Gee, Maybe the Facts DO Matter

In any event, The New York Observer. doesn’t care much for the science lesson.

Alas, The Farnsworth Invention is swamped by all its unstoppable science lessons (which are rattled off at top speed as if everyone onstage—and off—wants them over and done with). Mr. Sorkin explains far too much—including act two’s unnecessary, clichéd opening scene that depicts the familiar panic on the New York Stock Exchange during the 1929 crash. (“Selling 2,000 shares at 81!” “Gimme 77 and a half!” “Get me the chairman of the Federal Reserve!”)

Makes ya wonder how "An Inconvenient Truth" got to be such a hit.   But then there’s this:

We take Mr. Sorkin’s story with a big pinch of
salt. Farnsworth’s biographer, Paul Schatzkin, has disputed many of the
historic facts in the play—including its conclusion that Farnsworth
lost his complicated patent battle. The reverse happened: He won. Nor
was he broke: Sarnoff paid him a million dollars in 1939.

The woolly disclaimer from the producers that the
show is really “a memory play” in which the adversaries “acknowledge
their own unreliability” scarcely helps. Are we seriously meant to
believe Sarnoff when he announces at the play’s end that he can’t
remember whether he won or lost the most important legal battle of his

The (still unpublished?) review by David Spencer that Aaron asked me to post yesterday makes the point that this play will be how people remember this story for eons to come.  The tragedy in that statement should be obvious.  Philo T. Farnsworth finally gets his moment in the sun, and he is STILL overshadowed by David Sarnoff — who, in this telling, can’t even remember the real outcome.  How pitiful is THAT?

If you do read this review, by all means read the comment by Neil Cohen that follows:

The sad thing about Sorkin’s FARNSWORTH play is that he fell in love
with David Sarnoff. The David Sarnoff portrayed in THE FARNSWORTH
INVENTION is a guy burnt by anti-semites who is standing up for the
Jews; the reality is that RCA maintain[ed] contacts with the Nazi regime in
Germany far into the 1930’s….

Well now, there’s a controversy not even I could have stirred up….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *