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Monday, 28 February 2011

Typewriters and Stars

A Corona 3 bought in a San Francisco junk shop in 1992 by hard-drinking, twice Oscar-nominated actor Richard Harris now belongs to fellow movie star, typewriter collector Tom Hanks. This is the story of how all that happened.

Richard St John Harris was born in Limerick, Ireland, on October 1, 1930, and died of Hodgkin's disease in London on October 25, 2002. He first made his name of a screen actor in the starring role in This Sporting Life (1963), based on David Storey’s superb novel. Harris played a rugby league professional in the north of England. He was made for the role: Harris had played fullback for the famous Garryowen club in Limerick and, until his dying day, followed Garryowen, Munster and Irish rugby union. “How to you explain a love affair?” he wrote in London’s Daily Telegraph five months before his death. How indeed.

Harris’s intention in buying the Corona 3 was to use it as a prop in the movie Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993). Shamefully, instead of the typewriter, a sports cap was used in the movie as a posted birthday gift from the uncaring son of Harris’s character.  The filmakers apparently thought Harris’s idea of a typewriter being delivered to the Harris character’s door by motel owner Shirley MacLaine was impractical.

Ernest Hemingway, of course, used a Corona 3 in his early writing career (he called it “the only psychiatrist to which I’d submit”). In the movie, Harris plays a retired Irish sea captain, Frank Joyce, who claims to have wrestled Hemingway in Puerto Rica in 1938 the prize being Hemingway’s typewriter (Hemingway had long since discarded Coronas for Underwoods and Royals). Wrestling Ernest Hemingway was written by Steve Conrad and directed by Randa Haines. In a scorching Florida summer, Harris’s character befriends Walter, a retired Cuban barber played by Robert Duvall. The movie stars another Oscar winner in MacLaine, as well as Sandra Bullock.

Harris used the typewriter but later gave it to his second wife, Ann Turkel, to keep at her gated villa in Beverly Hills (photo above). She sold the typewriter after moving to a small condo on the Wilshire Corridor area of Los Angeles in October 2006. Harris lived in the Bahamas - where he won an estate in a bet - and kept a suite at the Savoy Hotel in London.
An associate of Turkel’s, actress Brooke Skulski, a “Hollywood wife” of LA*Stars and Terence Michael Productions, a Tinseltown Independent Movie Production company, sold the typewriter to me. Skulski played a reporter in the movies Eastside and Bulworth.
        Last year, Australia’s Channel 9 network came to me looking for a typewriter to give to Hanks. Nine’s 60 Minutes team had scored an interview with Hanks, to be filmed in Tokyo. The 60 Minutes people did their research and discovered Hanks had a passion for collecting typewriters. One thing led to another and  the handing over of the present was filmed as part of the screened interview. Hanks was a most gracious recipient. Here is a transcript:
LIAM BARTLETT: And that obsession for detail runs deep. Now we know you have a very unusual hobby - this collection of old typewriters.
TOM HANKS: O-oh, be careful now.
LIAM BARTLETT: We've found something reasonably rare in Australia that we'd like to add to your collection.
TOM HANKS: A typewriter.
LIAM BARTLETT: That's right - the world's most bankable star has a collection of more than 80 antique typewriters.
TOM HANKS: If this is just, you know, somebody's junky old portable that was taking up space in their closet, that's one thing. But if this is, if this is an actual heirloom, an object of art, a piece of historical importance...
LIAM BARTLETT: We hope you will like it.
TOM HANKS: are going to intimidate me. Here we go, are we ready? Oh, dear lord! Now here, let me tell you about this typewriter. Now, you'll notice it's a Corona.
LIAM BARTLETT: But this is no ordinary Corona typewriter. It was owned by the legendary actor Richard Harris and dates back to 1912.
TOM HANKS: Get out!
LIAM BARTLETT: Yeah, yeah and when he died...
TOM HANKS: I don't deserve this.
LIAM BARTLETT: went to his wife and his wife sold it, as it turned out, to a fellow in Australia and now we've brought it back here for you.
TOM HANKS: You guys should never have done this. You're wasting your... ..I don't deserve to own Richard Harris's coffee mug. much less his... ..and I can almost get the I can almost get the paper in. Well, let's try it out anyway. I've probably screwed it up somehow. Well, this is a treasure and I will treasure it forever.
LIAM BARTLETT: Well, I hope you like it.
TOM HANKS: So, thank you very much.

1 comment:

Richard P said...

Great story. I love the idea, in the news clipping, that you need a professor of psychology to figure out why someone would collect typewriters! :)