The Typewriters of James Bond 007: Dr. No

It’s been high time for a rewatch of the James Bond film series, and since I’ve been spending my typewriter money on DVD’s at the thrift store these days, my selection of the nice MGM digital restorations with director’s commentary has grown. I’ve watched these movies so often on VHS or on broadcast or cable TV in the 80’s and 90’s that they have become comfort food – movies you put on in the background while you do something else. So familiar that I don’t really pay much attention when re-watching.

So to really make this rewatch a special experience, I’m going with the director’s commentary audio and a special attention to spotting the typewriters. If I go at it with a specific reason to be especially observant, I tend to see quite a lot more of the details of what’s happening on-screen. This time was no exception – I learned a lot of details about the plot that I had either forgotten or never saw in poorer-quality prints where the far background was difficult to make out. Some important plot points happen way back of the frame that knit together some rough edges in the story. It was an enriching viewing… and also I screenshot all the typewriters I saw! :D

And there weren’t much. Nobody actually uses a typewriter in the film, and the ones that do appear are just set dressing. In fact, while a typewriter appears in 4 scenes of the film, at 4 different locations, I’m pretty sure it is the same machine each time. I’d guess that the production rented a single mid-50’s Royal HH (1952-1957), notably the model previous to what would have been the brand-new FP at the time of filming, and use that same machine to dress every set that needed a typewriter in the background. The first time we see this machine is early in the film at Strangways’ home, when Dr. No’s assassins kill Strangway’s secretary and steal the files on Crab Key and Dr. No – one assassin throws a set of keys to another and that one runs to a cabinet. As he runs, the camera whip-pans with him across the room, and we see a blur of a typewriter on a desk in the background. It flashes past within just a few frames, and even going frame-by-frame on the DVD, I couldn’t get a non-blurry shot of it. Still, we can see it’s a grey-ish machine. Not much else, though. This might not be the HH, as I examine it now – kind of looks like the return lever turns *down* and it might be a portable. Real hard to tell.A few scenes later, we meet James Bond for the first time in the iconic “cigarette hanging from the lip” moment, and then Bond heads to M’s office to get his assignment. As will be the case in future films, we get a scene with Bond and Miss Moneypenny in the front office, and we can *always* count on Moneypenny having a typewriter – and here we get a pretty clear shot of Moneypenny’s Mid-50’s Royal HH. Easy ID on that one – and also, look! A kidney-shaped Roneo Spirit Duplicator – bonus! (: Later on in the film as Bond is following clues, he visits Professor Dent’s office to ask about samples that Strangways had analyzed by the professor. On Dent’s secretary’s desk, a mid-50’s Royal HH. From the back, we can always ID them from the speed control knob beneath the carriage on the left side. Same machine as the one in Moneypenny’s office? hard to say from the different views, but could be, at this point. The fourth and last appearance of this machine is shortly after the previous scene, but the action has shifted to Government House as Bond picks up his Geiger Counter. He catches the secretary there listening at the keyhole, and in that scene, we see a mid-50’s Royal HH sitting on a filing cabinet. Same machine? Well, it’s getting very likely. It would be reasonable to assume that the cash-strapped production of the first film only bothered to rent a single typewriter for set dressing and used it in the few scenes needing one. The rental house probably provided a well-used machine that might have been previously seen in productions spanning the 4 or so years previous to the filming of Dr. No, when that machine would have been the newest model available for modern office settings. We can see in this shot that the machine doesn’t really look very clean, and to me the back logo label looks a bit marred. So there you have it – the typewriter (most likely, rather than “typewriters”) of James Bond 007: Dr. No! Stay tuned for future installments of Typewriters in Bond Films!
And the Series Continues:
Typewriters of James Bond 007: From Russia With Love

Updated: April 8, 2024 — 10:28 am


Add a Comment
  1. Very fitting typewriters for a spy since they’re built like tanks and work great. I love the palm operated tab keys. I have one from 52 (HHE) and 54 (HHP).

  2. I do the same comfort-food rewatching with a number of classics. Such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus or Kubrick films. Just about once a year I put them back on. Kind of funny the whole movie only had 1 typewriter re-used throughout… And spirit duplicators; I’m only just old enough to remember them from school. Ah, the smell of a fresh ditto! -Mitch

  3. Love it! Two of my favorite interests converge. Looking forward to the next installment. “James Bond Typewriters will be back … in From Russia with Love”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.