Sunday, January 28, 2018

Colored streamlined five

Typewriters are shown in many films, being the 'every-day' objects that they were. Most are fairly standard and recognisable machines. In the '37 film 'Rhytm in the Clouds', it looks that a less common machine is shown.

The film itself is a low-budget, fairly simple comedy with music and some romance. Typical of its genre/time; unpretentious, light entertainment. (If curious, the film can be found on the net - a.o. on the Archive.)

Around 8 minutes into the story, the songwriter (Warren Hull) is sitting at his typewriter in his swanky apartment. It looks quite clearly a Remington portable #5.

When the story again is at his apartment around the 40 minute mark, the machine is shown more clearly and it definitely is a Remington streamlined #5 portable typewriter. (Swanky, spacious apartment - with a white phone too.)

What is notable and unusual is that the machine shows quite light in the film. The regular black #5 typewriter would show very dark in the picture, but this machine definitely is not black.

Remington made #2 and especially the #3 portables in many colors, but the #5 came in black. Only by the late 'forties was the #5 made in crinkle grey, but this scene was filmed in '37. Did it also come in colors? It did come as a Smith Premier machine with a red top-cover. The machine shown is however not red, as reds would have shown darker with the film used at the time - as well as the whole machine being light.

A brief search on the hive-mind that is the internet turned up the Remington teaching typewriter:

This is a streamlined #5, but finished in a greyish shade of tan. That would be about right for the light shade in the film. (For larger images; there is currently one on offer at Etsy.)

Did the prop department of Republic give the songwriter a beginners, teaching machine? In the last scene with the machine, the camera briefly shows the keyboard - no visible signs of colored columns of keys. Maybe they went to the trouble of painting a machine to match the general luxury of his apartment - for a low-budget Republic production, that however seems a bit too much.

So maybe the wealthy songwriter did get a colored keys teaching machine :-)


  1. Sometimes it is difficult to tell about the typewriters. One night Mrs. M and I were watching an old movie where the same scene from different angles had 2 different typewriters and the typist did not miss a beat. Then if you remember The Andy Griffith Show they used several models throughout the series, including a Royal 10 where Barny was typing in a form by using the space bar only. Absolutely no clack(s) of a typebar in the scene. So the prop dept. may have used a beginners machine in the move.

  2. Nice sighting. Maybe advanced students got a machine with blank key-tops.

  3. It could also be a US Navy one, those are beige.

  4. Good detective work. In my files I have a picture of another ivory-colored no. 5 with colored keys.

  5. Here's a light-colored no. 5 with all-black keys:

  6. Wow - there are many more light nr 5's than i thought :-)
    Though the touch-control was I think added post-war, at least was not on '37 machines. It would've been a bit suspect, the prop department having Navy property, the machine'd have been brand new (when did the Navy get them?) and not surplus.
    The key-rims in the scene shine nice and bright, nickeled - keytops almost but not quite in view...

    (Hadn't ever heard of the Andy Griffith show by the way, nice :) - thought we'd got nearly everything from the US - but there's still more! ;-)