Uncommon Friends Of The 20Th Century

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary

There's something fascinating about the man (or woman) behind the scenes, the person who seems to know everyone who's anyone while remaining anonymous. James D. Newton is such a person: In 1924, as a 19-year-old Florida real estate developer, Newton struck up a friendship with Thomas Edison. That in turn led him to life-long relationships with Charles and...read more

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There's something fascinating about the man (or woman) behind the scenes, the person who seems to know everyone who's anyone while remaining anonymous. James D. Newton is such a person: In 1924, as a 19-year-old Florida real estate developer, Newton

struck up a friendship with Thomas Edison. That in turn led him to life-long relationships with Charles and Anne Morrow Lindburgh, rubber tire magnate Harvey Firestone, automotive pioneer Henry Ford and Nobel-prize winning surgeon Alexis Carrell. Interviews with the 93-year-old Newton and his

wife, Ellie, both still trim, healthy and eloquent, form the backbone of this documentary; they're a persuasive argument for lives of hard work, modesty, quiet but deep-rooted religious beliefs and devotion to family and friends. Newton chronicled these friendships in his 1987 book, Uncommon

Friends. John Biffar's documentary, narrated by Roger Cronkite, is constructed around the argument that these five men created the 20th century as we know it. Newton is so engaging that it seems mean to say that the film itself is rather dull, and while Edison et al. are clearly giants of our

time, Biffar doesn't develop his argument entirely effectively. Just one example: to work through that argument as it pertains to Henry Ford he needed to include material examining the role the affordable automobile played in the lives of ordinary Americans. It made weekend travel possible,

eventually spurring construction of the interstate highway system (with all the its plusses and minuses) and stimulated the growth of suburbia and the bedroom community, which in turn have been blamed for much of the alienation and disaffection of modern life. You can see why he wanted to stay

close to Newton and the human side of these great men, but the great men are conspicuous by their absence and documentary footage doesn't fill the void.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: There's something fascinating about the man (or woman) behind the scenes, the person who seems to know everyone who's anyone while remaining anonymous. James D. Newton is such a person: In 1924, as a 19-year-old Florida real estate developer, Newton struc… (more)

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