This film is part of Free

How to Use the Telephone

Hold please. Enter a distinctly British bureaucracy as the post-war Civil Service learns to be civil on the telephone

Government sponsored film 1948 19 mins


One moment please… Let me put you through to the Kafkaesque world of civil service telephony, an inescapable labyrinth created more by incompetence than malevolence. This clever training film invites the audience to identify good and bad practice themselves, rather than using a didactic voiceover to ram a message home - it even pauses halfway to allow for discussion.

Produced by Richard Massingham's aptly named Public Relationship Films, the film emphasizes the telephone as a public face - or voice - of the Civil Service. Its effectiveness, particularly in the first half, is thanks to good casting and the performance of the actors. A succession of great expressive faces, including Massingham's own, are skilfully framed to walk a line between the comedy and frustration of the situations. This government film is a public record, preserved and presented by the BFI National Archive on behalf of The National Archives, home to more than 1,000 years of British history.