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Sunday 17 April 2011

Typewriters in Hollywood (And Elsewhere with Movie Women)

The morning I learned the great Elizabeth Taylor had passed away, I searched in vain for anything connecting her with typewriters, just for the excuse to pay her tribute on this blog. The closest I came was a story about the Olivetti Valentine in the online edition of the magazine Icon. The 2009 article, by design, architecture and fashion writer Johanna Agerman Ross, opened, “In 1970, Richard Burton was snapped arriving at Heathrow Airport [in London] with a customised[?] Valentine portable typewriter on one arm and his wife Elizabeth Taylor on the other. That picture epitomised the territory that the Valentine was meant to occupy. Glossy, sexy and desirable, it was the it-bag of its day.” Ross says the Valentine was in part designed by “Perry Ellis” (it was Perry A.King).
But Olivetti’s British history website confirms the photo was taken, adding that Burton’s Valentine was “complete with a Welsh insignia” (see above)

Since then I have come across this photograph, taken during a break in filming the movie Boom!, based on Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (at this stage the working title was the even more ludicrous Goforth!)and starring Taylor, Burton and Noël Coward. Taken in Sardinia in August 1967, it shows Taylor with co-star Michael Dunn and an unidentifiable typewriter. Dunn, a 3ft 11in (1.2m) tall Oklahoma-born actor, died in London just six years later, aged 39, from complications from chondrodystrophy. At the University of Miami he had been editor of the college newspaper and he later worked as a sports reporter. In 1963 he was nominated for a Tony Award for his role in Edward Albee's Ballad of A Sad Café and two years later he won an Oscar nomination for his role as narrator in Ship of Fools.

This photo was taken in August 1956 of silent screen star Gloria Swanson (with an Olivetti?) on the verandah of her house near Nice on the French Riviera. Swanson was a silent movie star but is best known for her role as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
In July 1934, British actress Heather Thatcher was photographed typing (a Remington or Underwood Noiseless?) in her garden in Knightsbridge Court, London.
In 1929 American silent film actress Laura La Plante was photographed answering some of her fan mail in an office at Universal Studios.
In Jan 1925, Constance Talmadge, another American silent screen heroine and comedienne, answered her fan mail in the garden of her home.
Vivien Leigh at her portable typewriter, catching up with some paperwork in her dressing room, 1942:
Vicki Baum wasn’t an actress, but this photograph of her typing on white Mignon was taken when she was working in Hollywood in 1925. While it is generally accepted that the Mignon was a very popular typing machines, I can’t recall ever previously having seen a photo of someone actually using one.
Viennese-born Baum had international success with her 1929 novel People at a Hotel, which was made into an Academy Award winning film, Grand Hotel. She had worked as a journalist for the magazine Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung but emigrated to the US after being invited to write the screenplay for the film. She wrote more than 50 novels, and at least 10 were adapted as motion pictures in Hollywood. She died of leukemia in Hollywood in 1960.

Here's another unusual machine, an electric typewriter being used by English actress Dorothy Norse:
And, of course, who could forget Shirley Temple?
Finally, here is Pamela Curran (she starred in The Blob and Hogan's Heroes) at work on a typewriter (a Royal?):

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