“Life and happiness wait upon its ring… and horror… and loneliness… and death…”: Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak, 1948)

Our second joint screening with the Melodrama Research Group took place on Monday, and although we initially hoped to show Uncle Silas (Frank, 1947), we ended up watching Sorry, Wrong Number (Litvak, 1948) instead, due to some technical issues.

Sorry Wrong Number

This (glorious) film was originally based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher and was, interestingly, also the subject of another radio version about a month after its release – this time as a parody, as part of the Jack Benny program. You can listen to this version (which featured Barbara Stanwyck, the star of the film) here:

The film also received quite a bit of coverage in both trade and fan magazines – here’s an ad printed in Showmen’s Trade Review in October 1948. As you can see, it uses the iconic image of Stanwyck on the phone to advertise the film’s coast-to-coast success. (As ever, click to see the full version of each image.)

Showmen's Trade Review 16 Oct 1948

Showmen's Trade Review 16 Oct 1948 2

Fan magazines, too, covered the film. Here’s a review from Screenland, September 1948.

SL sept 1948

What’s interesting here is the intertextual element – the review warns that the film will “make you wish Don Ameche had never invented the telephone”. This is a reference to Ameche’s role as Alexander Graham Bell in The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (Cummings, 1939). As a result of this film, the association between Ameche and the telephone become so strong that his name became a synonym for the phone in American forties slang. This is demonstrated by none other than Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire (Hawks, 1941) – when she teaches a professor of linguistics (Gary Cooper) about the expression “getting someone on the ameche”. Connections, connections…

Here’s another one, from Modern Screen, October 1948.

ModSc oct 1948ModSc oct 1948 2

Finally, we found an article dealing with Stanwyck, from Modern Screen, July 1949. By this point (as this magazine also notes), she was among Hollywood’s longer-lasting major stars, with 19 years and over 40 films of Hollywood experience. Interestingly, this article makes the link between Stanwyck’s first job as a telephone operator and her telephone-heavy role in Sorry, Wrong Number.

ModSc jul 1949ModSc jul 1949 2ModSc jul 1949 3

Additionally, don’t forget to have a look at the discussion summary on the fabulous Melodrama Research Group blog, which can be found here:

http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/melodramaresearchgroup/2015/11/05/summary-of-discussion-on-sorry-wrong-number-1948/

The next film of our little “Women in Peril” season will be The Spiral Staircase (Siodmak, 1945), which we’ll be watching on 30 November.

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