Typewriter Goof (Possibly Gag) in “Saving Private Ryan”

Wouldn’t you think that props in a modern movie about WWII would be historically accurate? Especially when that movie is the five Oscar-winning “Saving Private Ryan,” the props in question are typewriters, and the movie stars a prominent typewriter collector such as Mr. Tom Hanks?

Saving Private Ryan_Blu RayI hadn’t watched “Saving Private Ryan” in a few years, but pulled it off the shelf this evening to evaluate an upgrade to my home theater speakers (Klipsch Heresy, highly recommended). I was focused on the battle scenes, but couldn’t help noticing a certain out-of-place typewriter in profile at the 37-second mark in the following clip (00:28:42 in the film):

It’s one of the first typewriters you see in the typing pool scene, albeit for just a fraction of a second. Here’s a still so you can see it better:
IMG_2472And here’s a zoom of that same still:

IMG_2477Recognize it yet? It’s a second-generation Hermes Ambassador, circa mid-1950s. The platen knob and tab clearing lever are dead giveaways. Not exactly the typewriter you’d expect to see in a U.S. military typing pool on June 6, 1944, is it?

So what gives – did the props department goof up, or was someone (i.e. Tom Hanks) having fun and playing an inside prank; a dog whistle of sorts for the typewriter nerds?

Thoughts, anyone?








11 thoughts on “Typewriter Goof (Possibly Gag) in “Saving Private Ryan”

    • So do I, the more I think on it. I’m suspicious about a couple of other machines in that scene as well, but I’m less well-versed on German & Italian standards.

    • I agree, as allegedly, his first typewriter was a Hermes 2000 (Which would only be period correct, if it were in the SWISS Army.)

  1. I have a friend who is a propmaster, and it is a harder and busier job than you could imagine! In other shots of that scene you can see more of the machines in that room are correct, the Hermes was probably added to make a quota that had be reached by a deadline and was probably intentionally placed where it would be hard to see. Good eye though, I have seen this movie many times and not noticed the Hermes.

    • Welcome, Mark! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog from time to time.

      I’ve always wondered about the job of a propmaster and the folks who supply specific props such as working typewriters. I often see pre-War press photographers toting early 1950’s Graflex press cameras, but this is one of the first times I’ve noticed such a marked gaffe on the typewriter front.

      One typewriter friend suggested Mr. Hanks may have supplied the machines and was having fun; I’m now simply curious to know whether it was a propmaster on a deadline or an inside joke. If the latter, what’s the rest of the story? Does your friend happen to know anyone who worked on Saving Private Ryan?

    • I told my wife (who doesn’t collect but knows my favorite machines) that I spotted an anomaly, and when I replayed for her in slow motion, she said: “Hey! Isn’t that an Ambassador?” Granted, I usually have mine out so she knows Ambassadors better than the average civilian, but still…

    • It does add another dimension to movie-watching, that’s for sure. Perhaps people place these anomalous machines just for our benefit?

  2. Good catch. I’m guessing that no one ever figured that anyone would catch it, on the assumption that T. Hanks probably had his plate full with other aspects of the film. My two cents. ~T~

  3. Pingback: (More) Typewriter Gags in “Saving Private Ryan” | Click, Clack, DING!

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