Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Telephone exchange names on screen

From Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (dir. John Rawlins, 1947). A killer, Steve “The Claw” Michel (Jack Lambert), has fled after starting to use a pay phone with his Captain Hook-like hook. Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) notices scratches, “brand-new,” on the dial. Back at the office, Tracy schools Pat Patton (Lyle Latell). A model pay phone happens to be there, as if by magic:

Tracy: “I’ll tell you what these scratches give us, Pat. What's the first thing you do when you dial a telephone number?”

Pat: “Why, I, uh, look for a nickel.”

Tracy: “Oh, no, no.”

Pat: “Oh — I dial the exchange.”

Tracy: “That's right. You dial the first two letters of the exchange.”

Tracy: “Now these scratches appear only in the first two holes.”

Pat: “I get it, Dick. The exchange the killer was dialing has got to be here.”

Tracy: “Correct. In checking a list of exchanges, you’ll find there’s only one exchange with the combination of these letters: B-A for BAnning. ”

Pat: “But what about these other two scratches?”

Tracy: “That’s even simpler. Since they appear in the first hole, the killer can only have been dialing the number 1 twice.”

Pat: “Then we know the number the killer started to dial was BAnning-1, 1-something-something .”

And Pat gets the thankless job of checking every number in town to find the something-something . As John Milton said, they also serve who only sit and check telephone numbers.

Bell Telephone’s 1955 list of Recommended Exchange Names has four names that go with 2-2 : ACademy, BAldwin, CApital, and CAstle. The Telephone EXchange Name Project has many, many more. But no BAnning.

More exchange names on screen
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Dark Corner : Deception : Dream House : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightmare Alley : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Side Street : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire

[I’m surprised to see Al Bridge and Jimmy Conlin from the Preston Sturges world in this low-budget movie, though I suppose I shouldn’t be. An actor would have called it working .]

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