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The Story of Alexander Graham Bell

The Story of Alexander Graham Bell(1939)

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NOTES

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The working titles of this film were American Miracle and Alexander Graham Bell. It was also reviewed as Story of Alexander Graham Bell. News items in H note that the film was budgeted at $1,500,000. Bell's daughter, Mrs. Gilbert Grosvenor, had official approval over the script. According to materials contained in the Twentieth Centuury-Fox Produced Script Collection at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Darryl Zanuck criticized early treatments of this film as containing too much science and not enough romance. In story conferences, Zanuck suggested Eddie Albert for the role of "Thomas Watson," Nancy Kelly for "Mrs. Bell" and Edna Mae Oliver for "Mrs. Mac Gregor." Polly Ann Young, Georgiana Young and Sally Blane, who play Loretta Young's sisters in the film, were her sisters in real life. Don Ameche became so identified with the role of Alexander Graham Bell that in Canada the slang for telephone became "the Ameche" and in the 1941 film Ball of Fire, the character played by Barbara Stanwyck calls the phone the Ameche because "he invented it." The picture was previewed at the San Francisco World's Fair on 29 March 1939.
       According to the Variety obituary for New York Times film critic and later screenwriter Frank S. Nugent, a comment in Nugent's review of this film reportedly cost the newspaper some $50,000 in advertising. Nugent, who in the past had been critical of a number of the studio's productions, began his review for this film with the remark, "If only because it has omitted Tyrone Power, the 20th-Fox production of The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, at the Roxy, must be considered one of that company's more sober and meritorious contributions to the historical drama." After the matter was settled, according to Variety, New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger sent Nugent a memo concerning the situation. Following Nugent's glowing review of The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, Twentieth Century-Fox hired him as a script critic, and he later became one of Hollywood's top screenwriters.