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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Typewriter Erotica, 1929 Women's Tennis and a Murder Mystery: Fishy Stuff!?

The delectable (as delectable as any detective gets) doe-eyed Essie Davis as "The Honourable" Miss Phryne Fisher in the Australian TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Miss Fisher is a sort of sexy, shapely Miss Marple - only this foxy lady has far sillier, less plausible plot lines to follow. It's all part of the fun. The producers don't care too much about props matching the period, and she has been seen with a post-war Rheinmetall portable typewriter (maybe it's the same prop from the Dr Blake series?). Better still, she and her "Will they? Won't they?" love interest, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page), can decipher typewriter ribbon!!! Now that's clever - for 1929.
Her trademark snub-nosed gold-plated, pearl-handled Smith & Weston Model 36 .38 "Police Chief's Special" pistol is also a 1950 model, she flies a 1932 DH82 Tiger Moth and makes Trans-Pacific phone calls (possible from 1956). But, hey, who cares when one is looking at Essie? No old knitted cardies for Miss Fisher!
The producers of an Australian murder mystery television series went looking for appropriate period images to help illustrate a story about a sleazy photographer blackmailing women tennis players in Melbourne in 1929. What did they find? Paul Robert's Virtual Typewriter Museum webpage publicising his fascinating 2003 book Sexy Legs and Typewriters: Women in Office-Related Advertising, Humor, Glamour and Erotica.
Yes, the bare naked tennis ladies weren't swinging racquets, they were pecking at typewriter keys. Maybe typing up their tennis reports? There wasn't even a pair of Gorgeous Gussie Moran's frilly knickers to be seen anywhere. Mind you, the gorgeous star of this series, Tasmanian Essie Davis, did get down to her non-tennis knickers for the benefit of the unsavoury lensman, which I suppose was some sort of compensation:
By chance I just happened to catch the latest episode of series three of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, "Game Set & Murder", on ABC TV last Friday night.
Imagine my surprise when well-known 1920s typewriter erotica images from Paul's book (and virtual typewriter museum) started popping up on my screen. Of course, Paul is not credited with unearthing these photos in the first place, which I guess is the way of the Web these days. All one has to do is key in "1920s erotica" on Google and, hey presto, up pops Paul's page:
The sight of so many typewriter photos was unexpected, given the ABC had promoted this episode thusly: "Our glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, swans into early 1929 Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit. Phryne hosts a tennis tournament to raise money for female tennis players, where the practice partner of a rising star dies; A murder investigation reveals Phryne's hidden fear."
Fletcher Humphrys as the blackmailing snapper
Notwithstanding Miss Fisher's use of a post-war Reinmetall portable typewriter, the ABC describes this series as a "meticulously constructed world" which "follows the independent, glamorous and unflappable leading lady detective ... This lush take on the traditional crime drama explores the fascinating and varied sub cultures of 1920s 'between-the-wars' Melbourne. From the shadowy lanes of the city to the halls of academia, from high-class brothels to haute couture, she defends the innocent and juggles admirers with her usual panache, all the while keeping up her delicious dance around Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page)." I suspect whoever wrote that is a bit of a lush themselves.
The series is based on the work of Kerry Greenwood.
Deborah Kennedy plays Regina Charlesworth in a 2012 episode,  "Away with the Fairies", as the editor of Women's Choice magazine.

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