The splendid adventures of Alexander Graham Bell — his creation of the telephone, his work with the deaf, and other contributions — are sweetly, if unevenly, recorded in Kim Todd and Luciano Lisi’s handsome, plush co-production out of New Zealand and Nova Scotia. Director John Kent Harrison guides the two-part TV movie securely through its varying paces, creating a lingering, loving tribute.
Telefilm, a TNT acquisition, leisurely establishes Bell and his family — father Alexander Melville Bell, a visual speech specialist, hearing-impaired mother Eliza Bell and two brothers — in Scotland in 1858.
Moving to Boston, Aleck — as Bell was known — is training the deaf and developing telegraphy while fussing around with transmitting speech electrically.
Aleck has been helping deaf Mable Hubbard to speak more clearly, and her father, attorney Gardiner Hubbard, takes an interest in Bell’s work.
Vidpic skimps on the early days of Aleck’s marriage to Mabel in favor of his work, which culminates in the drama’s high point: Aleck summoning assistant Thomas Watson from another room for the first time by phone. The irony of Bell’s life would be that neither of the two women he loves — his wife and his mother — can enjoy his invention.
After the patent battles in which Aleck’s ailing mother saves the day, the vidbio takes on an amber hue as Bell builds a magnificent home for wife Mabel in Nova Scotia and seeks new worlds.
He becomes intrigued with mechanical flying possibilities, and Aleck and Mabel form the Aerial Experimental Assn.; the mini takes flight as four young men join the Bells to work on various flying machines.
New Zealand-born John Bach plays Aleck Bell with a resonant voice and, if not much fire, at least with assurance. Mabel is portrayed by two hearing-impaired actresses: the younger Mabel, played tentatively by Vanessa Vaughan, and older Mabel, played charmingly by Elizabeth Quinn.
Ian Bannen admirably limns the senior Bell, and Brenda Fricker projects Mrs. Bell’s many strengths.
Michael McManus does a credible job as Bell’s daughter’s tone-deaf suitor Bert Grosvenor.
Production credits are first-rate, with Rene Ohashi’s camera capturing Susan Longmire’s creative production designs. Martha Mann’s costumes are superior, Michael Horton’s editing is pro. John Charles has furnished a commendable run-along score.