Few Fleets on Film: Car Rentals and Services in Pop Culture
March 29, 2019
The sparsity of car rentals in the movies and on TV
In the movies and on TV, we have car chases, car crashes and even animals driving cars. But what would folks in this industry give for a few scenes involving car rentals? You can count on one hand the number of scenes in movies and TV a car rental company has a decent cameo, but that’s about it. Otherwise, car rentals are referred to in cop shows while detectives look for evidence linked to a major crime. So, in other words, not much.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a few references out there, at least to show that the car rental industry is at least worthy of mention somewhere in the echelons of pop culture. The two best examples we could find come courtesy of 007 himself, James Bond. But whatever he drives off the lot, however, don’t count on it to come back in one piece.
The first James Bond movie, Dr. No, which starred Sean Connery and came out in 1962, did have our favorite British Intelligence operative drive a Sunbeam Alpine, which was referred to as a rental. But no agency was mentioned and was arranged by staff at the hotel he was staying.
Fast forward a few years to Diamonds Are Forever, where Connery as Bond rents a Ford Galaxie 500 from a Hertz office in Las Vegas. It’s not a particularly pivotal point in the film, however, but is another scene where he’s doing some sleuthing with Tiffany Case, a comely person of interest played by Jill St. John.
But another rental company, Avis, gets a lot more airtime in Tomorrow Never Dies, released in 1997 and starring Pierce Brosnan as 007. At an airport in Hamburg, when Bond picks up his BMW rental, he’s asked about a few insurance details. “Will you need collision?” “Yes.”
At least Bond has his bases covered. He’s behind the wheel of the BMW as part of a car chase when the vehicle smashes through the wall of a car park before reaching its final destination at the very Avis outlet he got his set of wheels from. Well, he certainly returned it.
Sadly, car rentals are mocked in comedies that thought to include such an agency, such as one scene in the 1987 film Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where Steve Martin, waiting to lease a vehicle, curses a customer service rep after she spends an inordinate amount of time on a personal call. Then, there’s one hilarious TV episode of Seinfeld, which has comedian Jerry Seinfeld insult a sales clerk who fails to give him the ideal car he was trying to rent.
“You know how to take the reservation,” said an indignant Seinfeld. “You just don’t know how to hold the reservation.”
Fortunately, both rental firms in the comedies were fictitious, but we’re sure Enterprise Holdings had the last laugh, when it signed Patrick Warburton to a series of hilarious ads for National Car Rental. For those with great memories, Warburton played dimwit mechanic David Puddy on Seinfeld.
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