Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Telephone exchange names on screen

[A Chicago "phonebook," from Nightmare Alley (1947).]

Nightmare Alley (dir. Edmund Goulding) gives us Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Mike Mazurki (Moose Malloy from Murder, My Sweet), Tarot card readings, carnival geeks, and the rise and fall of a nightclub mentalist (who performs in a studio recreation of the Chicago Sherman House's Spode Room). There's some great dialogue:

"You've got a heart as big as —"

"Sure, as big as an artichoke. A leaf for everyone."


"These great trees in moonlight: they give the whole place a — a cathedral-like atmosphere."
As the Wikipedia article Telephone exchange names notes, Chicago first used a "3L-4N" system (three letters, four numbers). "2L-5D" (two letters, five digits) later became the standard in North America. ROGers Park and STAte were authentic Chicago exchange names, as the Telephone EXchange Name Project confirms. Checking a few of the other 21 exchange names at the TEXNP confirms that they too were Chicago exchanges.

But this page itself is from no phonebook. Or if it, the names (and addresses?) have been altered. Note Mr. Rumstad's first name in the right-hand column.
Related posts
Telephone exchange names
MOre TElephone EXchange NAme NOstalgia
Mike Hammer's answering machine

All "dowdy world" posts (via Pinboard)

comments: 6

Anonymous said...

So, Chicago originally used a "3L-4N" system. That system must have also applied to the suburbs too. That explains why Mom said that her original home number as a child in Berwyn was GUNderson xxxx (not GUnderson x xxxx).

The things you learn on the Internet!

Michael Leddy said...

Wikipedia says that 2L-5D became the standard in the 1950s, so yes, that explains it.

I love driving in reverse on the Information Superhighway.

Mrs. R said...

Great blog - love that Dagwood Rumstead.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Mrs. R.

Anonymous said...

We're learning all about film noir right now in Intro to Film; the shadowing in the top right of the screenshot is called the "venetian blind effect."


Michael Leddy said...

Ben, that's so great. I never knew that there was a name for that effect.