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Young Tom Edison


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Finally watching this film in its entirety and enjoying it. Young Mickey Rooney in a role separated from Andy Hardy (other than Boys Town, of course). I just had to laugh at Virginia Weidler kicking Bobby Jordan in the shin. The precocious girl attacks a Dead End kid!

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Finally watching this film in its entirety and enjoying it. Young Mickey Rooney in a role separated from Andy Hardy (other than Boys Town, of course). I just had to laugh at Virginia Weidler kicking Bobby Jordan in the shin. The precocious girl attacks a Dead End kid!

 

I'm a big Bobby Jordan fan and I think he did a good job in YOUNG TOM EDISON in a very non-"Dead End Kid" type role.

 

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Always liked this movie.  But, just HOW OLD was Edison supposed to be in this movie?

 

ROONEY was 20 years old at the time he made it!

 

Oh, and I humorously kept waiting for Jordan to tell young Edison, "I'll WHALLOP ya!"

 

Sepiatone

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Always liked this movie.  But, just HOW OLD was Edison supposed to be in this movie?

 

ROONEY was 20 years old at the time he made it!

 

Oh, and I humorously kept waiting for Jordan to tell young Edison, "I'll WHALLOP ya!"

 

Sepiatone

I'm guessing he was supposed to be about sixteen. The real Edison left home at that age. The sister Virginia Weidler played, Tannie, died two months before turning thirty in that same year. In reality, she was fourteen years older than Tom and had married and left home when he was eight.

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Always liked this movie.  But, just HOW OLD was Edison supposed to be in this movie?

 

The telegraph man at the train station said he was 16 years old and could not be

hired to operate a telegraph at that age.

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The telegraph man at the train station said he was 16 years old and could not be

hired to operate a telegraph at that age.

 

Hmmmmmm...as I hear they're now hiring batteries of 8 year olds to test out the marketability of video games, I must ask:

 

Have we REALLY progressed in our enforcement of the child labor laws since Tom Edison was a youngin or NOT here??! ;)

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  • 4 years later...
This TCM article on Young Tom Edison covers some of the details, http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article/353375%7C0/Young-Tom-Edison.html, including one I would have had to mention had the article not.  Tom (as he was called in the movie, although his real-life nickname was Al), was actually not dismissed from school by a personal visit from the schoolmarm, but MGM just couldn't resist reworking the Almira Gulch scene from The Wizard of Oz, to the point that, when the teacher said she wanted to talk to the parents, I yelled, "And their little dog, too!" and expected her to at least stuff the family cat into a hamper.
 
I started to write that Edison was dismissed from school by a letter so cruel his mother had to lie about its contents, and an adult Edison was shocked when he came across the actual letter.  (As a child he either couldn't read cursive or the letter was in a sealed envelope.)  It seems this story, although touching, is entirely false.  https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/thomas-edisons-mom-lied-about-a-letter-expelling-her-son-from-school/  Apparently the world "addled," used often in the 1940 movie, was actually applied to young Edison, who spent very little time in school and was out at a younger age than Rooney in the film.  According to the source below, it was a schoolmaster calling Edison "addled" which caused his furious mother to remove him from school and teach him herself.
 
The TCM article implies the scene in which Tom rescued a three-year-old child from certain death on railroad tracks, and was rewarded by the child's father with help in his telegraph work, never happened, although this says it absolutely did.  http://www.loc.gov/collections/static/edison-company-motion-pictures-and-sound-recordings/articles-and-essays/biography/life-of-thomas-alva-edison.html  Also according to this, the grabbing by the ears to be lifted into a boxcar really happened,* but the boxing of the ears after the fire in the boxcar did not happen--the movie includes both and shows the doctor checking Tom's ears afterwards.  The fire itself apparently did happen, as did Edison publishing a newspaper on a train rather than simply selling newspapers.  The selling of candy and newspapers before he began publishing his own occurred in 1859 when Edison was only twelve.
 
Edison had two surviving sisters and one brother out of the original seven children of his parents.  The oldest sister, Marion, was married when Edison was two and is not mentioned in the movie.  The older brother named William is undoubtedly the "Bill" of the movie.  The younger of the sisters was indeed nicknamed "Tannie," but she was fourteen years older than Thomas Edison, not four years younger.  http://edison.rutgers.edu/famchron.htm  She was married in 1855, while this movie starts no earlier than around 1861 (as Fort Sumter is mentioned early on), at which time Edison would have been fourteen years old.  The movie portrays a couple of seasons passing and later he is mentioned as being sixteen years old.  I was very afraid during the scene where the doctor needed light to operate on Edison's mother that the movie would have Tom invent the lightbulb 15 or 20 years early but there was no buildup to that breakthrough which reportedly took over 1,000 tries, so they resolved the issue another way.
 
Several major incidents, including the mother's operation and the spectacular climax, I am convinced did not happen, but don't want to post any spoilers of a thoroughly enjoyable movie.  It's like that parody of a scene in The Right Stuff  in which an astronaut worries he has not had a very interesting life, and the Life magazine reporter says, "Don't worry; we'll make your life so interesting, you'll wish you'd lived it!"  Would definitely watch again.
 
*I knew that part was true, having been unable to forget this lovely and charming illustration from the Childcraft volume Great Men and Famous Deeds.

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