Re: Cliches: The Phone In Films

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, December 02, 1997 9:23 AM

Howard <> in article
<> and in article <> wrote of:
> Telephones are a cheap way to develop plot - and is a favorite (and overworked) ploy
> that crops up in cheap films. ("What? Someone just blew up City Hall?")
> It's also used as a device when the producer realizes there's a plot gap
> needing to be filled and it's too expensive to call everyone back - and
> only one actor needs to be paid to receive a phone call explaining what's
> going on.

In "My Son John" (1952) and "Saratoga" (1937) telephones covered up for the deaths of lead performers Robert Walker and Jean Harlow, respectively. In "My Son John," Walker and Van Heflin have a phone conversation, but only Heflin's voice is heard. Heflin responds to what Walker supposedly said, but when the movie cuts in shots of Walker in the closed phone booth, the sound track is silent. In fact Walker was dead when the conversation was filmed; the footage of him was unused footage from the film and/or shots bought by Columbia from Warner Brothers that had been filmed for Walker's earlier film of the same year, "Strangers on a Train." There are two scenes of Walker in phone booths in the film, and they are from the same filming session; the background in one or both cases were changed at an optical printer to make it appear that the phone booths were in different locations when in fact the Walker elements of the shots had been filmed in a single location.

--David Hayes


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