
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 23, 1991


Spencer Tracy
as Thomas Alva Edison
Rita Johnson
as Mary Stilwell
Lynne Overman
as Bunt Cavatt
Charles Coburn
as General Powell
Gene Lockhart
as Mr. Taggart
Felix Bressart
as Michael Simon
Frank Faylen
as Galbreath
Byron Foulger
as Edwin Hall
Guy D'Ennery
as Lundstrom
Addison Richards
as Dr. Johnson
Milton Parsons
as Acid Graham
Gene Reynolds
as Jimmy Price
George Meader
as Minister
Milt Kibbee
as Workman
Charles Waldron
as Commissioner
Charles Lane
as Second Lecturer
Irving Bacon
as Sheriff
Emmett Vogan
as Secretary
Tom Mahoney
as Policeman
Ann Gillis
as Nancy Grey
Jay Ward
as John Schofield
George Lessey
as Toastmaster
Paul Hurst
as Sheriff
George Ovey
as Lamplighter
Erville Alderson
as First Lecturer
Roy Cummings
as Footman
Eve Kendall
as Marion Estelle Ediso...
Michael David Simms
as Thomas Edison Jr.
Walter Fenner
as Man at Banquet
Edward Keane
as Third Lecturer
Edgar Dearing
as Policeman
Cyril Ring
as Reporter
Nick Copeland
as Reporter
Jack Daley
as Broker
Harry Strang
as Minor Role
Billy Boy Arnold
as Minor Role
Thomas Pogue
as Minor Role
Fritzi Brunette
as Minor Role
Helen Dickson
as Minor Role
John Butler
as Mechanic
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Edison, the Man

Critic Reviews for Edison, the Man

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (3)

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 25, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Spencer Tracy plays the pioneering scientist in this decent but routine MGM biopic, directed by Clarence Brown

Full Review… | April 13, 2012

Biography depicts famous inventor as smart, curious hero.

Full Review… | December 24, 2010
Common Sense Media

Standard biopic.

Full Review… | December 18, 2007
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Edison, the Man


A solid follow-up to Young Tom Edison, although I still prefer the first movie. Spencer Tracy takes on the role of the Wizard of Menlo Park, and he does a fine job. It's an inspirational film dedicated to one of the greatest American inventors of all time. (First and only viewing - 3/2/2016)

Starts with him as an old man being honored and interviewed.

The film comprises of a flashback that shows what led to him lighting up New York City with electricity.

Edison reveals in an interview that he does not cary a watch. I found that interesting as well.

This film covers the struggles Edison faced to invent the lightbulb and up to lighting up New York City and some of the other inventions that came through his associate workers such as recording sound.

What I did not know before this film was that Edison's first invention was not the lightbulb or that so many doubted Edison's ability to make the lightbulb before he found a way to make it work for long periods of time. I did not know that he tried making the lightbulb at first without something to confine it. I also did not realize what helped sustain the lights energy was a lack of oxygen and more of vacuum or another gas prior to see this film. I always thought it was just to protect anyone from getting shocked by electricity be accident.

At the end Edison as an older man gives a speech where he has concerns over Has science gone too far to construct mans own destruction balance. Is it Man's own destiny. Could man have constructed it's own destruction by the technological innovations it has come by? I found it kind of ironic that the end of the film would end with questioning his or human inventions to think such a good thing was so bad.

Inspirational in that he had to try try again before he got it right.He never gave up, a lesson we can all afford to learn during these hard times.

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