Not all documentaries can make a mark in society, but I found Genius On Hold a remarkable film that takes a crack at big business and proves positive. Genius On Hold is eye opening, courageous and extraordinary. It’s a father and son story of fate that intertwines life struggles, crime and monopolies, which decide their future. If there’s one documentary you see this year, make it be Genius On Hold.
From a meager life to a chance at gaining a fortune, Walter HL Shaw starts out as the model for the epitome of the American dream. Raising a family, Shaw took any job he could get leading to his union with Bell Telephone who discovered that he could invent things for Bell that others of his ilk could only take a back seat. With his development of the telephone like two-way communications, feedback neutralization, etc. for the sole telephone giant Shaw was dismayed that he was not receiving credit or monetary recompense equal to the task.
Leaving the company, Shaw took a chancy direction in order to make his newest inventions a reality. Being suppressed by Bell, he desperately turned to other more illegal tactics to earn a living for himself and his family including the New York Mob bosses of the Cosa Nostra. When the government steps in however, Shaw finds himself in the helpless hands of a defense with little power against a rigorous political system.
But that’s not all the documentary covers as it reveals and rehashes the underworld to which Shaw was enticed to be a party. Putting the mob in perspective, this part of the film imbues the facts showing the mob-busting era of the United States Congress in which Shaw found himself involved.
That’s not the only downfall the family incurred, Genius On Hold also interlaces the life of Walter T. Shaw, son of the inventor who became disillusioned by his father’s conviction for illegal activities and took on a negative insight into social norms. Taking a path of crime, he became known as the infamous jewel thief who robbed rich mansions as the owners sat in their dining rooms eating their dinner. Although I felt that it was somewhat of a departure from the main story, it does add affect and impact to the documentary and shows the destruction of a father son relationship.
Mesmerized throughout by Frank Langella’s narration, I found myself fascinated and engrossed in this piece of history and the injustice to Shaw by the Bell Corporation (AT&T). Nicely pieced together, director Gregory Marquette keeps the story moving along at a fast clip intertwining Shaw’s story with the historical value it brings forth. Using bits and pieces of Shaw’s life told by his son Walter T. and daughter Linda, the reality of the message here is the ‘small man versus the conglomerate’ or the ‘personal brilliance of a one man that was stolen from him because it could’.
Genius On Hold is a must see and remarkably a current event with the AT&T (Bell) attempted merger with T-mobile. Setting the record straight however, has been a long and uphill chore for Walter HL Shaw’s family, yet an eye opener for all who view the film.
The haunting song “One More Day” by singer songwriters Isaac Koren and Thorold Koren sets the somber tone while the credits roll with lyrics that implore the listener to look back at their own lives and into the soul of their fathers.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A stroke of genius, and now we all know.
Cast: Frank Langella (Narrator), Walter T. Shaw and Linda Honey
Directed by: Gregory Marquette
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Genre: Crime, Documentary
Running Time: 1hr 28min