The Benefactor. This 1917 film may be one of the first biopics ever. The life of Thomas Edison is told in a lively and fun fashion for a 1917 silent film. We find out that he was an incredible prankster, extremely creative, and very hard-working. It all comes off like Edison sitting down with us and telling us stories of his youth, with the expected embellishments. General Electric added an ending where we see the real Edison accepting a Congressional Medal of Honor. Also of interest are scenes of 1917 cities being lit up by electric lights, which have an erie art deco feel to them, even though they predate art deco by some time. Lots of historical interest here.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: *****. Overall Rating: ****.

Belonging to the Group: Respect as a Human Value. This 50s EB social guidance film shows us two families that are newcomers to a small town, one of average 50s folks, and one that are first-generation immigrants from an unnamed European country. They both have minor problems with getting accepted into the town’s social fabric, with the immigrants having a few more problems than the white-bread family. But all the problems are on the 50s sitcom level, i.e. they’re problems we’d all like to have because they’re so minor. There’s a slight hint of discrimination towards the immigrant family, but it all gets resolved in the end when the boy impresses kids at school with his woodcarving skills and the mom wins a cake baking contest at church. This is one of those 50s films that hints at larger problems and then denies the seriousness of them, which makes it slightly campy and somewhat disturbing at the same time.

Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: ***. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ****.

Better Reading

Better Reading . Teenager Harold Wilson has a problem—he can’t read for (expletive deleted). So he has to spend all his free time studying ...