There Are Two Eyes in Olivetti
Posted on April 11, 2015
So there I am enjoying the entertainment that is the Tim Burton-directed movie Big Eyes, not thinking about typewriters at all, when Dino Olivetti appears out of nowhere (played by Guido Furlani).
Guido with Amy Adams
After Walter Keane (Christopher Walz) persuades the owner of the Hungry i jazz-and-folk club to let him exhibit paintings in a hallway to the washrooms, it’s the big-eyed child paintings of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) rather than the Montmartre street scenes purportedly painted by Walter, that attract the attention of the typewriter tycoon.
When Dino’s personal assistant enquires who the artist is, Walter takes the credit and negotiates a sale. Dino Olivetti walks out with a painting, leaving Walter with a $5000 dollar cheque.
After that Walter and Margaret fall into a downward spiral of lies and deception and I’m keeping my eyes open for an Olivetti typewriter. Instead I have to settle for a Remington Standard on the desk of Dick Nolan, columnist for The San Francisco Examiner (Danny Huston) …
… and a very fleeting glimpse of a Royal Empress, which gets about as much screen time (hardly any) as Terrance Stamp does in his role as John Canaday, New York Times art critic …
ghostly (ghastly) mobile phone image!
Still, two typewriters are better than nothing, and the movie is fun to watch – an enjoyable romp in the style of Populaire. No surprise, of course, to learn that there was room in the Olivetti budget for a $5000 oil painting.
Dino had an eye for art, and an eye for technology.
Olivetti’s business philosophy was, after-all, one that combined art with technology, history with modernity. Olivetti stores were fitted-out not just to sell typewriters, but to convey an image of the company. Take for example, a 1978 exhibition dedicated to the journalist, writer and artist Dino Buzzati …
Olivetti store, The Piazza San Marco, Venice
Dino Olivetti was born in July 1912 in the Convent of San Bernardino in Ivrea, Italy, the youngest and sixth son of Camillo Olivetti and Luisa Revel.
After graduating from the Polytechnic of Turin, he was conscripted into the military and served in the African campaign (in Ethiopia). At the end of the campaign, instead of returning to Ivrea, Dino flew directly from Naples to Boston (a trip advocated by his father) where he completed a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1940 he married Rosemond Castle and moved to Brazil to take care of the Olivetti factory in San Paolo. In 1941, during a trip from Brazil to the United States, he was captured by allied forces and taken to a prison camp in Trinidad.
Eventually he was allowed to return to the United States and began working for North American Aviation in Kansas City, Missouri (1942-1945), and then for the Diamond Instrument Company of Wakefield, Massachusetts (1945-1946).
After the war, Dino returned to Ivrea and worked alongside his brother Adriano as Technical Director of Olivetti. In the early ’50s, he returned to the United States as President and Director of the newly established Olivetti Corporation of America (OCA).
In 1952, seeing which way the wind was blowing, Dino persuaded his brother Adriano to fund an electronics research laboratory (LRE) in New Canaan, Connecticut – an initiative which grew out of a fifty-fifty venture (Olivetti-Bull) that produced electronic card-punching machines in direct competition with IBM. The research undertaken at the LRE, and other research centres in Italy, led to the development of mid-range computers such as the ELEA 9003.
The LRE was closed down in 1961 and relocated to Milan.
Dino Olivetti returned to Italy in 1958. He died suddenly of a heart attack (like his brothers Adriano and Massimo) in 1976.