Borrowed the 1940 film from the library and sat down with the kids yesterday to watch it. (This was actually for history as much as science; I asked the kids to research inventions, and Anthony picked the movie camera.)
Although Thomas Edison is known for electrical inventions, there was a lot of messing about with chemicals in this biopic. First he fills the schoolhouse cloakroom with smoke, trying to see if concentrated ammonia and hydrochloric acid mix. (In real life, Edison's mother taught him at home after he was kicked out of school.) Then he stops a train when they find out he's got a bottle of nitroglycerin on him.
(Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel became rich developing a safe form of nitroglycerin: dynamite. After his death, he dedicated his wealth to the establishment of the prize named for him.)
It certainly had its hokey side, but the film was touching at times too. And amazingly, most of the unbelievable incidents are actually true. Edison really did start a boyhood business selling newspapers on a train and did chemistry experiments in the boxcar. saved a child on the train tracks and learns Morse Code from the boy's grateful father.
Not a bad little flick, if you're in the right mood. I'm hoping to pick up the sequel, Edison the Man, starring Spencer Tracy, for next week.