One vintage radio in two classic films

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Hawkins, who writes:

This evening I watched the excellent Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines on Netflix streaming. This is a 1943 training film for Office of Strategic Services personnel learning how be secret agents. The film was directed by the legendary John Ford who also took an acting role in the film. In this scene, Al is receiving his forged papers from an OSS agent before leaving for Germany. A radio may seen on a shelf in the background.

Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines is also available on YouTube:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The next film is much better known. The same model radio makes a foreground appearance in Some Like it Hot. Osgood Fielding III has one of these on his yacht.

Maybe Osgood is laughing because the film takes place in 1929 and the company that made the radio was founded several years later.

I won’t spoil the secret of this radio’s maker and model. It will probably not take long for SWLing Post readers to come up with an answer.

Post readers: are you up for the challenge? 🙂 What model of radio do we see here? I’ll keep quiet, because it’s one of my favorite manufacturers.

And, Dan, many thanks. I really do owe you one because I was not familiar with Undercover: How to Operate Behind Enemy Lines. I can’t believe there was a WWII era Ford film I had missed. I, too, have Netflix but the YouTube copy you suggested is actually a better restored version in terms of audio.  Thanks again!

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15 thoughts on “One vintage radio in two classic films

  1. Mike Cherry

    Thomas – it’s a Hallicrafters S20R “Sky Champion” – I own 2 of these, one barely operatable due to nearly dead tubes, the other is for parts but fully intact. I look forward to daily – thanks for a great site!

    73 Mike VE7SKA

    1. DanH

      All tubes for the S-20R are available on eBay. With most tube era radios the biggest problem is old paper, molded and electrolytic capacitors. These should all be changed out. Tubes are surprisingly robust even after all of the years. They should be tested on a tube tester and by substitution before tossing them out.

      1. Edward

        What I do is take the old paper-wax capacitors out, heat them to slide the “guts” out and save the paper tube with markings on them. Insert a new capacitor inside the tube and refill with wax and re install. It works fine with those pyramid caps, but the molded caps there might not be much you can do other than replace them with modern caps. of course you can make a surf board and use surface mount caps but you will end up with “mixed history technology”

  2. Ed McCorry

    Speaking of vintage radios in films, the April 9th episode of NCIS Los Angeles was about a spy ring buying military plans. They had a great lesson on how Cuban numbers stations were used and how the agent would translate the encrypted message with the number pad. They also showed a 1960’s era Swan transceiver as an example of the radios that were used.

  3. Edward

    It looks like a Hallicrafters S 20 R. I had one and recognize it. Not exactly a communication receiver but gave me a lot of service with my HX50 transmitter. Not sure how it was portrayed to be used in the movie, but as a casual “walkie talkie” is a bit of a stretch.

  4. DanH

    Glad you enjoyed it Thomas. My favorite WWII Ford film is “They Were Expendable” of 1945. Mainly because I’m into restoring wooden boats of the era. Netflix is currently featuring “Five Came Back”. This is a Netflix Original film that covers the efforts of five Hollywood film directors who made films (and enlisted in one way or another) for the WWII effort. More than a dozen WWII instructional or training films are featured on Netflix in support of this release. I had never seen the Ford OSS film before catching it on Netflix.

    1. rtc

      Dan,please go to Books and take a look
      at “Behind the Scenes of They Were Expendable”.
      This pictorial (and text) book was published in 2015
      by a guy who was a 19 year old Navy photog at the
      time,assigned to the picture.
      Among other things,it was filmed in Miami and Ward
      Bond did the whole picture with a broken left foot
      from a recent auto accident.
      The book is kinda steep but the Kindle e-book is worth
      every cent (you can,er,convert it to
      pdf format later?).

  5. DanH

    Yes, Thomas. The YouTube video has remastered audio that sounds much better than the Netflix version, but the Netflix optical resolution is better. Take your pick. Bonus question… In the John Ford film Al is dropped behind enemy lines. He is taken to a safe house by the underground. A radio is seen in the safe house. What is it?

    1. Thomas Post author

      Yeah, I like Netflix’s resolution and the fact there’s no video “watermark”.
      It was a great little film. I’ll have to go back in the video and find the scene you’re looking for sometime.


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