Helen Molloy (Judith Allen) and Dottie Stengal (Alice White) work for Tom Sommers (Pat Flaherty) at the switchboard of the Riverdale Telephone Exchange. The exchange is adding lines to cover the area near the new Riverdale Dam. Two linemen, Red (Grant Withers) and Shorty (Warren Hymer) are sent to do the work. They report to the exchange, but Sommers has gone for the day. They flirt with the girls but get nowhere.
That night there is a dance in town. Sommers’ wife Sylvia (Greta Granstedt) is out with her boyfriend on the side, Pat Campbell (Cornelius Keefe) until her husband shows up. Helen and Dottie are also there. Red and Shorty show up and start flirting again with the girls. They act like jackasses and get thrown out by Sommers and Heaver (William Haade).
The next day they report for duty at the exchange only to find out that the two men they scrabbled with the night before were the boss of the exchange and the foreman of the linemen. Eventually the guys settle into their jobs. Helen and Dottie slowly become used to Red’s and Shorty’s attention. A romance begins to spark between Shorty and Dottie and between Red and Helen.
Things take a turn when Sommers goes out of town. With her husband gone, Sylvia and Campbell take off for the weekend. Tom comes back early to find his wife gone. Trying to help, Helen ends up in the middle of things and gets fired. Red and Shorty get involved and are fired as well. When the dam breaks a wall of water begins to flood the valley. Knowing how important the phone lines are in communicating to the residents of the valley, and that the exchange is short-handed, Helen goes to the exchange to man the phones. For a time, Helen is the only person that is alerting the residents of Riverdale of the danger.
“Telephone Operator” was released in 1937 and was directed by Scott Pembroke. It is an American poverty row “B” thriller comedy romance. The film was originally about an hour long but the only versions that I have been able to find are a little over 52 minutes long. The listing of 70 minutes on IMDb and Wikipedia are incorrect. Only 8 minutes or so are missing from the original print.
It is a quirky little film. Most of it is fluff. The majority of the movie is a romance. It is also a little choppy on the 52-minute version, but the plot thread can still be followed throughout the film. The movie moves at a quick little pace so, if you can ignore the racism and misogynistic crap, then you may enjoy it.
There is an array of montages in the film. If you want to know how to put up a telephone line, this will show you. Included is a lot of flood stock footage. I’m a sucker for stock footage so I enjoyed the movie a little more than I needed to.