The Story

It is the kind of story that is glamorous, provocative and riveting. A talented and prolific inventor dies penniless and unknown, even though his creations are about as commonplace as staplers. A jewel thief son blames his life of crime on the wrongs that befell the father. Add some mob connections that taint both men's lives and a final reunion between father and son, and you've got the makings of a blockbuster story. That is the tale that Walter Thiel Shaw, a notorious former jewel thief and aspiring film producer, is going to chronicle in “Genius On Hold,” a Documentary film that is really a tribute to his father, Walter L. Shaw.

A genius inventor, Walter L. Shaw, would change the telecommunication world and his son, Walter T. Shaw turned to the underworld. Their communal drive for loyalty, destiny, and redemption is a journey few will ever embark on. Two men who lived by their own rules! 

The Documentary film is like an anti-“Good Fellas” movie, that starred Robert DeNiro, about mob life. "I don't want to glamorize crime in the Documentary," Shaw said. "The story is about what I lost. I would give back anything if I could have one day with my dad." Shaw reunited with his father briefly after 25 years of not speaking. The elder Shaw died of prostate cancer in 1996. 

He said he's prepared for the criticism he may receive for making this Documentary, but said the film should be seen as redemption for his father. "It's not about me, but what should have been!” he said. The Documentary will reveal the truth of how an inventor of the most famous and most widely used telecommunication devices never received the proper recognition or remuneration, which he deserved.

It will show how corporate America can profit from someone's inventions and how those can be taken and used by businessmen and large corporations to achieve profit and success for themselves, but not share their benefits with the creator.

Walter T. Shaw, the son of this unknown, under paid, yet genius inventor wants to set the record straight. He will explain that the Bell Companies did not create these devices, but that his father, Walter L. Shaw was the man behind these telecommunications inventions. 

Walter T. Shaw who was a celebrated jewel thief during the 70's and 80's has since gone straight and is presently going to set the records straight about his father! 

  • Had over 39 patents:
  • Speakerphone
  • Extend-a-watts
  • Voice print recognition system
  • White House alert system (commonly referred to as "the red phone")
  • Answer machine
  • Touchtone phone
  • First Burglar Alarm that automatically calls the police
  • Call forwarding
  • Conference calling
  • Patent applied for:
  • Voice print recognition
  • Inventor / creator:
  • Black box (a toll free phone calling device that cannot be recorded)
  • He fought the law:
  • Senate hearings
  • Big corporations
  • Bell Laboratories
  • Died broke and never received recognition until now


From The NY Times

A Family Not Quite on the Up and Up

‘Genius on Hold,’ on Walter Shaw and His Son’s Crimes


  • Directed by Gregory Marquette
  • Documentary
  • PG
  • 1h 31m


Walter L. Shaw as seen in "Genius on Hold." CreditFreestyle Releasing

Huffing and puffing over corporate domineering, the documentary “Genius on Hold” bitterly relates the downfall of Walter L. Shaw, a telecommunications engineer and inventor, and his son’s retreat into criminal enterprise. Produced by the son, Walter T. Shaw, this promisingly tragic tale is sunk by cartloads of context and an overbearing, slanted narration.

As told by the son, his sister and various associates, the story of the elder Mr. Shaw is one of brilliance and integrity exploited. His employers at Bell proved tough masters, even after he left, thanks to the company’s monopoly. He later designed telephone gadgets that allowed bookmakers to forward calls and avoid detection, a lucrative endeavor that ultimately landed him in jail. (He died in 1996.) The family’s unlikely criminal swerve continued when the son worked his way into a prolific gang of thieves.

That’s all stranger than fiction, and just as rich, but “Genius on Hold,” directed by Gregory Marquette, lurches into and out of business and technological history (not uninteresting), family aggrievement and prolix editorializing. Heavy-handed musical cues and often muddy explanations on basic points of fact don’t help. The tale of two Shaws would seem to await a more focused biographer.

“Genius on Hold” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested) for brief language and smoking images.