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Tuesday 1 December 2020

Goldfingers: The James Bond Royal Portable Typewriter

The London Daily Mirror’s “Collecting” column on April 11, 1995, estimated that Ian Fleming’s gold-plated Royal Quiet De Luxe portable typewriter would, the following month, fetch between £5000 and £8000 (at 1995 exchange rates, $US8000 to $US12,800). As it turned out, at the auction at Christie’s in South Kensington on May 5, an anonymous bidder won the item for more than seven times the high side of that forecast - £56,250 (at that time $US90,500).

Fleming had commissioned the typewriter from the Royal Typewriter Company in New York in 1952 for 
£100 ($US174), and had written many of his James Bond books with it, starting with Casino Royale. After the auction, Christie's press officer Freya Sims said, “We had a lot of interest from abroad and we had six telephone lines going.” In the event, the typewriter sale completely overshadowed the offering of paraphernalia and works which had belonged to Sir Winston Churchill, to coincide with Victory in Europe Day (May 8). Fierce bidding for Fleming's typewriter drew gasps of excitement from the crowd as prices spiraled.

An Irish psychotherapist called Tony Quinn had been sent to Christie’s to do the bidding on behalf of the buyer, under strict orders to get it “at any cost”. Quinn, who had connections to the entertainment business, was told to keep bidding. “
Just go in there and buy it. That was my brief.” He refused to identify his successful client, except to say he was involved in the film industry. “He's a James Bond fan, but I wouldn't call him a collector,” Quinn said.

It soon transpired that the new owner of the Fleming typewriter was Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, who was to play James Bond in four movies based on Fleming’s novels. Eleven months before the typewriter auction, Brosnan had been announced as the fifth actor to play Bond, signing a three-film deal with the option of a fourth. He used a large slice of the proceeds to acquire the Fleming Royal in the hope that using it would help him get inside Bond’s head. Brosnan’s first Bond movie was 1995's GoldenEye, released seven months after Brosnan had bought the golden Royal. Brosnan's ploy with the typewriter worked. He was praised for making Bond “somehow more sensitive, more vulnerable, more psychologically complete”. Brosnan returned to Bond in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies and 1999's The World Is Not Enough, and finally in 2002 in Die Another Day. 


Bill M said...

Sure was an expensive typewriter!

John Cooper said...

I thought Brosnan had the chops to be a great Bond, but the 007 movies in his time stretch were poor, so it's perhaps not entirely his fault he's not better remembered. (I'd place him better than Dalton, but below Lazenby.) I think it's fairly adorable that he was enthusiastic enough to spring for Ian Fleming's typewriter, even if it was pocket change for someone with a fresh three-plus movie contract.

Richard P said...

Testimony to the magic that we believe seeps into a writer's writing machine.