The Current War (2017) Script


I hope you brought your Checkbooks.

The air brakes pay for George's latest obsession.

By changing the dimensions of his pipes, George can move natural gas over 20 miles from the well.

Shooting, like a gun.

Is that good or bad, Mrs. Westinghouse?

How is your daughter, Gladys? Oh, quite well, thank you.

She's met a financier.

The beading on your dress is exquisite.

Mr. Westinghouse, I saw in The World Mr. Edison's new electric system is significantly cheaper than gas.

Does that keep you up at night?

There's always more to see.

Mr. and Mrs. Worthington, Mr. Manesberg, Dr. and Mrs. Burton, Reverend Vincent, Mr. McCoy, Mr. Faulk, Miss Faulk, enjoy your evening.

Edison says he's months away from lighting up the world.

It's impressive, but trust me, it's ten years away from being practical.

The papers make it sound as though this is something different.

A miracle.

As if you started to levitate off the carpet.

I'd love to meet him. Could you arrange it?

It's been several years...

A dinner. Comfortable. Elegant. Substantive.

Edison can't be bothered to tie his shoes, let alone attend a social event.

Perhaps you're right. But try anyway.

Anything fascinating?

Mr. Pennoyer has found a bargain on a Beaux Arts shack in Newport.

Mrs. Abernathy's mother has passed, and apparently Edison believes it may never be nighttime again.

Are you excited to meet the President? Yes.

Don't say a thing about JP. Morgan's nose.

What's wrong with his nose? Nothing.

What's wrong with his nose? It's huge. Huge!

It's like someone took a hammer and slammed it into his face.

I thought you already got the money.

I only got half.

Does Morgan even know that you're coming?

He'll invest as always. I hate this.

Mr. Edison, you have dinner with... What?

Dinner with Westinghouse. On your return.

Why are barns red?

Maybe so you can see them in the snow.

It's 'cause red paint's cheapest. What happened to your shoes?

Morgan will want to know the practicality of your system.

I have money.

Enough for two small buildings in Manhattan?


Oh, good.

This was intended to be my lunch.

The President has asked to see the phonograph in person.

I had no idea you'd be here. Mrs. Edison.

Mr. Morgan. These are our children.

Dot and Dash. Delightful. I know what you're doing.

How much are you short? Just how much of my money do you want to wash away?

Oh, as very, very much as possible.

Who's this? Samuel lnsull.

Mr. Edison's personal secretary.

Mr. Morgan, Mr. Edison. Which one? He's also Mr. Edison.

The President will see you now.


On top of the Crumpetty Tree the Quangle Wangle sat, but his face you could not see, on account of his beaver hat.

This is the sound of your voice.

On top of the Crumpetty Tree the Quangle Wangle sat, but his face you could not see, on account of his Beaver Hat. Is that what I sound like?

My men tell me you're turning down $5 million.

I'm grateful for the offer, Mr. President, but it's the type of science you're after that I find objectionable.

There's always money in guns. The one device I shall never build is that which takes the life of another man.

It's barbaric.

But... take a look at this.

One square mile of Manhattan, the First District.

And I'm gonna light it up. Then you have done it.

A star in a jar. It's a warm glow.

No smell. No poison. Thirteen hours of light per globe.

And it's cheaper than gas. Safer too.

We bury the wires using my DC current, and those same wires will bring you energy and heat.

I need two buildings to house six dynamos of my own construction.

This won't even reach my house.

Morgan, let me make you so rich that you will look back at this moment and wonder, "Why was I ever so disgustingly poor?"

It's all right there. Ferry to Wall Street.

In case you missed my scribble, that's a big old circle around the New York Times... Free advertising.

One hundred fifty. Half a million.

I'm talking about $500,000, you buy the next century.

Brighter, safer, yours.

Sounds rather grand to me, Pierpont. If I had your fortune...

With respect, you don't, Mr. President.

What is that? That's not very nice.

Morse code.

What did the boy say?

What did the boy say? If there's nothing else, it's been a pleasure, Mr. President. What did the boy say?

Do you know what you've done?

I always receive more by saying no.

Set up the Manhattan offices and make them look professional.

What does that mean? Oh, I don't know. Carpets.

I don't know. Carpets.

And the name?

Edison Electric, of course. Sir, why not build munitions?

Five million dollars. It's hard to say no to...


If it's Edison, it works.

If it works, I'd strongly prefer it not kill anybody.


Thomas Edison has an unfavorable opinion of college graduates seeking employment because they cannot answer his examination questions.

"Who composed ll Trovatore?"


"What is the speed of sound?"

Oh, a trick question.

Sound travels at a constantly diminishing rate of speed.

But I believe the fastest rate on record is 11,463 feet per second.

How do you know all this?

I read that this morning.

This is different.

I can feel it.

You never requested a house guest before.



Eight minutes from the junction, sir. Hmm?

The Westinghouse dinner.

We're going home. They're tired. I already shook enough hands today.

Evening, Frank.



I'm not stopping.


Maybe the brakes are busted.

I doubt that.

An emergency came up in New York.

Don't let him agitate you.

This is how he is.

Before he was a wizard, I let him live in my basement.

My wife wouldn't have him at the table with us unless he cleaned himself.

And boy, given the ultimatum, the man ate alone.

How does he work?

You want to know his secret? He engineers his own reality, and he looks for needles in haystacks.

But how does he know there's a needle in the hay to begin with?

He doesn't. Neither do you.

But he's so determined not to be the second person to find it, he'll go stalk by stalk, on a "what-do-you-know."

He could be the richest man on earth, but he doesn't give a damn about money.

What does he give a damn about?

Mary? Talk.

I just want to test the resistance... Where's my barrette?

On top of your bureau. What's a bureau?

It's what's under your barrette.

