Thanks for those references to the map tables in The Battle of Britain and The Battle of the Bulge. I’ve never seen the first one; I have the second one on DVD, but I don’t recall much about the opening map room scene, so I’ll have to check it out this weekend. The film Action in the North Atlantic is another movie with a nice, big map table, which we see (all too briefly) at some kind of US Navy command centre after Bogart’s tanker gets sunk. And I think that one of Frank Capra’s Why We Fight films, “The Battle of Britain” (not to be confused with the later film of the same name mentioned by Tall Paul), shows planes being tracked on a room-sized map table using little markers moved with long sticks by a group of WAAFs wearing earphones, while air control officers watch from an observation gallery one floor up.
It occurs to me that, in an odd echo of the current thread’s discussion of models on horizontal map tables versus graphics on vertical screens, the movies Midway and Sink the Bismark use both methods to depict the forces which are engaged. In addition to the map tables and models that I’ve mentioned, Midway has a couple of scenes in which officers on the Lexington are plotting aircraft movements with grease pencils on a vertical sheet of glass, to which three small cardboard carrier profiles are (somehow) attached. As for Sink the Bismark, it has a scene in which a WREN officer is standing in front of a map affixed to a vertical corkboard, moving pin-mounted flat markers depicting various ships.
Whenever I watch Midway, I’m always amused by the map table continuity errors. There are some scenes in which the positions of the models on the map tables change between the long shots which feature the actors and the map close-ups which were shot separately by (presumably) the second-unit crew. The best example on the US side is the scene in which Nimitz asks Spruance what kind of moves he would recommend for the three American carriers. The best example on the Japanese side is the scene in which Yamamoto learns that Operation K has been cancelled.