Steamboats in the Movies, Page 2


The little sternwheel ferry EL CAPITAN (built St. Louis 1903) which operated at Natchez, Mississippi. Here she's doing duty as a movie boat in the 1929 MGM movie HALLELUJAH directed by King Vidor with an all African American cast. Most likely taken at the Mississippi River landing at Memphis, Tennessee, same place I boarded the DELTA QUEEN in September '93, bound upriver for the mouth of the Ohio River and thence to Cairo, Illinois, Paducah, Kentucky and concluding the journey at Cincinnati, Ohio.


Screen capture of the GORDON C. GREENE from David O. Selznick's 1939 spectacular Civil War epic Gone With the Wind (for the sequence of Rhett and Scarlett's honeymoon trip to New Orleans).

When I visited New Orleans historian Ray Samuel's Garden District home he showed me his darkroom where a Hollywood cinematographer loaded a 3 strip Technicolor camera before filming this brief scene. Must've been photographed just before sunrise (or close to sunset). A veteran meteorologist might be able to tell which.


A steamboat built for THE LEGEND OF TARZAN feature film

The Belgian sternwheel steamboat "ADELAAR" was built on the Lake Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park, Surrey, England for the 2016 Warner Bros. movie “The Legend of Tarzan” which takes place along the Congo in Africa during 1889 and 1890. The name "Adelaar" translates as "EAGLE" in the Dutch/Flemish language. The top photo is from iamag.

The bottom image from artofvfx is a digital composite made to include a distant port on shore and crocodiles swimming towards the sinking steamboat during a fight on board between Tarzan and the villain, Captain Rom near the end of the movie.


Three little contemporary riverboats were remodeled to play antebellum steamers for Disney's 1993 adaptation of HUCK FINN filmed here at Natchez, Mississippi.

"Phelps Landing" refers to Tom Sawyer's Uncle Silas Phelps whose Arkansas farm is nearby and where the captured runaway slave Jim is kept prisoner prior to the happy ending of Mark Twain's novel upon which the movie is based. As in several other adaptations of HUCK FINN, Tom Sawyer does not appear in this film.

The big New Orleans excursion steamboat NATCHEZ also makes a cameo appearance early in this movie.

The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993)
Written and Directed by Stephen Sommers
Elijah Wood as Huck
Courtney B. Vance as Jim

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Photos by Erik Heinila taken during the filming in Belize (Central America) of the 1993 Turner Features television adaptation directed by Nicolas Roeg from a teleplay by Benedict Fitzgerald of Joseph Conrad's HEART OF DARKNESS that first appeared as a three-part series in Blackwood's Magazine in 1899 and was then published in book form in 1902.

In the Turner Features adaptation John Malkovich played Kurtz who "flipped his lid" and became a ruthless despot of a village of Africans at "Central Trading Station" far up the Congo River.

Joseph Conrad had been Captain of a Belgian riverboat called the "Roi des Belges," (as this movie boat is also called) during the late 1880's but Conrad's boat was at least twice as big as this one and probably big enough for a few modest staterooms, galley and mini-dining room. Conrad later said that Mark Twain's description of river piloting in LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI came to mind while he was navigating the Congo.

Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 epic war movie APOCALYPSE NOW was an updated adaptation of HEART OF DARKNESS set during the Vietnam War with Marlon Brando as Kurtz.

Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer (MOVIE) has a beautiful CGI animated sequence of the Mississippi at New Orleans (pre-Civil War) with many sidewheel and sternwheel steamboats paddling, smoking and steaming away on the river and more tied up along the shoreline. Widescreen AND 3D! I knew sooner or later a major motion picture studio would digitally re-create those lamented lost packets of that bygone era in a picture show. Was amazed to see how ambitious the project was rather than just going low-budget with one or two steamboats.

This is concept art only and not a scene that I recall being fully realized and included in the movie. The steamboat appears to be the modern NATCHEZ, darkened down to look more vintage but with tell-tale modern details from the 1975 replica that make it an anachronism in the antebellum South.

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Attached digital animation frame of the final high angle vantage point at the end of an approximately 13 second scene of the Mississippi River and steamboats at New Orleans on Friday November 18, 1842 in the fantasy/horror spin on a chapter in U.S. history "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter" (2012). Just received the DVD today.

(I calculated the date from Thursday, November 4th, 1842 when Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd which in the movie takes place shortly before the New Orleans sequence).

The steamboat left of center continues steaming forward while the steamboat at center steams into the distance as the camera simultaneously rises to this high angle view during the last approximately 7 seconds of the scene.

Abe Lincoln and sidekick Joshua Speed have journeyed to New Orleans to rescue their African American friend Will Johnson from a coven of thirsty vampires led by boss vampire-in-chief "Adam" who had sent our heroes an invitation "commanding their presence" in his "grand ballroom" in New Orleans at "Eden Plantation" on "the third Friday of the month."

"Unholy Adam" is re-enacting "Biblical creation" at his own Garden of Eden, his objective being to replace Man with the Undead. The vampires are also slave holders and Southerners who will lead Dixie in the Rebellion against the Union.

Russian HUCK FINN 1972 six screen captures

Sovsem propashchiy "Hopelessly Lost" (1972)

Russian film adaptation of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Directed by Georgi Daneliya
Screenplay by Georgi Daneliya & Viktoriya Tokareva
Filmed on the Dnieper River, Russia
Release Date: 1974 (in Finland)

Roman Madyanov...Huck ("Gek")
Vakhtang Kikabidze...Duke
Evgeni Leonov...King
Feliks Imokuede...Jim


Having finally seen a blurry DVD of this movie I realized that this stylized mock-up of a steamboat actually "moved" as it came in for a landing but it was not possible to tell if it was actually on water or on a dry surface on a track of some kind to give the illusion of being in a river. The landscaping and edge of the wooden wharf concealed most of the hull so the illusion was disguised.

The set was foreshortened with the paddlebox much farther forward than it actually would have been on a sidewheeler. The smokestacks are very short so the boat was probably framed by the camera operator in such a way that the tops of these stacks would not be seen. Wallace Beery is the chap wearing an eye patch and the Dapper Dan with the cane is Buddy Rogers.


Charles 'Buddy' Rogers... Tom Rumford
Wallace Beery... General Orlando Jackson

This is the second film adaptation of Booth Tarkington's play "Magnolia." The first version was "The Fighting Coward" (1924), filmed at Natchez and using Captain Cooley's steamboat AMERICA as the "Winfield Scott." The third and final version was "Mississippi" (1935) with W.C. Fields and Bing Crosby. All 3 versions were made by Paramount.