Tuesday, November 17, 2009

“Flash of Genius”

There are lots of times in my life when I’ve heard the phrase, “it’s not about money, it’s about the principle.” That usually means it’s about the money. But “Flash of Genius” presents one of those instances when it really is about the principle. (At least as presented in the film.) This is the “true” story of Dr. Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), the electrical engineer and college professor from Detroit who invented the intermittent windshield wiper. His invention is so obvious, it’s surprising no one had thought of it before. Well, the Big Three had all thought of it. But none of them had, to use their term, “cracked it.” Engineers from Ford are amazed when they see the device work for the first time. Feeling leery, but advised that it would cement the deal, Kearns delivers a prototype to Ford’s engineers for testing. Then the company quietly abandons the project. This doesn’t make complete sense to Kearns, but he accepts it. Until he spots a new Ford with intermittent wipers on the road. From that moment on, Kearns’s sole mission in life is to right this wrong: to get Ford to recognize his patents, declare that he is the true creator of the intermittent wiper and admit they stole his invention. His business associates, friends and family plead with him to give it up and move on. But Kearns keeps pressing on, turning down Ford’s ever-growing settlement offers and losing almost everything, including his sanity, in the process. But in the end, Kearns gets what he wants when a jury declares him the victor in his suit against Ford. Intrigued by the story, I visited Wikipedia to do some “fact” checking and discovered that Kearns also sued Chrysler, GM, Mercedes-Benz and a host of other automakers. He was awarded somewhere in the vicinity of $40 million. So despite the protestations of the on-screen Kearns, maybe it was, at least in part, about the money. My tweet: Flash of Genius-Greg Kinnear invents the intermittent wiper & Detroit rips it off. Could their current hard times be the karmic boomerang? 7 (out of 10)

“Flash of Genius”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG-13

Length: 119 minutes

Cast: Greg Kinnear, Lauren Graham, Bill Smitrovich, Aaron Abrams, Dermot Mulroney

Director: Marc Abraham

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation, Biopic

1 comment:

  1. Karma does circle back.

    To the Auto industry and Judge it was all about the almighty $. Cheaper to steal than create.

    Bob Kearns didn't ask anyone to steal his invention. But as a US Marine and OSS officer he had been trained to respond to threats. He didn't just lay down and get walked over.
    Perhaps his idealism was from his Jesuit training at the University of Detroit.

    Bob Kearns won 5 jury trials against some of the biggest corporations in the world.

    It was what he had learned in school,
    it was what he as an engineering professor taught.
    Patents were granted to protect the inventors rights.

    Dennis Kearns ( Bob's Son )