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The CRPF "Old Phones in Movies & TV" Compilation

Started by HobieSport, November 23, 2008, 01:45:19 AM

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Quote from: Jim S. on November 07, 2015, 01:33:51 PM
When I first started collecting I was told the early color sets (pre-war) were mainly used in black and white movies. I always though this was amusing. Teleplay's explanation helps make it make sense.

Back in the 80s when scientists were still using black and white Polaroid film to capture images on analytical instrument monitors, and the monitors were moving from black and white to color, software engineers discovered a problem with intensity coding. While intensity scales could be easily defined with color (blue to red for 0 to 100%), black and white Polaroid film made it hard to visually read oe "see" those intensities - lower intensity was brighter than higher intensity and as such, the grey scale did not match the color spectrum. I suggested they change the colors used to result in a black and white grey scale of the of the color that made sense from 0 to 100%. I took the bottom strip of the above chart in order of blue to red and rearranged the patches in grey scale from light to dark. You can see how the colors fall out in black and white, how some colors are brighter in black and white than others but not in order of spectral wavelength. The middle of the color spectrum is brighter than either end.

Mister Mike

The Man in the High Castle is full of prewar and early postwar phones, shown frequently in each hi-def episode. The show takes place in an early 1960s dystopia where the conquered US is split between Nazi German and imperial Japanese victors. Apparently the political situation didn't prevent the development of the Western Electric 500 and 2500.


I haven't seen the show, but I wouldn't be surprised if  at some point they threw in a few German and Japanese phones.


This is just a telephone related song:
This is a translated song from a Norwegian song made for children.
I know at least one member; Eric Salter having the phone who made the idea for this song.
The Norwegian rotary from 1967 with a one (and a half) transistor making a warbling sound:


(This show is made by a Norwegian comedian trying to play a Norwegian/American artist)


I'd like to post an alert for all the Green Acres fans on the Forum. Tomorrow (Wednesday January 6th) AntennaTV is airing two episodes where Oliver takes over the Hooterville Phone Company. It comes on at 2:00 Eastern time, 11:00 Pacific. AntennaTV is often a sub-channel attached to a digital local TV channel. Check their site for availability. It's on my analog cable and the local Time-Warner digital tier also carries it.

Today's show was all about Oliver's frustration with the Hooterville Phone Company. Sarah was away from the switchboard a lot, taking a lunch break, getting her hair done and then basting her pot roast. Mr. Kimball played a recording on a Victrola with a morning glory horn while he sat at the switchboard. Oliver was in Drucker's store and Sam's candlestick had a cord so short it didn't reach the counter, so he had to bend over to use the phone. Oliver tried to get Mr. Kimball to put through a call to Hoyt Clagwell in Fargo, ND for a tractor part and Hank said "But Sarah doesn't have a Fargo hole."  :)  Newt Kiley said the record with all the recordings was a present at Chrismas if you didn't make any complaints during the year.

So Oliver vows to complain to the Utilities Commission and starts to collect signatures on a petition. He goes to Mr. Ziffel's house and finds out he has a green candlestick and instead of a receiver they put a hammer to hold down the switchhook so the phone would ring. That was in 1922. They didn't have a matchng green receiver yet. So he has times listed that certain people are supposed to call, but he can't hear them.

Oliver eventually gets home and finds out they've taken out his phone on the pole and given it to Mr. Ziffel and given Mr. Ziffel's cord to Sam Drucker. And that being able to hear someone on the phone for the first time since 1922 brought tears to Mr. Ziffel's eyes.

It's a pretty good shot at the phone company, circa 1967. The two shows that air on Wednesday are also about Oliver and the phone company. Hope you can catch it. I think one of them is the one where they finally hook up the phone in their kitchen. And in the phone company office Oliver finds out when he pulls on the cord that a candlestick at the front desk is wired directly to the switchboard.


Greg G.

A few captures from the beginning of "The Front Page" (1931).  The only stick in the newspaper office with a mouthpiece belongs to Bensinger (Edward Everett Horton) who's a germophobe and apparently removed the mouthpieces from the rest of the phones because of his germ phobia.  Bensinger's stick has a glass mouthpiece.  There also appears to be an ivory stick on the table.

The idea that a four-year degree is the only path to worthwhile knowledge is insane.
- Mike Row


I've been watch the British show Endeavour - which is the prequel to the Inspector Morse Mysteries (ITV/WGBH), set in the 1960s in Oxford.

