Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio

Watch Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio

  • TV-G
  • 1992
  • 7.6  (581)

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is a documentary film from 1991 that chronicles the lives of three men who were instrumental in the development of modern radio: Lee De Forest, Edwin Howard Armstrong, and David Sarnoff. Narrated by Jason Robards and featuring interviews with notable figures in the world of broadcasting such as Red Barber, Erik Barnouw, and Tom Lewis, the film offers a fascinating look at the history of radio and its impact on society.

The film is divided into three sections, each focusing on one of the three men who helped to shape the radio industry. The first section is dedicated to Lee De Forest, who is often credited with inventing the vacuum tube amplifier. De Forest's experiments with radio transmission in the early 1900s led to the creation of the first commercial broadcasting station, and he became a prominent figure in the industry. However, De Forest was also known for his eccentricities and his tendency to overinflate his accomplishments, which ultimately led to a decline in his reputation.

The second section of the film is dedicated to Edwin Howard Armstrong, who worked with De Forest early on in his career. Armstrong is best known for his invention of the superheterodyne receiver, which made broadcasting more efficient and allowed for the use of higher frequencies. Armstrong's contributions to the radio industry were significant, but he also experienced personal tragedies in his life, including the suicide of his wife and the loss of his fortune in a patent dispute with Sarnoff.

The final section of the film focuses on David Sarnoff, who was a young telegraph operator when he first became interested in the potential of radio broadcasting. Sarnoff went on to become a pioneer in the industry, rising through the ranks of the communications giant RCA to become its president. Along the way, Sarnoff played a key role in the development of television and other broadcasting technologies. However, Sarnoff was also known for his cutthroat business tactics and his ruthless pursuit of his goals, which earned him both admiration and criticism.

Throughout the film, the interviews with experts and archival footage help to contextualize the development of radio within the larger historical and cultural context. The film shows how radio became a powerful medium for disseminating information, providing entertainment, and shaping public opinion. The film also explores the complex relationship between business and technology, as well as the often fraught relationships between the men who played such a pivotal role in the development of radio.

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is a fascinating and informative film that provides a window into the history of one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. With its well-researched content and engaging presentation, the film offers a valuable resource for anyone interested in the development of broadcasting and the impact of technology on society. Whether you are a radio enthusiast, a history buff, or simply curious about the evolution of communication, this documentary is sure to captivate and educate.

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is a 1992 documentary. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.6.

Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
Where to Watch Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio
Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio is available to watch free on Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
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  • IMDB Rating
    7.6  (581)