If there is one way to make yourself sound like a fuddy-duddy, it’s to complain about whippersnappers and their phones. Bonus points if you do so via text. Of course, I’m as concerned about distracted drivers as the next almost-dead pedestrian but, dudes, it ain’t just kids.
The telephone was established technology in the silent era and was lavishly used as a plot device. In fact the “Help! I’m about to be murdered!” via telephone was one of the most popular suspense tropes of the nickelodeon era. Possibly THE most popular.
Dorothy and Lillian Gish made their 1912 film debut in An Unseen Enemy, in which they must call their brother for help when they are menaced by a “slattern maid” and Harry Carey through a hole in the wall.
Lois Weber did D.W. Griffith one better in Suspense, her stylish variation of the popular plot. Here she employs a triptych to show the wife, the husband and the telephone line being cut.
Of course, those wags at Keystone were always ready to have some fun with a popular plot device. Mabel Normand directs herself in Won in a Cupboard and plays the spoof for all it’s worth.
If looks could kill, Sessue Hayakawa’s telephone would be stone dead. He is waiting for a call in The Cheat. Get that man a smartphone!
Phone cases were… different back in the day. I am in love with Enid Bennett’s ruffled telephone cozy. Every home should have one! This is from The Woman in the Suitcase, which is NOT a horror movie about dismemberment.
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