Phone has been ringing for years in Hollywood

For the Record

April 13, 2003|By Los Angeles Times

In Hollywood, the telephone was playing key roles in movies even before audiences could hear it ring. It's at the heart of the new thriller Phone Booth, in which a callous public relations man (Colin Farrell) picks up a phone ringing in a telephone booth on a New York street and is told that he will die if he hangs up.

Phones were prominent in films even in the silent era, such as The Voice at the Telephone and The Phone Message. Since then, it's played an important part in countless movies, from comedies (His Girl Friday) to dramas (Glengarry Glen Ross) to chillers and horror films (Sorry, Wrong Number and Scream).

Here's the 411 on some of the best-known phone movies:

* The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939): Glossy historical drama about the life of the man who invented the phone. Don Ameche became so associated with the role that for years a slang word for the telephone was the "Ameche."

* Sorry, Wrong Number (1948): Barbara Stanwyck plays a demanding, unpleasant invalid who by chance overhears a phone conversation about a plot to murder her. Her increasingly panicky and desperate portrayal earned Stanwyck an Oscar nomination.

* Call Northside 777 (1948): Jimmy Stewart plays a Chicago reporter who calls "Northside 777" and opens up the files on a decade-old crime.

* Dial M for Murder (1954): The vile husband (Ray Milland) of beautiful Grace Kelly hires a hit man to kill her and times her murder to a phone call in Alfred Hitchcock's thriller.

* Pillow Talk (1959): Doris Day and Rock Hudson teamed up for the first time in this comedy about two diametrically different people who share a party line.

* I Saw What You Did (1965): Two teen-age girls make prank phone calls proclaiming to whoever answers: "I saw what you did. I know who you are." But they make a big mistake when they call a psycho (John Ireland) who has just murdered his wife.

* Scream (1996): High school students in a small town are murdered after receiving phone calls telling them the end is near.

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