Can I get you to promise on here that you'll build me a fence?

Ground's frozen. Needs to thaw.

Look, you're missing it!

It's a baby! Still has her spots!

Tom, come see this.

Tom? Tom?

You want half a million dollars, make me something with your name on it that I can sell to General Sherman.

Counteroffer. How about I don't give you what you want, but you give me everything I want?

We are gonna be big, big, big!

Bigger than an elephant! And no one stops an elephant!


It'll work.

Look, I've got to be honest. This might not work.

Conventional wisdom has it, if you think you're gonna fall flat on your face, better not do it in front of a crowd.

Tonight, things could change.

I hope they do.

And if they do... they'll change there... and there.

My boys and I caught in a jar what before now has only flashed across the night sky.

What say we unscrew the lid and see what happens?

You ready?

Three, two... Two, one!

The man has 100,000 feet of copper for 87 customers.

It will never be profitable.

It's a hobby for the rich. Something to show off.

It doesn't have to be.

I'm securing patents on the Siemens dynamo and the Gaulard-Gibbs transformer.

Transformer? That's more like a metal suitcase.

How much did that cost?

Edison, he picked the wrong horse.

His current is like a hose with a knot in it.

He needs to sell one generator per mile.

You want to build an AC system. That's too powerful for motors.

Put doubt out of your mind for one moment and tell me, what distance do you estimate one could get with a single alternating dynamo?

A few thousand. Yards?

Miles. Mm-hmm.

And how many houses could we reach?

I suppose all of them. What about the bulbs?

Hiram's agreed to license me his.

If you're gonna rip off Edison, rip him off right. They glow bright gray.

I just want to do a demonstration for Edison.

Somewhere small. Small town. Rural.

And then he'll see alternating is possible, and we partner... our system, his bulbs.

In my opinion, which I will admit is based solely on physics and reality, what you want to do is fun to talk about.

I really don't think it can be done.

Why? Because he would've already done it.

My Paris office seems to think you may be the only man on Earth to rival me.

How would you like to work for me? Very much.

I'm expanding to 12 cities, building direct-current systems...

Direct current?

Alternating current is far more efficient.

Hickory, dickory dock... Higher voltage, greater distance. Less copper conductors...

It's lethal, and it's too much power for a motor to handle.

I'm going to start you on $100 a month until you prove yourself worth more or less.

A hundred dollars? If you can solve five things I can't, I'll pay you $50,000, and then I'll have to fire you.

Mr. Tesla, welcome to Edison Electric.

We make a minor invention every ten days and a major one every six months or so.

I have a suspicion that though your husband's lab is but a hundred yards from your house, it must seem sometimes like a hundred miles.

No, a million.

I've tried to find a way to stop his brain, but it just runs and runs.

I've heard Mr. Edison called "the worst husband in America" on account of him sleeping in his lab on your wedding night.

I've heard the story myself.

Well, on our wedding night, Tom and I left on the Albany, uh... boat.

We spent a week in Niagara Falls.

I thought that one week of happiness would be enough to illuminate an entire lifetime.

He was a dashing inventor, and I worked for him.

You know. I was a...

H was a... uh...


H was a...



I'm sorry.

L-I operated the...

Telegraph? Yes.

Yes. Telegraph.

Forgive me.

Does he have any hobbies?

You promised them Coney Island.

At the very least, a walk.

We'll go on three walks tomorrow, I promise.

Here, why don't you take a picture?

Slow down!

It's neuralgia, brought on by eye strain.

A good pair of spectacles is all that's required.

Oh, no. I'll look awful.

No, no. No, you won't. That's impossible.

Are you sure that's all? She's been having terrible headaches.

I'll leave her a vial of laudanum until her eyes adjust.

Thank you.

Can you...

Would you mind delaying the bill for this visit?

Well, my son would love an autograph.

Christ, it's primitive.

How much did this cost?

He won't tell me. What we need is here.

Edison '3 current can't travel more than one mile, Frank.

It peters out. He'll have to build so many DC motors and bury all his copper just to power one town.

This country will look like a checkerboard of power plants.

But with one AC dynamo, we can step-up the voltage and reach as far as the eye can see.

We string the wires overhead on poles.

Less copper, more electricity.

We're 75 percent cheaper.

The only thing that matters here is distance.

Frank, this is as much yours as it is mine.

I'd be proud if you'd flip the... I couldn't possibly.

Oh, don't be ridiculous. No, it belongs to you.

But you spent hours... George, it was your idea.

You were the instigator.

Shall we go for a ride?

"To the Wizard of Menlo Park."

As it seems your brakes have issues, I would be delighted to send my car to deliver you to Great Barrington, Massachusetts...

"where I have successfully transmitted current one full mile."


How did he get the bulbs?

What a roaring silence from the brightest minds of America.

He's using Hiram's design. Which Hiram stole from me!

Sue him. We did. The court upheld his patent.

I'm talking about Westinghouse. Find an angle.

Take a trip to Barrington and see for yourself.

Is anyone even slightly irked that 15 years of work is being filched from right under your eyes?

Not again!

I built a system here, and he goes shopping for patents to cobble together something to legally steal what is mine.

If the bulbs are a battle, then nail him on the dynamos.

We can't.

He's not even using direct current, sir.

He's using alternating?



Yes, I think we should have some more tea.


George Westinghouse?

Can we help you? I came from Thomas Edison.

He wants me to buy one generator per mile.

Your electricity would save 66 percent on Edison's.

Well, it's a proposed saving.

And it's not "my electricity." It's "electricity."

I think it makes much more sense for the taxpayers of Columbus to go with Westinghouse Electric.

I don't want to compete. I only intend to license my system.

He's got the better bulbs. Why not compete?

By now he knows. Edison knows, I promise you.

