Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937)

For the enlightenment, advancement, and inspiration of its members


Proudly presents

With the kind permission of Ken Burns & Florentine Films

A true story about American inventiveness
and unapologetic commercialism …


Date: Monday April 04, 2011

Venue: Hollywood Palace cafe, 179 Bridge Road, Richmond

6.30 PM: Kitchen opens. Big, healthy, yummy meals at heavily reduced prices available just for us! Cooked by Nick the Master Chef!

7.30 PM: Commencement of Films + Chaired discussion.

Who: Only registered PRODOS Film Study Group members and guests of members allowed. You can apply to join on the night. To join you need to agree with our purpose and pay the $5 annual fee.

Policy: Leaving straight after a film and therefore skipping the discussion goes against one of the conditions upon which our permission to screen these films is based.

9.45 PM: End of meeting.

Cost: No charge. But if you’d like to make a personal donation to Prodos that’s greatly appreciated. (But please NEVER miss out just because you’re short of cash. We want you with us!)


Ken Burns on “Why I Decided to Make Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio”

I decided to make Empire of the Air … after listening to my friend Tom Lewis talk passionately about the topic.

We were intrigued by the notion that, in an era absolutely saturated by the mass medium of television, we have so quickly and completely forgotten how a different mass medium – radio – had dominated American consciousness and culture for nearly half a century.

This is the complicated backstage drama of the early days of radio – an era more often than not smothered in sentimentality and nostalgia.

Pursuing the story of radio illuminated for me larger American themes about the vitality of our inventiveness and our unapologetic commercialism.

It also introduced me to three extraordinary men whose genius, friendship, and rivalry ultimately interacted in tragic ways.

About this documentary:

For 50 years radio dominated the airwaves and the American consciousness as the first “mass medium.” In Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio, Ken Burns examines the lives of three extraordinary men who shared the primary responsibility for this invention and its early success, and whose genius, friendship, rivalry and enmity interacted in tragic ways. This is the story of Lee de Forest, a clergyman’s flamboyant son, who invented the audion tube; Edwin Howard Armstrong, a brilliant, withdrawn inventor who pioneered FM technology; and David Sarnoff, a hard-driving Russian immigrant who created the most powerful communications company on earth.

Against the backdrop of radio’s “Golden Age,” Empire of the Air relates the history of radio through archival photographs, newsreels of the period and interviews with such well-known radio personalities as Garrison Keillor, the late sports commentator Red Barber, radio dramatist Norman Corwin and the late broadcast historian Erik Barnouw.

Lee de Forest (1873-1961)

the inventor of the “Audion” tube, who liked to call himself the “Father of Radio.” De Forest grew up in Talladega, Alabama, where his father was the white president of a college for recently freed slaves. Though de Forest held more than three hundred patents, his detractors claimed that most of his “inventions” had already been discovered by others.

Edwin Howard Armstrong (1890-1954),

the inventor of the “regeneration” and “superheterodyne” circuits as well as “frequency modulation,” or FM. A flamboyant man with a fondness for fast cars and a passion for great heights, Armstrong was proclaimed a genius whose inventions had made modern radio possible. But others, including Lee de Forest, disputed his patents. Armstrong spent much of his life in court, embroiled in lawsuits.

David Sarnoff (1891-1971)

the hard-driving immigrant from Russia who created the “Radio Music Box.” As an office and delivery boy for the Marconi Company, Sarnoff impressed all who met him, including Marconi himself. With the inventor’s help he rose to become president of the most powerful communications company on earth — and he let nothing and no one stand in his way.

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