Carole Lombard on the phone, 1938.
Carole Lombard on the phone, 1938.Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Carole Lombard on the phone, 1938.
Bette Davis on the phone, 1938.
Mickey Rooney on the phone, 1939.
Eleanor Roosevelt on the phone, 1940.
Joan Bennett on the phone, 1940.
Greer Garson on the phone, 1943.
Bing Crosby on the phone, 1944.
Danny Kaye on the phone, 1945.
Jimmy Stewart on the phone, 1945.
Irving Berlin on the phone, 1946.
June Lockhart on the phone, 1947.
Rocky Graziano on the phone, 1947.
Marilyn Monroe on the phone, 1951.
Henry Fonda on the phone, 1951.
Lyndon Johnson on the phone, 1953.
Jayne Mansfield on the phone, 1956.
Robert F. Kennedy on the phone, 1957.
Dick Clark on the phone, 1958.
Martin Luther King on the phone, 1958.
Anne Bancroft on the phone, 1958.
Jimmy Hoffa on the phone, 1958.
Jackie Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy on the phone, 1960.
John F. Kennedy on the phone, 1961.
Bob Hope on the phone, 1962.
Steve McQueen on the phone, 1963.
Sophia Loren on the phone, 1964.
Ted Kennedy on the phone, 1965.
Frank Sinatra on the phone, 1965.
Hubert M. Humphrey on the phone, 1965.
Dustin Hoffman on the phone, 1969.
Jane Fonda on the phone, 1971.
Muhammad Ali on the phone, 1971.
Robert Redford on the phone, 1971.
Robert Stephens on the phone, 1971.
Warren Beatty on the phone, 1972.
Carole Lombard on the phone, 1938.
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Classic Photos of Celebrities on the Phone

Apr 03, 2015

LIFE’s final issue as a weekly magazine came out in December 1972, just three months before the first mobile phone call was transmitted from a New York City street corner on April 3, 1973. And perhaps that’s for the best—those plastic bricks would have looked a tad out of place in an Eisenstaedt shot of Sophia Loren. But although the Motorola DynaTAC never graced the magazine’s pages, LIFE’s subjects, it seemed, were always on the phone. Today we may use our phones to avoid awkward elevator conversations, but the images of world leaders and the Hollywood elite with receivers to their ears connote men and women in control, calling (quite literally) the shots.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

LIFE Watches TV: Classic Photos of People and Their Television Sets

Radio Corporation of America (RCA) executives watch a brand new invention called television, their New York offices before introducing the product to the public, 1939.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) executives watch a brand new invention called television, their New York offices before introducing the product to the public, 1939.Carl Mydans—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) executives watch a brand new invention called television, their New York offices before introducing the product to the public, 1939.
Writer Russell Finch enjoys a smoke, a bath and a TV show in 1948
Men gather to watch TV through a store window in Pennsylvania in 1948.
A boy watches TV in an appliance store window in 1948.
Sisters at St. Vincent's Hospital in Erie, Penn., watch a program on a new local TV station, 1949.
Watching a Western on TV in 1950.
A group of swimmers at an indoor pool watch the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Jacob Malik, filibustering in the UN Security Council in 1950.
Grade school kids in Minneapolis watch a video "classroom lesson" on TV while the city's public schools are on strike in 1951.
A rapt audience in a Chicago bar watches the 1952 World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees. (The Yankees won.)
Six-year-old girls use a "Winky Dink" drawing kit on their home TV screen as they watch the kids' program, 1953. The show, which aired for four years in the 1950s, has been cited as "the first interactive TV show," especially in light of its "magic drawing screen" — a piece of plastic that stuck to the TV screen, and on which kids (and, no doubt, some adults) would trace the action on the screen.
A performing chimpanzee named Zippy watches TV in 1955.
An adopted Korean war orphan, Kang Koo Ri, watches television in his new home in Los Angeles in 1956.
Milwaukee fans watch the 1957 World Series, when their Braves beat the Yankees in seven, behind three complete-game victories by the gutsy Lew Burdette.
A railroad worker's family watches TV in a trailer at a camp for Southern Pacific employees in Utah in 1957.
An awe-struck baseball fan is seized with utter delight as he watches the Braves win their first and only World Series while based in Milwaukee in 1957.
A traveling businessman watches TV in a hotel room in 1958.
Tenant farmer Thomas B. Knox and his family watch Ed Sullivan and ventriloquist Rickie Layne on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958.
Picketers watch TV in a tent outside the gates of a U.S. Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, during a strike in 1959.
Vice President Richard Nixon and his wife, Pat, watch the 1960 GOP convention in Chicago from their hotel suite.
The Kim Sisters — a Korean-born singing trio who had some success in the U.S. in the 1960s — watch television in Chicago in 1960.
LBJ watches TV during the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
A "Three-Eyed TV Monster" created by Ulises Sanabria which permits simultaneous two- and three-screen viewing, 1961.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter's wife, Rene, and son, Marc, watch his 1962 orbital flight on TV.
Die-hard New York Giants fans watch the 1962 NFL championship game against the Packers outside a Connecticut motel, beyond the range of the NYC-area TV blackout, December 1962. Green Bay won, 16-7.
A crowd watches John F. Kennedy address the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962.
Frank Sinatra watches his son, Frank Jr., 21, emcee a TV show, 1964.
Different CATV (Community Antenna Television) stations available to subscribers in Elmira, New York, in 1966.
Actress Diahann Carroll and journalist David Frost watch themselves on separate talk shows. Carroll and Frost were engaged for a while, but never married.
Radio Corporation of America (RCA) executives watch a brand new invention called television, their New York offices befo
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Carl Mydans—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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