White House, Kremlin Red Phones Only Existed in Hollywood

WASHINGTON, June 20 (by Suleiman Wali for RIA Novosti) – Throughout the Cold War, the red phone hotline between the White House and the Kremlin became an iconic symbol of communication. But according to Smithsonian Magazine, because the technology was not yet available, a much “less cool” means of communication emerged between Washington and Moscow after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962: two terminal points with teletype equipment, a full-time duplex wire telegraph circuit and a full-time radiotelegraph circuit.

Hollywood understood it needed a better prop for its Cold War movies, and the red phone was born. Here are four clips that show how the red phone became a symbol of the era.

Dr. Strangelove (1964) – Peter Sellers, as President Merkin Muffley, warns Soviet Premier Dimitri Kisov about the pending arrival of American bombers.


Fail Safe (1964) – Henry Fonda’s nameless American president delivers the horrific news by phone to the Soviet premier that an electronic malfunction caused American planes to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow. In this scene, the Soviet leader calls Fonda, who minutes later gives the order to drop an American nuclear bomb on New York City.


Fail Safe (2000) – The same movie was remade 36 years later, with Richard Dreyfuss starring as the US president.


Walter Mondale Presidential Campaign (1984) – The campaign team of US Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale created this commercial that suggested then-President Ronald Reagan would be asleep when an urgent phone call comes in the middle of the night.

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