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Ripped from the Phone Book

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Whenever an investigative character looks up information in a telephone directory and find the one piece of information they've been looking for, they'll rip out the entire page from the phone book. A lot of the time, the directory was one of those found next to a public telephone, which mean that our Sam Spade or Intrepid Reporter has just ruined the chances of anybody else looking up anybody whose name begins with B. Perhaps it helps to show how rushed and straight to the point they are but you'd think people in those professions would have gotten used to carrying around a pen and notepad.

This can be Truth in Television, although it might just be Life Imitates Art. In either case, it can get very frustrating after the Oh-don't-know-how-many-times one has gone to look up something in the phone book at a public pay phone only to discover several pages missing, including the one you needed.

Of course, this is getting rarer as phone books at public telephones, and indeed public telephones themselves, are increasingly hard to come by. Factor in Technology Marches On (as of the 2010's people can simply type the number into their cell phone, or take a photo of the page they need with a camera phone) and it'll likely be a dead horse before long.

See also Just Take the Poster.

Not to be confused with Ripped from the Headlines.


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    Film — Animated 
  • Mary does this in Mary and Max when looking for the address of an American, wanting to ask a question about the country. She does this because her mom drags her along (causing to rip out the page in the progress) after she's trying to flee the post office, having been caught shoplifting.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Angels & Demons, when Vittoria Vetra rips the page from a priceless document by Galileo (likely the only one left in the entire world) to the shock of Dr Langdon, rather than waste time copying it.
  • In Back to the Future, Marty searches for Doc in a phonebook in a cafe and rips the entire page out for one number.
  • Cradle of Fear: After getting the email containing the address where the Snuff Films are made, Richard goes to a newsagent and surreptitiously rips the page showing the location from a street directory.
  • A variant in Disconnect, where Ben's father rips the page with Jason's picture from the school's year book for later use.
  • Doctor Strange (2016) starts with the villains breaking into Kamar-Taj's library to steal a page from a Tome of Eldritch Lore depicting a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, which they do just by ripping the page out, showing their contempt for the Ancient One who owns it. As Strange points out at the end of the movie, they should have stolen the whole book, given that it warns why it's a Dangerous Forbidden Technique.
  • Done in The Dream Team by Billy when he and the group are searching for their missing psychiatrist in a hospital. One of the group, Henry, does note that what Billy did is vandalism, but Billy shrugs it off and it's never brought up again.
  • Downplayed in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In the last scene when Clem tracks down Joel at his apartment, we see her in the car holding a ripped out telephone page with Joel's address marked up.
  • Frantic. Harrison Ford does this because he's getting increasingly frustrated over his attempt to get hold of an off-duty concierge who might have seen where his missing wife got to.
  • Guns, Girls and Gambling: Having discovered the Asian Elvis's real name in the Elvis Elvis's apartment, John Smith goes straight to a nearby phone booth and looks him up in the phone book, then rips the page out to have his address.
  • In Kangaroo Jack, Lewis looks through a phone book to find someone who knows about kangaroos. He comes across a page about wild life and tears it out.
  • Hilariously taken to the extreme in Knowing when Nicolas Cage's character crowbars an entire door (which of course has information written on it) off of its hinges and takes it with him. Well, he was in a hurry.
  • In The Last Boy Scout, Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) uses a pay phone (in a police station no less) to get an address so he can track down where Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) is. He rips the page from the phone book as Joe's daughter looks on. She then traces the information he wrote down, and rips that page out of the phone book and follows him, leaving the phone book back at the police station with two missing pages!
  • Superman: The Movie. Lex Luthor is looking through a book in his library to find some information about a meteor landing in Addis Ababa. When he finds it, instead of just showing it to his henchmen he rips it out and hands it to them.
  • In The Terminator, Kyle Reese does this with the page containing the listing for "Sarah Connor". A Deleted Scene has Sarah doing it when she finds Cyberdyne Systems in a rather tattered phone book. Averted by the Terminator himself, since the cyborg's flawless memory allows it to instantly memorize the listings.
  • In Unknown (2011), the hero rips a page from the phone book in a public phone booth.

  • In The Light Fantastic, a scheming and ambitious wizard discovers the one piece of information that makes sense of a major crisis threatening the existence of the Disc itself. Rather than share the vital knowledge, and in order to discredit his rivals and boost his claim to the Arch-Chancellory, he bribes the Librarian with bananas note  to locate all the copies of this particular Book, plus cross-references to it in other books, and check them all out on his ticket - so that nobody else can find them.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Glory with the Magic Box ad in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Shadow". And a different use of the trope is shown in Season 7's "Showtime". A Potential steps off a bus and goes to a public phone to look up Buffy's address, only to find the page ripped out. Having identified herself by turning to the torn page, the Bringers move in to kill her.
  • Done by one Rock Star in an episode of CSI; he was tracking down an ex-groupie who had given birth to his son.
  • In the season 3 pilot of Fargo, when Maurice arrives at Eden Valley, he looks up E. Stussy in a gas station's phone book and rips out the page with his address in full view of the attendant. Not only does it lead to him killing the wrong person, it also provides evidence that the killing wasn't random.
  • The F.B.I.: In "The Monster", fugitive Francis Jerome looks up the phone number of the woman he is hunting in a directory in a phone booth, then calls her to make sure she is there. When she answers, he hangs up and rips the page from the phone book.
  • Intrepid Reporter Carl Kolchak regularly did this in Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In one episode he went to find a number in his office phone book but discovered he had previously ripped out the page. He used the phone book of fellow reporter Ron Updyke - and ripped the page out of it too.
  • In one episode of Lois & Clark, there was a plot point where Lois was looking for information on an individual but it wasn't in the phone book nor yellow pages. It was however in the white pages and she promptly tore a page out of a copy in the phonebooth.
  • The Magician: In "The Illusion of the Fatal Arrow", a Professional Killer is given Tony's name from his employer while he is in a phone booth, and immediately rips the page with Tony's name and address out of the directory.
  • In Veronica Mars, Wallace's estranged father Nathan Woods rips out the page of a phone book while looking for Alicia Fennel's address.

    Video Games 
  • In Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, Gabriel holds on to a page from a phonebook that Grace retrieved for him. Lampshaded when he notes: Somewhere there's a New Orleans phone book missing one of its "C" pages.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Bender does this in Bender's Big Score when he is searching for Fry in the past. This was a take-off on the aforementioned example from The Terminator. Bender was a robot going into the past to kill Fry, and there were *many* different joking Terminator allusions in that sequence. Only problem is that in the aforementioned example the robot didn't rip it out. Ah, well.
  • In the first episode of Huntik: Secrets & Seekers, Lok Lambert goes into a phone booth to find Dante Vale's phone number while fleeing from the Organization. He eventually finds the V section and tears the pages out and runs out of the booth just as it gets blown up by one of the Organization's monsters.
  • The Simpsons: Lisa does this to Dr. Nick's ad in "My Sister, My Sitter".