[Dave Birch] No, you haven’t clicked on movie reviews by mistake. Have a look at this poster. Apart from being tragically misleading (the movie isn’t in the least bit funny), what’s special about it? Well, I wonder if it is the first recorded instance of a payment card featuring as a plot device in a Hollywood movie…
I came across this fascinating newspaper report from “The Hartford Courant” dated 23rd October 1962. It concerns the world premiere of this movie called “The Man From The Diner’s Club”, which I’d googled because it was the subject of a couple of e-mails from correspondents. Here’s the story:
The Board of Selectmen unanimously adopted an ordinance Monday night to prohibit the use of money and place the entire town on credit for a day next March 13. Columbia Pictures “The Man From the Diners’ Club” will have its world premier at the Strand Theater here that day. On the day of the premiere, all transactions by local merchants will be by Diners’ Club cards only. The ordinance says it will be “unlawful for any person to pay cash for any article or goods purchased and it shall be unlawful for any merchant to accept cash for any article or goods sold.” Diners’ Club cards will be issued to the entire population of the town for the premiere day with junior cards for children. The ordinance states “any merchant convicted of a violation of this ordinance shall be punished by forfeiture of his vendor’s license and any other person convicted of a violation thereof shall be punished by confinement in the town stockade for not more than a day.”
How fascinating! So there has already been a “No Cash Day” in the USA!
Mayor John E. Lynch said: “I am especialy pleased to participate in this progressive experiment in the use of credit which may prove to the business world that the future method oi transacting business will be through such a device as a single credit card.”
What a forward looking guy! Anyway, I was so fascinated by the story of what is, as far as I know, the first movie to feature a payment card as a plot device that I actually went online and ordered a copy. I watched it on my iPad in a hotel. It’s not a very good movie, although it was quite fun seeing a young Telly Savalas hamming it up as a gangster. The plot is irrelevant, but I couldn’t help noticing that at several points in the film, characters stopped the action in order to explain how a Diner’s Club card worked. So someone would say “now I’m going to phone Diner’s Club to check that this card is valid” and someone else would say “Hey the Diner’s Club card comes with a booklet showing you all the places you can use it” or an incredulous supporting player would gasp when told that you could use a Diner’s Club card to pay for an air ticket. I assume Diner’s Club had sponsored the movie or some provided commercial support in order to introduce the idea of a payment card to a wider audience. The company’s website says only that
In 1962, Hollywood released a movie by the name “The Man From The Diners Club” followed by the creation of a board game called “The Diners Club Game” by the Ideal Toy Corporation.
I want that game! The only one I can find on eBay is in the US, but I’m going to see if I can find a copy in time for the Digital Money Forum in London next March. Here’s the introduction to the movie, by the way! Listen to the words of the title song! “The man from the Diner’s Club is someone who’s big with the girls”! You wouldn’t be allowed that sort of sexism nowadays, outside of Virgin Airlines adverts anyway.
And now the trivia: the film was written by William Blatty who went on to write “The Exorcist” and features an uncredited Harry Dean Stanton as a New York beatnik.
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