The man doesn't care about getting it right, just about getting it.

But he doesn't respond.

Look, Westinghouse will never have a complete system.

He can't even power a sewing machine. But I can solve that problem.

Instead of again converting the currents to work with a commutator, I would pass alternating current differing in phase through two or more energizing circuits.

You're supposed to be working on commutators with DC dynamos.

Well, I have.

Look, I have done everything you have asked, but you are making a mistake.

What? Direct current may be fine for cities when the buildings are close together, but most of your country is empty spaces.

Only high voltage can span the distance. You are not thinking long-term.

This technology is within your grasp. I can build you an efficient motor.

Have you tried it?


Look, in my head, it is nearly completed.

Men claim to have heads full of sonnets and symphonies, but their only problem seems to be they can't quite write it down.

Let me try. No, because I can't start again!

I got orders from Michigan. I got a roomful of press waiting for me.

Do what you were hired to do.

So, you will not honor your word about the remuneration?

What are you talking about? Well, you said $50,000.

Are you unhappy with my contributions? I'm not paying you $50,000.

That was a joke.

Coconut fibers and horn shavings, and fishing lines and cork and celluloid and flax and platinum, iron, nickel, copper, steel.

We scoured the earth, years and years, trying thousands, 10,000 different combinations.

Then George Westinghouse saw howl did it and put on a pirate hat.

You get vultures in every venture, but you've just got to keep them away.

So this is just how it works? Map-makers include mistakes in their work to see if anyone else is copying them.

I don't have that luxury. I can't invent streets to lead the world down.

OthenNise we all end up in the dark.

Good, and remember, write as much as you can about how he's infringing.

Thank you, Mr. Edison, and thanks for this.

Did I mention that his system's lethal?

You reach out and touch a doorknob or a rail, and, well, you become the circuit.

Just to be clear on that point...

Well, you die.

With DC current, you can reach out and touch anything at any stage of the line with your bare hands.

It's safe. It works. And it bears the name of Edison, so it's pretty.

Our government has been trying for some time now to get me to invent a weapon, but I won't use this brain to invent anything that hurts people.

For that, you can shop in Pittsburgh.

So you say Westinghouse wants to hurt people?

No. I can't say that. But you can.

This is what he thinks of you.

Issue a statement to the papers today. Refute his charges.

I'm not going to engage with this.

We have the better system. That speaks loudest.

Westinghouse Electric Company was founded at a quarter past 9:00.

Hello. I'm George Westinghouse. Do we have an appointment?

North Dakota.

New Orleans.

Fort Worth.

Sioux City.

You want the good news or the good news?

J' Hurrah, boys, hurrah J'

We've been spending all our time trying to nab him on what's in the glass bubble when we should've been looking at is the clear opposite end of the bulb, the corkscrew.

I own that. That you do.

He's suing you.

This is a massive lawsuit.

This is Edison and Morgan.

Is there any way that you can think of to beat gravity other than a corkscrew?

Westinghouse designed a stopper to get around your corkscrew.

It's only a matter of time before they're everywhere.

To tell you the truth, I am mostly looking fonNard to using it at the lumber mills.

Well, at the moment, we offer only light.

In time, we'll move on to motorized tools and appliances.

When? I don't care what light costs.

My home's on gas. I'm after productivity. I don't understand.

Edison said that electricity can already be used in factories.

Well, his can.

I need to see this needle move.

I can't step the voltage down without blowing the whole thing to pieces.

Come on. You must've made some progress.

It's just not ready.

Kill it. Kill it!

There has to be a solution out there.

The Nikola Tesla Electric Light Company. How does that sound?

When can you bring arcs to production? Arc lighting?

I believe we agreed to compete for incandescents, motors and distribution.

Leave that to Edison.

I am working on advanced methods to surpass him.

To beat Edison? How soon? Only a few years.

I need a lab, engineers, supplies.

There are, of course, expenses.

Oh, where do you get the cash for those fancy silks?

How I spend my income is my concern.

Look, Mr. Tesla, if you need cash now, you should sell us your patents.

And what would I receive?


And later, if you succeed, you can sell it for a killing.

That means a fortune.

Yes, I know what an idiom is. We'll take on two-thirds of the risk.

It's a good price for the only thing you have to sell.

Congestion of the brain? What does that even mean?

There's a... an occlusion hidden, and it expands.

Her eyesight will likely go first, and then her vocabulary will fall away.

I can't lose her.

Working on a raised alphabet, I'll make her a dictionary.

She'll gradually lose her mobility.

I'll build her an elevator.

Mr. Edison, what your wife needs... no man can build.

What my wife needs, according to you, is a simple pair of spectacles.

Nature will take its course.

I, uh...

I have to leave for New York tonight.

It can't be avoided.

I will attend to her while you're away, but... dontfingen

Ohio is going with Westinghouse.

Columbus. Zanesville. Zanesville? Give it to him.

That isn't funny.

We don't know something is a pattern till it happens again, which I sincerely hope it does not.

Now, you tell me, what is he doing right that you're doing wrong?

He is successfully selling machines that will result in the accidental deaths of human beings.

And where are these deaths? Where are these deaths?

Why don't we switch now, and then you get to shoulder the inevitable suits of manslaughter.

I think that people aren't dying because it's not as dangerous as you wish it were.

All right, he's beating us on costs, but that is a temporary advantage.

You give me enough time, I'll make ours so cheap that only the rich will burn candles.

And until then, you bleed cities to Westinghouse. I'm not a bank.

That is exactly what you are.

We could've had this conversation by telephone instead of you wasting my time.

When I want to see someone, he comes. Eye to eye. That's how it works.

No. Here's how it works.

I build miracles, and you continue to give me as much goddamn money as I want.

