A Celebration of Typewriters in Film & Television: A Supercut

There are a num­ber of ways to come at video essay­ist Ariel Avis­sar’s two-minute super­cut of type­writ­ers in action on film and tele­vi­sion.

Cin­e­ma buffs will itch to con­nect The Typewriter’s clips to titles. Here are some of the ones we were able to iden­ti­fy:


Stranger Than Fic­tion

Cit­i­zen Kane

Find­ing For­rester

The Mag­ic of Belle Isle

The Shin­ing


Mad Men

Bar­ton Fink

All the President’s Men


Ruby Sparks


And then there are the type­writer enthu­si­asts, more con­cerned with make and mod­el than any­thing relat­ing to cin­e­ma:





Clark Nova

Smith Coro­na

IBM Selec­tric

Giv­en the obses­sive nature of both camps, it’s not sur­pris­ing that there would be some crossover.

Here’s a delight­ful­ly nerdy inves­ti­ga­tion of the onscreen type­writ­ers in Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg’s adap­ta­tion of William S. Burrough’s nov­el.

This collector’s top 10 list gives extra con­sid­er­a­tion to scripts that “place type­writ­ers at the heart of the sto­ry.” First and sec­ond place fea­ture type­writ­ers on their posters.

An IBM Selec­tric III in Avissar’s super­cut caused one view­er to rem­i­nisce about the anachro­nis­tic use of Selec­tric IIs in Mad Men’s first sea­son sec­re­tar­i­al pool. Cre­ator Matthew Wein­er admits the choice was delib­er­ate. The first Selec­tric mod­el is peri­od appro­pri­ate, but much more dif­fi­cult to find and chal­leng­ing to main­tain, plus their man­u­al car­riage returns would have cre­at­ed a headache for sound edi­tors.

Avissar’s round up also serves to remind us of a par­tic­u­lar­ly mod­ern problem—the ongo­ing quest to por­tray texts and social media mes­sages effec­tive­ly on big and small screens. This dilem­ma didn’t exist back when type­writ­ers were the pri­ma­ry text-based devices. A close up of what­ev­er page was rolled onto the plat­en got the job done with a min­i­mum of fuss.

Two of the most cel­e­brat­ed type­writer sequences in film his­to­ry did not make the cut, pos­si­bly because nei­ther fea­tures actu­al work­ing type­writ­ers: the NSFW anthro­po­mor­phic type­writer-bug in David Cronenberg’s adap­ta­tion of William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch and Jer­ry Lewis’ inspired pan­tomime in Who’s Mind­ing the Store, per­formed, like Avissar’s super­cut, to the tune of com­pos­er Leroy Ander­son­’s The Type­writer.

Up for anoth­er chal­lenge? Which top Hol­ly­wood star is “obsessed with type­writ­ers”?

Watch more of Ariel Avissar’s super­cuts, includ­ing a super­moon trib­ute and The Silence of the Lambs’ “clever, care­ful fin­gers” on his Vimeo chan­nel.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Dis­cov­er Friedrich Nietzsche’s Curi­ous Type­writer, the “Malling-Hansen Writ­ing Ball” (Cir­ca 1881)

Dis­cov­er the Inge­nious Type­writer That Prints Musi­cal Nota­tion: The Keaton Music Type­writer Patent­ed in 1936

Ray Brad­bury Wrote the First Draft of Fahren­heit 451 on Coin-Oper­at­ed Type­writ­ers, for a Total of $9.80

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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