In the series, there have been a number of phones - mostly GPO 706 models, but in a recent episode, the phone on Morse's desk is a 500-style phone, complete with US-style faceplate, including "OPERATORS" by the 0.

Would there have been US 500-style phones during this time? I thought he had a 706 on his desk in Episode 1 (at first I thought it was a AE-80, but went back to checked...).

I'll try to get some screen caps...

A phone phanatic since I was less than 2 (thanks to Fisher Price); collector since a teenager; now able to afford to play!
Favorite Phone: Western Electric Trimline - it just feels right holding it up to my face!


Jim   .....   Yes there were, and probably at a point where they'd be most common, both in the U.S.A., and Canada.     Attached is a page out of Northern Electric's T-9 Catalog - 1962, in "pdf" format, showing what I think is the set your talking about.

Jeff Lamb


So they (500 style) were common in England in the 60s? What doesn't make sense to me is that there are both GPO and 500 style phones in the same office (see the second picture)...

Also, found a discontinuity - earlier in the program, Morse appears to have a GPO phone on his desk (last pic), but later has a 500 (with a Silver Satin Cord!!!)...

Photo 1: Morse's desk later in program
Photo 2: Wide shot of office showing 500 and GPO on different desks
Photo 3: GPO phone in Detective Inspector's office
Photo 4: Morse with a GPO style phone on his desk...


A phone phanatic since I was less than 2 (thanks to Fisher Price); collector since a teenager; now able to afford to play!
Favorite Phone: Western Electric Trimline - it just feels right holding it up to my face!


I'd be willing to wager that the prop folks were trying to fill the bill with dial phones regardless of their accuracy.  I think the writing and acting in that series is always going to trump the costuming or art direction.  At least that's the way it has appeared so far.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke


Jim   ...   No, that's not what I meant.     I guess I misunderstood your question.      I thought you were asking if they were common over here in North America during that time period, and yes they were.    Were they common in the UK ?    I have no idea, but I rather doubt it.     
I agree with 19&41, it was probably the result of the props department inserting any dial set available, assuming people are watching the actors, not what's on the desk.

Jeff Lamb

Jim Stettler

I have noticed a lot of phones on the history channel are "way" wrong. Many times they are design-line type phones. I don't think they have a very large selection of phones in the prop room.  Some movies  make an attempt to used the "proper" phone for the movie. There are several collectors who rent props to movie houses. These are typically the more accurate phones.

  I have also seen an american car insurance ad (State Farm?) that uses an ericcson dial desk phone used as a wall phone.

I try not to let it bug me.
Jim S.
You live, You learn,
You die, you forget it all.


Jim   .... Your just like the rest of us, in that we tend to notice telephones in movies and TV ads immediately, and approve or disapprove of the prop, based on whether or not it's correct for that era and location.   The 2 prominent collectors clubs here in North America, and based in the U.S.A., periodically get inquiries from movie companies, asking which telephones are accurate for a particular time period in a specific part of the country.     But not all movie production companies are that thorough, probably because they think the average audience member isn't that observant, or wouldn't know the difference between a telephone which is accurate and one which isn't.

Enjoy the evening.

Jeff Lamb


Indeed US telephones were not used in the UK outside of US army bases in the 60s, the dominance of GPO phones was such that there would have been a 706 or similar in Morse's office of that era, so that 500 is most definitely out of place...

I haven't watched much of Endeavour, not really my sort of thing, but there have been the odd instance where I've seen very out-of-place things in the show when I have seen it, usually due to poor directorship and not realising that a satellite dish or modern high-pressure sodium streetlight was in shot that really should not have been there... ;D

Now, Inspector George Gently on the other hand, a nitpickers paradise, also set in the 60s/70s, satellite dishes, TV aerials, modern lights, modern alarm boxes, and in one episode, I even spotted a Technicolor TG582n ADSL modem-router!!! Made me want to slap the director of that show with a wet fish!! ::)

At least they did okay with the telephones, even if a two-tone green 746 had a massive hole in it from being dropped... :o


The production companies that generate material for the "History" channel are typically horrible in their selection of props or CGI material.  Sometimes I think that Downton Abbey has sapped the strength of British period program production.  It looks like all the others have suffered.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
— Arthur C. Clarke