Oh, what? Did I squander another town?

All right, what did I lose?

Say something.

Can [get you to promise on here that you'll build me a fence?

Ground's frozen. Needs to thaw.

Look! You're missing it!

Say something.

Can [get you to promise on here that you'll build me a fence?

Ground's frozen. Needs to thaw.

Look! You're missing it!

No. Now we move on to my motor, as agreed...

Look, we don't... We don't want any of that.

The arcs you built aren't selling anymore.

We can't compete with Edison and Westinghouse!

Then I will take my patents and wish you both a great misfortune.

Your patents? Yes. My patents.

Can I get you anything, sir?

A time machine.

Well, if! Ever find one, I'll travel back to this moment and give it to you.

Did you read over the proposal?

I'm not diverting what I've got left of my resources in lighting up a fair.

It's much more than a fair, sir. A third of this country will get on trains to Chicago to try and see this City of Light.

Every window, every streetlamp, a sign that says, "The race is over, and we won."

Why spend your final dollars traveling this country to show everyone your electricity when they're all traveling to the same place to try to see it anyway?

Because in a year, they'll rip it down.

Only after 30 million people have seen it, yes.

Westinghouse is placing a bid.

Nice hat. Looks expensive.

I owned this before I worked for you, Mr. Edison.

I don't think you are working for me. He's still using my bulbs.

His patents are in order.

Do you want my advice?

You keep saying Westinghouse's current will kill people, so in lieu of evidence, why don't you provide it?

We're doing this because when we have a complete system, it works, and it's Edison.

Poor bastard.

Well, he was gonna be slaughtered anyway. He's not going to feel any pain, right?

At 3,000 volts, it'll be over before it begins.

So there's nothing to worry about?

But these are reporters, so you might want to liven up a little bit.

Welcome to Menlo Park.

Thank you for coming out on this cold morning.

Good to see you again. Good morning.

I'm Southwick Brown. A pleasure.

Now you, uh, you might all want to stand back a little bit.

Gus is being connected to the same current that Westinghouse uses from his generator.

But there's no word yet coined to define death by electricity, so I asked the men who write the dictionaries, and I heard back

"electro-dite," "electro-cremate" and "dyna-mort."

Butjust as Joe Guillotine got his name on his invention, how could we rob the rightful inventor of death by electricity of his due credit?

I ask you to please be respectful as we Westinghouse this horse.

Mr. Edison, Southwick Brown, Capital Punishment Commission.

You've read, no doubt, of the botched hangings throughout the Northeast.

The prisoners either choke to death...

Or are violently decapitated.

The spectacle is inhumane.

But the horse... his death was so calm, you could call it...


The governor of New York, upon my personal recommendation, would like to explore a death device which uses electricity on a human being.

It would be our honor to award you the contract.

If nothing else, a pleasure. I beg your pardon?

To kill a human being under the guise of justice is... is cockeyed.

There's a big difference between a horse and a person.

God humanely brings us into this world.

Why would you reject the opportunity to be the first man to humanely take us out of it?


I killed my wife.

I'm turning the handle.

Maybe there's more to it than that.

If I'm doing it wrong, you'll never know I was fooling around with your phonograph or gramophone, whatever you end up calling it.

And what is this thing really?

Today's Mary is speaking to tomorrow's Thomas.

Or from where you sit, today's Tom is listening to yesterday's Mary.

I wonder what else you can do with it.

Mr. Tesla, my son and his idiot friend tell me you don't want to make arc lights anymore.

Is that true?

Don't look at him, look at me. I'm your primary shareholder.

No. I already completed the arc light project.

Completed? You covered one city: Rahway, New Jersey.

For the love of God, think bigger. Philadelphia.

You design arc lights to outfit cities. That was your only job.

No. My AC motor. Okay? We agreed...

No, I never agreed to anything. In this office, you said...


Lane, could you wait outside for a moment?

I'm sorry. Don't you realize you're being fired here?

No. Please, let me work through what I have in my head.

I will make you the greatest provider of electrical power in the world.

Better than Edison.

I'm-I'm so close. Just a few months.

You drop in here like you're from Neptune, like you got a great vision of the future that no one understands but you. No, please don't touch.

But you're just an immigrant.

Head full of notions, looking for a handout. You're not Edison.

There's only one Edison. That's why he's in. There's millions of you.

Big ideas, but you can't see the real force that moves things.

And it's not AC/DC, it's not currents.

It's currency.

And that's the only motor I'm interested in.

These patents belong to the Tesla Electric Light Company.

This is now the Union Electric and Manufacturing Company, and I own everything in this office.

Patents, designs, engineers, all mine.

Never going to be anything named Tesla ever again.

You take your notions and go back where you came from.

He's snapping up town after town.

Cats, dogs, sheep, 11 horses... What more do people need to see?

The problem is, no one's actually dying from alternating, apart from your cats, dogs, sheep and 11 horses.

Sir, I realize I'm only your secretary... Just say it.

Bring the phonograph to market. You can make your own money.

No, it needs too many improvements. Make them. Sir.

Bell is ripping you off. Graphophone? He just switched the name.

Direct me to a store where I can buy yours, and I won't give him the business.

You have a real offer on the table here.

Half a million dollars. Sir, take the money. You need it.

If Bell ripped you off with the telephone, he'll do it again with the graphophone.

Did you just misspeak intentionally?

Do you want Chicago?

All right, I'm ready.

A dollar a ball?

So, what's your trade?

Inventor. I fix problems for idiots.

Imagine dictation without the aid of a stenographer.

Phonographic books that will speak to blind people.

Reproduction of music. Talking toys.

Clocks that will announce the time.

The preservation of dying languages.

Teaching of elocution.

You hustled us. Yes. No.

I didn't come all this way to lose.

