September 1975 – A wide-carriage Olympia manual typewriter is sighted in a hotel on “the English Riviera” (Torquay) – or to be more specific – makes an  appearance in the opening scene of  “A Touch of Class” – the first broadcast episode of the classic BBC sit-com, Fawlty Towers.


My best guess is an early 1970’s Olympia SM9 De Luxe (a later model with a more slimline design and a wide carriage) – although after an online search I haven’t been able to find a typewriter with a footprint as wide as the carriage – however I did note that this typewriter is not dissimilar in size and shape to an electric “Olympia Report”, so possibly it’s a manual predecessor to that model?

The “Fawlty Typer” –  situated as it is on the reception desk in the hotel lobby – appears regularly in subsequent episodes (except episode 5) of the first series.


Above and below, we see the Olympia being used by hen-pecked Basil (John Cleese) to type-up a guest’s bill, under instruction from his on-screen wife, Sybil (Prunella Scales).


Below, we see a shot of the same typewriter with chambermaid Polly (played by Connie Booth, the then wife of John Cleese in real-life)…


At the end of the series (Episode 6: “The Germans”) the typewriter is put to less conventional use during an abortive fire drill which escalates into a real fire emergency.

In an attempt to stop the alarm bell ringing, Basil picks up the typewriter…


… clearly it’s not a very portable model …


… and aims it at a fire alarm control box on the wall…


… of course, his aim misses completely…


.. and the typewriter disappears through the door of the inner office, never to be seen again.

In Series 2, the jettisoned Olympia (probably now truly “faulty”) has been replaced by a lighter model …


… and what appears to be an Olympia Traveller…


… or is it an Olympiette?


Whichever it is, it can be dated prior to February 1979. when the first episode of the second series “Communication Problems” was first broadcast.

Here’s a modified-for-the-Typosphere extract from “The Germans” – taken from my copy of “The Complete Fawlty Towers”  – published by Methuen-Mandarin, 1989.

BASIL. (to the Major) We’ve got some Germans arriving tomorrow morning, so Polly’s brushing up another one of her languages.

MAJOR.  Germans! Coming here!

BASIL. Just for a couple of days, Major…

MAJOR. I don’t much care for Germans!

BASIL. I know what you mean, but…

MAJOR. A bunch of Krauts! That’s what they are, all of ’em. Bad eggs!

BASIL. Yes, well, forgive and forget, Major…

MAJOR. You’ve got to love ’em, though, I suppose, haven’t you?

BASIL. … Germans?

MAJOR.  No, no – typewriters! Hate Germans!

POLLY. What about German typewriters?

MAJOR. Good typers… but mind, I wouldn’t give ’em the time of day…

A Quick Fawlty Update