A Miramax film about the Mormon inventor of television:

Miramax has optioned film rights for two books about Philo Farnsworth, the Mormon inventor of the television. We'll post some additional information about this here soon, including the names and writers of the books.

At this point, there's really no information available about this possible future film. Film rights to books are purchased all the time, and do not necessarly mean a film will be made any time soon.

Obviously the inventions of Philo Farnsworth changed the lives of everybody on the planet. So it's an important story dying to be told. It's also an immensely compelling story, with the dramatic elements of Farnsworth's battle with RCA over recognition and patent rights. Farnsworth is a tragic and interesting figure. The story has shades of Pollack and The Insider. Like the inventors of the atom bomb, Farnsworth came to deeply regret what he had wrought, as he grew old watching television fail to bring high culture and education to the masses, and instead portray what he felt was depravity and vice.

Who Should Play Philo T. Farnsworth, the Inventor of Television?

By: martyr@sltrib.com
Source: Salt Lake Tribune
Date: 11/28/2001
URL: http://webpublisher.lexisnexis.com/index.asp?layout=story&gid=650000665&did=44J7-61N0-0093-G4DD-00000-00&cid=690003469&b=s

Country-boy-turned-inventor Philo T. Farnsworth is finally getting his due, not that some of us haven't appreciated his large contribution to society.

For example, Rigby is a small, rural town, located on Highway 20, north of Idaho Falls. For several forgettable months in 1981 I worked in Rigby, and every day had to drive by a large billboard that proclaimed Rigby as the home of "Philo T. Farnsworth . . . the inventor of television."

He wasn't born in Rigby, but that's where Farnsworth lived and plowed the fields that provided him with the inspiration that would eventually lead to hundreds of channels, some worth watching.

One would hope that an example of that same billboard (sans the "Rigby") is blocking the scenery somewhere in Farnsworth's birthplace of Beaver County.

After all, Farnsworth is a hero. Even if he didn't market the invention, Farnsworth's employment of electrons helped make it possible for millions of Americans to admire the work of Walter Cronkite, Ken Burns and Vince McMahon.

All of this is worth noting because HBO Pictures just announced that it has signed Christian Darren to write an original teleplay about Farnsworth, "the little-known electrical engineer who invented television."

Although the film remains untitled, it will apparently follow the inventor's controversial life. The script will highlight Farnsworth's vision and intellectual abilities that led him to the concept of television in 1921.

Eventually, Farnsworth spent years in court before winning the patent war with RCA, which claimed it was the first to invent the medium and thus didn't owe him anything. Farnsworth, who died in 1971, won his suit but was relegated to obscurity.

Typically, recognition came late in the form of a postage stamp, statues in Utah and Washington, D.C. and (my favorite) a peak in the Oquirrh Mountains. Nothing says fame more than having a mountain named after you.

As for who should play Farnsworth, it should be an actor who oozes small town, someone like Gary Sinise, who is too old. A good choice would be James Vanderbeek, who plays Dawson Leery on "Dawson's Creek."

Not only would Vanderbeek look at home as farm boy and BYU student, he would draw the teen market to HBO.

Farnsworth was apparently not thrilled with his invention, which has always been the butt of intellectual scorn. Reportedly, his description of a couch potato disease was "TV-itis."

Admittedly, stupidity does run amok on television. And it has turned a good portion of our population into dunderheads who will do anything -- dunk their heads in a bucket of bugs or slug a mistress's girlfriend -- for their 15 minutes.

Like any popular medium, including radio and the Internet, there is a lot of slop hiding the few bits of gold. You know, there are a dozen Jessica Simpsons for every Ani DiFranco.

Networks will trumpet "The West Wing" or "The Sopranos," but these same networks will also gush about "Fear Factor" and "G-String Divas."

Although a play has been written and performed about the life of this Idaho (Utah?) inventor, it's about time that filmmakers finally did something about a largely ignored Utah (Idaho?) intellectual.

Raise a glass to Philo.