The final capturing of the dying words of your loved ones.

Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was white as snow, and everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

Well, it's either not possible, or I'm not the engineer I thought I was.

And he's traveling around the country, cooking up cats.

George, he's playing dirty. You can too.


You know, when I was a boy, my father... tried to whip me with a branch.

But after the first hit, it broke into three little pieces.

And we just stood there, looking at this shattered stick on the ground.

And then I noticed there was a leather strap hanging on the wall, so I pointed to it and said, "Look. That's the better one."

And he stopped.

I can take a beating, but I have no patience for shoddy craftsmanship.

You are gonna have a working motor sitting next to your display in Chicago, come hell, high water, or the Wizard of Menlo Park.

Good night, Frank. Good night.

So you admit Edison was right?

We will remember Franklin Pope... for his fearless dedication to moving us fonrvard.

He tried to see what was hiding in plain sight.

Today, I am... filled less with grief than anger, because what happened could've been avoided.

Hear me now as you have never heard me before.

As I breathe... as long as Westinghouse stays in business... more people will die.

My condolences.

Sounds like he was more than just an employee.

What was his name? Franklin Popes?

Pope. Just one.

It's a shame. Mm.

But I'm here to help.

Now, I know that you, uh, you wish Edison to quiet down.

So let me combine your companies. Let me clean up the mess.

You really think Westinghouse Electric is worth $5 million?

The value of something is the highest number someone else is willing to pay.

But 800 men will lose their livelihoods.

I will keep your workers.

I will not make the same promise for your five-day work week.


Seems like you're amenable.


Which current will you use?

Whichever Edison selects, I suppose.


You think I'm being absurd?

Yes, I do.

We're overextended, Marguerite.

There's no shame in selling.

What I was always after was to partner with Edison... and I have the chance to do that now.

We have no motor, so we're a train into a mountainside anyway. It's impossible.

I thought "impossible" wasn't a word in your vocabulary.

I am dissolving Westinghouse Electric.

The proceeds will go to preserve our other failing enterprises, and time itself will mend Edison's mistakes.

You are not a captain who changes his course with the sea.

We are not on a course!

We're drowning!

This whole thing is costing us a fortune!

You don't care about money. A fortune!

I lived in your parents' house while you went door-to-door.

Do you want people saying you stand for everything you don't?

Using your last name as a verb?

Well, how exactly do you suggest I correct that, dear?

I have you, and I had Frank.

That's it.

I loved the man.

This is really nothing but a sensible business decision.

George... That's all.

That's all.

Say what you will about George Westinghouse, he sure is nice.

You've crossed into territory for the Confederacy.

No, I, uh, I think you're mistaken.

According to my map here...

Though I mourn the loss of my colleague, misfortune does not trump progress.

Now, it seems to me that Mr. Edison puts his name on everything because he's terrified of being forgotten.


But if you prefer to have what I call a legacy, you leave the world a better place than you found it.

Thomas Alva Edison is a charlatan who preys on the fears of the common man because I have the better system.

And because I do have the better system, Westinghouse Electric shall endure.

Good day.

Westinghouse has taken the lead. He's not going away.

And while I appreciate your lights, Mr. Edison, I'm also your customer.

If something comes to my door and offers me something that I need that is better than what I have now, at a cheaper price, why, I'd be a tool not to invite him in for tea.

Is this an ultimatum? More of a threat.

If you maintain that fear is the best strategy, then you'd better hurry up and try harder.

Time's up.

Man who was handsome and clever built a box with a crank and a lever to store his wife's voice, though he made a poor choice, because now she can tease him forever.

I couldn't stop it if I wanted to, which I don't, because I... I think it's a remarkable gift.

Electricity will kill that man in Buffalo.

We don't know the voltage.

Too much, and he ignites. Too little, and he's still alive.

All we need is your advice.

How much is humane? Where to put the electrode?

And in exchange, I will promise you something that I know you want.

I will put the Westinghouse name right out front as the official electricity used to kill human beings.

I even think we can get this chair on display at the Chicago World's Fair.

The future.

My name must never be associated with this.

I did not provide any consultation, and you will advertise that Westinghouse is the best way to take a human life.

You guarantee your assistance?

You ask a question, and I'll reply.

Burn the correspondence.


Fauteuils and blue painted bergere.

I sold three sets of these last week alone.

Oh, uh, this is your classic spindle back.

Oh, yes. And these are framed cockpen.

Quite popular.

Oh, deportment style.

Would you like four, six, eight, 12?

Just one.

Mr. Brown, the apparatus consists of a stationary engine, a Westinghouse alternating dynamo capable of generating 3, 000 volts, wood chair with headrest, binding straps and adjustable electrodes.

Burn. TAE.

The voltmeter, ammeter and switchboard controlling the current should be located in the execution room for monitoring.

Burn. TAE.

The dynamo room is communicated by electric signals. Burn. TAE.

The most effective machines manufactured by Westinghouse... Burn. TAE.

I authorize payment of $3, 600 for your efforts.

Burn. TAE.

The only argument which can be urged against "Westinghousing" on the score of cruel punishment is that the flesh may burn at the points of contact, and the amount of current which can be given without such mutilation is not yet known.

Burn. TAE.

For someone who's trying to compete for the World's Fair, this death-trap business doesn't look good.

Yeah, I know. It's just Edison trying to smear me, as usual.

Can you prove it? No.

But I was thinking maybe I could stop it.

You mean me?

You want my advice? Don't hire me. Save your money.

But I do know a man who could determine whether Edison has an exploitable connection with the death chair.

No, I was thinking we could stop him via legal means.

You want me to put Edison on trial? No.

The chair itself. The Eighth Amendment.

So I'm to get an ax murderer who readily admits he slaughtered his wife a what... a sustainment?

