The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Period Film  |   Release Date - Apr 14, 1939 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 97 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Rarely has an actor been so identified with a role as Don Ameche is with the title character of The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. There's good reason, too. Ameche gives his finest performance as Bell, and while to some that might be damning with faint praise, most would admit that his work here is indeed superlative. What's interesting is how good it is without being so very different from many of his other performances. It works so well because it draws very specifically on his strongest talents and because the part is so very well written. While the screenplay as a whole has some problems -- it's (of course) historically inaccurate, and much of the plotting is in a very "Hollywood" vein -- Bell is delineated very effectively. Ameche gets especially fine support from a lovely Loretta Young in her "bloom" period, and there's a rare chemistry between the two. There's chemistry of a different but equally important sort between Ameche and Henry Fonda; indeed, Bell succeeds as a film largely because these three leads not only work well together but create a history and a sense of bonding between them as characters. Irving Cummings direction is smooth, if a bit slick in places, and he certainly knows how to point up the important highlights in the film. The famous "Watson, come here" moment, even after all these years, still makes considerable impact.