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Friday, 16 December 2011

Hunter S on a Nakajima Typewriter? A Rum Idea!

A month or so ago, somebody listed a Royal Skylark portable typewriter for sale on US eBay. In the listing description, the seller suggested this was the sort of Royal typewriter which would have been used by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway with a plastic portable!? I don't think so.
But talking about shooting typewriters ...
Just as ridiculous a concept is the typewriter which is seen being used by Johnny Depp playing the Hunter S.Thompson (Paul Kemp) character in the latest movie adaptation of a Thompson novel, The Rum Diary ("One part outrage. One part justice. Three parts rum. Mix well").
The Rum Diary premiered in Los Angeles on October 13.
I haven't seen the movie yet, but stills from it clearly show the typewriter being used by Depp as Thompson-Kemp is a Nakajima. The film is apparently set in Puerto Rico in the 1950s, long before Nakajima typewriters were first made. Whether Thompson would have found one in the US, or Puerto Rico, even when they were made, is questionable.
It's a pretty cheap and nasty deception, I would suggest. Could the studio not afford something more akin to what Thompson would actually have used? In Fear and Loathing in La Vegas, the producers at least found a red IBM Selectric for Depp to carry, for the sake of absolute authenticity.(The Rum Diary was made by Depp's own production company, Infinitum Nihil).
Wikipedia tell us, "In 1960 Thompson moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to take a job with the sporting magazine El Sportivo, which folded soon after his arrival. Thompson applied for a job with the Puerto Rico English-language daily The San Juan Star,  but its managing editor, future novelist William J. Kennedy,  turned him down. Nonetheless, the two became friends and after the demise of El Sportivo, Thompson worked as a stringer for the New York Herald Tribune and a few stateside papers on Caribbean issues with Kennedy working as his editor."
Thompson worked in Big Sur immediately after Puerto Rico. The photographs taken at Big Sur of Thompson and his typewriter show he was using what I am pretty sure is an Olympic SF portable.
In The Rum Diary, Depp plays "American journalist Paul Kemp [who] takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1950s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there." "[He] finds himself at a critical turning point in his life while writing for a run-down newspaper in the Caribbean. Paul is challenged on many levels as he tries to carve out a more secure niche for himself amidst a group of lost souls all bent on self-destruction."
Lost souls? Self-destruction? OK, but that still doesn't justify a Nakajima!


Bill M said...

Thanks for the interesting post. It is good to know someone else can point out inaccuracies in the movies. I do it frequently with radio and fire fighter things. I do have a Nakajima typewriter and really like it surprisingly since it is a Japanese mostly plastic case typer. It was made for Olympia. A model B12.

Cameron said...

This post highlights a pet peeve of mine: That a film costing millions upon millions of dollars would not exercise total AUTHENTICITY in each and every prop!

It doesn't require a rocket scientist to match an appropriate typewriter to the period.

MAJOR fail, I say.

Fabian said...

Are you sure it's a Nakajima? The label on it says it's a Royal, if i read it right.. Look here:

Greetings from Germany, Fabian

btw: Kudos to your site, I like it very much!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Fabian. Thanks. Yes, it's most definitely a Nakajima. Litton Industries owned Royal and at the time had its machines (also including Imperials) made by Nakajima. Many thousands of these are in existence, and that is just in Australia alone! The exact same machines from Nakajima are readily available in many dozens of other brand or model names. It's quite possibly the world's most common typewriter.

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Fabian. In hindsight, I probably should have explained that the manufacturer is Nakajima. Since there are as many as 30 or 40 different brand and model names attached to these same-design typewriters, we tend not to identify them by those brand or model names, but simply as Nakajimas. There isn't much point in trying to separate them by brand or model name, as they all are the same typewriter. Herce they are grouped together as Nakajimas, not Royals, Imperials, Majestics, AusRoyals, ALLs, KMarts etc etc etc - you name it, Nakajima made it.