This is about showing, what kind of a man is Thomas Edison?

You just keep my name out of it.

Does your wife know you're paying for this?

It was her idea.

What precisely makes electricity not cruel and not inhumane?

The velocity of the current is so great that the brain is instantaneously paralyzed.

The subject is dead before the nerves can communicate any shock.

How can you know if you haven't proof?

I tested it... on a gorilla from London Zoo.

Are you connected in any way with any of the electric lighting companies?

No, sir.

The State calls Thomas Alva Edison.

Will you explain generally the difference between your continuous current and Mr. Westinghouse's alternating electricity?

A continuous current flows like water through a pipe, and alternating current flows in both directions.

Water. That doesn't sound so dangerous.

Not until you drown.

Why don't you use Mr. Westinghouse's current?

I don't like it. You think it's dangerous.

Yes, I do.

Suppose you took this... wicked Westinghouse current... the one that is going to be used on Mr. Kemmler here... now, suppose you kept it up for five or six minutes.

At 1,500 volts, how long would it take before he would feel the heat?

Well, the temperature might rise four or five degrees above normal and continue until he was mummified.

And this wouldn't cause considerable pain?

It would not. How do you know?

Because I personally observed such electricity being used to execute a thousand-pound horse.

And did the horse feel pain? If he did, he didn't mention it.

Now, Mr. Edison, there is a great degree of feeling between you and Mr. Westinghouse.

I do not dislike Mr. Westinghouse.

There is a contest between you two, isn't there?

That is not what this is about.

I've been asked as a dispassionate scientist to advise on the simple question of whether death by electricity is a violation of the Eighth Amendment and is cruel and unusual.

In my expert opinion, the only humane method of execution is Westinghouse alternating current.

Your Honor, Mr. Edison knows that any current over 30 amperes...

Milliamperes. If you're gonna interrupt, do so in the proper denominations.

Oh, thank you, Your Honor.

It's my honor.

All right, that's all I need to hear.

What do you two lowlifes want, huh?

Mr. Edison. Mr. Edison.


Now look...

I thought you were gonna leave before I had a chance.

Mr. Edison, can I get your autograph? Uh, yeah, sure, I...

William, do you mind?

I should warn you, there's one thing that always beats justice.



Oh, is that a New Model Army revolver?

What a lovely machine that is.

Do you know how it works? You want me to show you?

Oh, I didn't mean how it fires. I simply meant how it works.

It's quite a device. You should have a look.

You see, they designed the cylinder so the hammer doesn't have to sit in an empty chamber.

So I could shoot you six times instead of five.

Well, I suppose.

They both lied on the stand.

If you're gonna take your shot, now is the last time to fire.

Sometimes we have to work outside of the rules to get what's right.

It would be nice if we didn't have to.

Wouldn't it?

This doesn't make you like him. Mm.

So, what will it be?

In my bad ear, it sounded extraordinary.



The apparatus consists of a stationary engine, a Westinghouse alternating dynamo capable of generating 3, 000 volts.

Wood chair with headrest, Where did you get that? I'm sending them to the paper.

Those letters are stolen. You can't publish them.

Why not? Because they're private correspondences.

Mr. Edison, if you say something about me or my company again, I would ask that you tell the truth.

That would be the decent thing to do.

Wouldn't it?

Why didn't you burn the letters? They were from Thomas Edison.

I don't think you appreciate that this chair is something to be proud of and remembered for.

I don't even know how much electricity you need to use.

You said 1,500 volts. I said I think 1,500 volts.

But if all the water in his body evaporates, then he may ignite.

So we lower the amount. Then you slowly roast him to death.

Listen. You must listen to me. What you're going to do is wrong.

Now you said that it's inevitable and somebody else will do it.

But just because somebody else is gonna do it doesn't mean that you have to.

The State thanks you for your expert opinion and your help.


It's not my place to say. Say it.

You said you'd never build a device that would kill anyone.

I make something impossible, and they rip it away from me, so I do it again and they do it again.

And again. And again.

This isn't like everything else.

This is everything else.

Our future is not gonna be paved with bricks but with copper.

Automation, transportation, communication, and the man that controls that current controls that future.

But you know Westinghouse is right.

You don't actually believe that a few accidents rule out the viability of his current.

You just don't want to lose. I have merely amplified what no one else was willing to take seriously.

No, what you did was run him over with a 12-ton train.

Oh, well, he's the one that's supposed to only make brakes, so, who's to blame here?

Switch tonight, and you win.

His current kills people.

Only because you said it will!

Listen, I either stop complaining about the scavengers in my garden or build a wall so damn high that people will never even dare to scale it.

You are the smartest man I know.

Beyond building miracles out of thin air, I was most impressed by your principles.

You didn't invent the incandescent. People just think you did.

Let me welcome you to the reality of how things come into existence.

We all contribute. That's what invention is.

The salt. The grain. The heat. The heart.

But only one man makes the bread rise.

That's the one that puts it all together and makes it taste so damn good that people will go out there and hand over their hard-won dollars to buy it.

Mr. Edison, I want you to succeed. I do.

But you have to switch tonight, or you'll die as PT Barnum rather than Sir Isaac Newton.

Though he may be unfamiliar to you, his studies have demonstrated an understanding of electrical matters unlike anyone I have ever known, with respect to the assembled.

Gentlemen and lady, Nikola Tesla.

Straight to our ultimate question, yes or no-...

Can alternating currents operate a motor?


Now anyone who builds an alternating system will be able to do what Edison can for only a third of the cost.

In figure two of my polyphase system, the armature coils are shown in a more advanced position.

2-A illustrates the corresponding magnetic condition...

Synchronous motor obtained by winding a laminated ring provided with pole projections...

