Semibiographical account of the boyhood years of Thomas Edison. [ Young Tom Edison credits: Dir: Norman Taurog/ Mickey Rooney, Fay Bainter, George Bancroft/ 82 min/ Drama, Biography, Family/ Creator as Hero]
“Young Tom Edison is sort of a Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer story with a creator-as-hero twist. Edison is strange, misunderstood, and unwanted; but it’s just his peculiar qualities, the things that make him different, that in the end save the day.”
Young Tom Edison weaves together a variety of historical anecdotes about the young Thomas Edison, sometimes with exaggeration but always with due respect for the nascent genius that would grow to be the century’s greatest inventor. It’s terrific inspirational material for the young creative person. Edison is at once intelligent, inventive, independent, and morally respectable.
Throughout most of the film, however, few of the other people in his life take note of those favorable qualities. That’s because Edison’s tinkering, experimenting, and inventing are always getting him into mischief. When he’s not breaking something, he’s accidentally setting a fire or endangering people in some other way.
The young Edison’s antics are so outrageous that he gets expelled from school. He begins reading and experimenting at home, funding his books and supplies through entrepreneurial activities. These include peddling goods on trains and printing his own newspaper. However, when even his peddling business literally blows up in his face (some of his combustible chemicals catch on fire), all appears lost. He decides to run away.
Just then, two disasters strike in succession: Edison’s dear mother falls ill; and a rail bridge collapses, endangering the occupants of a moving passenger train. What’s needed to solve both problems is creative thinking, and Edison’s got it in spades. In a dramatic turnabout of events, he saves all and is at last redeemed.
Young Tom Edison is sort of a Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer story with a creator-as-hero twist. Edison is strange, misunderstood, and unwanted; but it’s just his peculiar qualities, the things that make him different, that in the end save the day. Edison’s mother, undoubtedly the most important influence in his life, also gets a bit of a salute here. She’s the one person who sees through his unruly behavior for the greatness of which he is capable. (If anything, her real role in Edison’s life is understated in this portrayal. A former teacher, she home-schooled Edison after public school had failed him and apparently did quite a good job of it.)
Mickey Rooney makes a very likable Edison and puts most child actors of today to shame. This lighthearted, upbeat, and inspiring film is a must-see for young, creative types. It was made in conjunction with Edison, The Man.