The Origins of One Red Phone Box

Local Hero is one of those movies that no one knows about.  It’s one of those movies that makes you want to forget that cell phones ever existed, makes you miss VHS tapes and return to some relaxed era when people still talked to each other, sometimes on a landline. It’s not super depressing, there is no violence. No one dies (except a rabbit) and unlike most movies that are released now, the plot does not rely upon a convoluted love triangle between inordinately attractive people.

The premise of Local Hero is surprisingly straightforward: a Texan oil company, looking to develop in Scotland, sends one of its employees to a tiny seaside community near Aberdeen to obtain property rights to the land in order to extract the oil. The envoy, MacIntyre, spends  a number of weeks staying in a local hotel in the small town with his Scottish guide. In the midst of trying to acquire the land, MacIntyre befriends the townspeople, walks on the beach, adopts a rabbit, attends a ceilidh and slowly relaxes into small town life. There is no technology and little communication with the outside world. MacIntyre, when he needs to communicate with the office back in Texas, solicits dimes from the bar in order to use the only telephone in town, located in the red phone booth outside the hotel.

The final scene of the 1983 film shows MacIntyre, accompanied by Mark Knopflers’ soundtrack, back in his modern Texan apartment, his outlook on life changed by his trip. The car horns and sirens from the highway can be heard through the windows, and he is alone for the first time in weeks. Back in Scotland, the phone in the one red phone box rings, but no one answers.

Obviously, this is a great movie. Everyone should see it. It is clearly also the source of the name of this site, One Red Phone Box. MacIntyre’s whole life is altered by living in that Scottish town, even for only a few weeks. The  phone box is a classic cue for Local Hero lovers, and immediately elicits the feeling of small town life, and a yearning for something simpler. Some of the funniest and most poignant scenes happen at that phone booth. So from my favourite film, in its best moments, with one of my top five soundtracks, came this: One Red Phone Box.

Happy Wednesday!

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