The induction is of an ideal character, being always maintained at its maximum action.

Mr. Tesla, have you actually built the motor to test your theories?

But they are not theories. No, I have not built it.

But that would prove your beliefs.

But they are not beliefs, and it is absolutely immaterial to me whether I run the motor in my mind or in a shop, for I have built it already in my imagination, and it is perfect.

Are you serious? Almost always.

Hello. I'm George Westinghouse.

George Westinghouse? Mm-hmm.

An engine that compresses air into a tank which is taken via pipe to each brake on the train, allowing them to operate simultaneously.

Thank you.


I think this entire room is slanted two degrees.

I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to meet with me.

Are-Are you going somewhere?


This is it? It's Niagara Falls.


And ever since my school days, I have pictured in my imagination a big wheel spinning out lightning.

Did you know that when I first came to this country, I worked for Mr. Edison?

I did not. Tea?


I fixed two of his DC generators in one night, and he called me a damn good man.

So, why did he not treat me that way?

I quit. Tried my own company and was deceived.

Who was I? Some immigrant.

SO I TOOK THE ONLYJOB I COULD fiND: Digging a ditch.

The men laughed at my fine clothes, but at the end of the day, I had $2.

What was the ditch to be used for?

Edison Electric.

It felt like digging my own grave.

If Mr. Edison succeeds, he will set us back so far, we may never recover.

The Fair must be alternating.

It must be my motor.

I have watched as the world talks of Chicago as a symbol, a City of Light.

All cities will have light in your lifetime, but harnessing the power of Niagara, that is to see our future.

The Falls? I'm here to talk about Chicago.

Think beyond Chicago.

Energy is as fundamental as food, as water, as air.

You can... You cannot say that only those with money can eat or can breathe.

Yes, the Falls will light up the Eastern Seaboard.

Yes, there is a great fortune to be made, and I covet a very nice walking stick I saw on 63rd and Madison, but Niagara is the proof that one day we may detach power from profit.

That is how you truly win. Mm.

How do I know you will not cheat me? Well, you don't.

But the fact is, Mr. Tesla, I need your motor.

I may be able to light up the Fair, but I still can't move a machine.

If we cannot reach an agreement today, my company will die right here in your hotel room.

But if it does perish, so might your dream of harnessing power from Niagara.

So, do we have a deal?

Five thousand.

One thousand.


I'll give you $2.50...

per horsepower.

I'm no genius myself, but that should be millions.

May I treat you to dinner at Delmonico's?

All right, Mr. Tesla, time to go.

No, I will not leave your slanted room. He hasn't paid his bill in over a month.

Well, how much would it cost to keep him here for the year?

I need to shed 300 men from the gas company.

There's no way around it.

So we pay their salaries and move them to the electricity.

We can't keep doing this.

If we win, we won't have to.

You have truth on your side.

And whatever happens, you'll know you never did anything but play fair.

I stole the letters linking Edison to the death chair.

I gave them to the papers to smudge him.

I know you're disappointed in me.

What am I looking at here?

An 80-foot tall tower covered with 16,000 Edison bulbs, topped with an eight-foot lighthouse.

That signals to the world that we are the victors.

Otherwise, how will people know that we won?

It's an idol.

It's a... signature.

And you'll get something that no one's ever received from Thomas Edison before.

Oh, yes? What's that? An apology.

I admit that spending has been, well, more than anticipated, but now, more than ever, it's important you must push through.

Whatever Westinghouse is bidding for the Fair, we... you must bid more.

I must.


Who's Nikola Tesla?

What about him?

Well, he gave a talk at Columbia.

Word is, the Serb is building Westinghouse a polyphase motor.

Light and power. You can do both. He now may as well.

Who even knows how long it'll take them to build a functioning model...

As of this morning, you have ceded, I have here, nine more cities to Westinghouse.

So, here's what's happening.

I am merging Edison Electric with some of the other ankle-biters.

You are out.

You know why.

And I'm happy to tell you, if you require this moment to be even more unpleasant.

You will receive stock, and you will retain a seat on the board.

Who's gonna present? You?

Good God, no. You tell me now?

I was here. I thought you deserved to hear it face-to-face.

No, you didn't. You just wanted to waste my time and get me to sign autographs for children.

What are you going to call it then? That's your concern?

Edison Electric. It has to be.

Edison and electricity are synonymous, Morgan. The bulb...

I do not attach a losing name to a fledgling enterprise.

Now that your letters have leaked, you've lost credibility.

So, what is it? The name?

Yes, the goddamn name!

The contractjust says General Electric, but I'll think of something.

I can be creative too.


Mr. lnsull.

A moment.

He said they'd keep your name attached as long as you didn't pursue action or speak negatively to the press about the merger.

What did he offer you?

Tell me. Vice president, but I turned it down.

You should take it. Why?

Alternating current... What's the transmission voltage?

230,000 volts.

What's the filament on a 12,000-hour lamp?

Carbonized Japanese bamboo. What do I eat for breakfast?

Pie. So, what's the surprise?

Of course he needs you. You're me, but a human being.

Look around the room.

Hmm? Who's missing?

Edison General Electric Company, please.

General Electric?

Edison General Electric Company. Yes.


He's 12.

Mr. Insull, these are the committee members of...

Listen closely. Focus on the quality of the light.

I don't care what the courts say.

Westinghouse ripped off my bulbs, and the good news for you is he did a terrible job.

They are outdoor bulbs, so they have a life of about two hours.

So focus on the replacement time.

Talk about the superiority of ours, as if there's no competition.

Use terms like "standard," "purest,"

"the most beautiful light," et cetera.

Find out what kind of men they are. There are really only two types.

The first believe themselves to be practical, but they're secret dreamers.

They're the ones who'll take the risks.

The second, well, they'll smile and thank you for the show, but they'll vote with their wallets.

Unless Westinghouse is mortgaging everything he's worth on this bid, Morgan has you in good stead with the money men.

So your only real job is to look the dreamers in the eye and promise them magic.

Now, explain back to me everything that you remember about a parallel and series of electric circuits using none of the words I just said.

Though I am young, I am an expert in these matters, rivaled only really by Mr. Edison himself.

Should you choose Westinghouse, then... then yes, there is a possibility you'll be putting in jeopardy the lives of 28 million people.

Even if Westinghouse were to make even the smallest of errors, unintentional, of course, a visiting politician, a wife, even a seven-year-old girl may lean against a lamppost and be struck dead immediately.

There you have it.

Mr. Westinghouse's brand of electricity is fatal.

Thank you, Mr. lnsull.

Just to be clear, sir, any electrical current over 200 milliamperes can be deadly.

Even yours?

Mr. Westinghouse, these are the committee members.


Charles Schwab, Craig Cannon, Mayor Cregier, of course. Oh, of course.

Victor Lawson of the Chicago Daily News, and the Honorable Judge Tree.

I'm Daniel Burnham.

Respectfully, we ask that you please keep your remarks to one hour.

That won't be necessary.

Here you go. Sir. Thank you.


My bid.

These are all your figures?

Yes, sir. Independent estimates.

Before we, uh, get into the messy business, let us begin with this most general question:

Why should we grant Westinghouse Electric the contract for the World's Fair?

Well, I guess because our system works significantly better, and, uh...

because our system is significantly cheaper.

Mr. Schwab, Mr. Higinbotham, Mr. Cannon, Mayor Cregier, Mr. Lawson, Judge Tree, and Mr. Burnham, thank you very much for your time and your consideration.

Financially, it's clear. We just take the better bid.

Look, Westinghouse is dangerous. Potentially dangerous.

You even printed it in your own paper.

Alternating will be used to kill that man in Buffalo.

They both light up lights, right?

Westinghouse saves us some money. Thomas Edison sells tickets.

What I wouldn't give to flip through that.

It's like a handbook to the future, isn't it?

We need a clear majority, gentlemen. Don't you have stock in GE?

That's irrelevant.

No one has ever done what you have done for me.

The value of something isn't what someone's willing to pay, but the value of something is what it contributes.

When we vote again, Burnham, you can telephone the winner tonight.

Is it true you were born during a lightning storm?

It is true.

All right. Tell me one thing in that book.

Look, you and Mr. Edison, you spend all your time on either end of the system, the dynamos and the lamps.

But what about what is in between?

The wires? Mm.

Do we need them?

The problem is, despite all the advantages of the Remington...

it doesn't fix the fact that you just dampened the gunpowder.

What's this?

This is gonna do for the eye what the phonograph did for the ear.




Do you have any final words?

I believe I'm going to a better place.

Goodbye, William.

We live in a higher civilization... from this day.

"An awful spectacle, far worse than hanging."

'They would have done better with an ax.'

Sizzling sound. A billow of smoke

"that filled the room with the odor of burning hair."

Well, at least it happened to a murderer.

At least they'll never use it again to kill anyone.

Soon all these people will have electric light, and no one will even remember it ever happened.

I have books so full of ideas it would take me more than 12 lifetimes to execute them.

So let the man have his fair and waterfall.

Well, for what's it's worth, I'd much rather have worked for you than Westinghouse any day.

Why is that?

Well, I wouldn't have had as much fun, would I?

Have you seen much of the fair?

A Muybridge lecture, Little Egypt. Oh, the dancer.

You saw her? No.

Well, she was... If you get the time.


Don't you think a fence is a unique creation?

Your neighbor puts one up, and suddenly one becomes two.

You also have a fence. There's only one problem.

You see, one person on one side of the fence designed it, one person on one side built it, and one person paid for it, and yet the other person receives a fine, free fence.

I didn't take your ideas.

Mr. Edison?


Thank you.

I was wondering about one thing. Oh, I'm sure there were many.

I was gonna invite you to dinner again, but I suppose now is as good a time as any.

You want to know what was in the 13-hour bulb?

I know how it works. Yeah, I know you do.

I only wondered what it felt like.

Pardon? The bulb.

When you knew.

What was the feeling in that moment?

I can't tell you. I mean...

It's impossible to describe the feeling because it was impossible.

Years of work. Ten thousand different filaments.

When the thread went in the bulb, as usual, we placed our bets and the generator sputtered to life and the ball began to glow, we didn't expect anything but another failure.

Then something started to happen.

See, our best filament only lasted ten minutes, and this fluke was rounding 20, so people started to chatter.

And 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, two hours.

Then people started to shout.

And remember, we hadn't got past ten minutes.

The boys were climbing up the walls, tearing their hair out, and... because it was impossible.

Seven hours. Eight hours. Nine.

We were silent when we hit ten.

Just sat around that glowing bubble, drunk on our own magic, staring at it like it...

I don't know, like it was the baby Jesus playing Mozart.

After 13 and a half hours, the glass cracked, and I knew it.

The world would never be the same.

I'm working on something now, something so new that... people will forget that my name was ever associated with electricity.

I wonder if you know what it is yet.

You know, I think the solution is... to divide the cost of the fence.

Or you cannot build a fence at all.

Your garden would be twice as big.

Wouldn't it, Tom?

If nothing else, a pleasure.

Enjoy the fair, George.

We build monuments to speak to the future, to say, "We were here."

"We have lived."

A true legacy isn't what we build up to the heavens or carve deep into stone.

Rocks will crumble, paper disintegrates,

Only that which isn't in the physical realm and reaches in both directions can be eternal.

Our ideas.

They are what we leave behind.

And only they are what can push us forward.