Steamboats in the Movies
Universal Studio's Riverboat ENTERPRISE, Page 2
We all refer to the Universal Studios prop steamboat as the ENTERPRISE, since it was most remembered for its role by that name in the RIVERBOAT television series (1959-1961). Universal built the replica boat for the MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER (1953) staring Tyrone Power. It sat on a lake on the back lots of Universal Studios. Ultimately the ENTERPRISE was consumed by fire on the Universal lot.
Here's a partial list of shows featuring this replica boat:
MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER 1953 Universal, 1953
THE FAR COUNTRY - Universal, 1954
THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ - 20th Century Fox, 1954
MAN OF A 1,000 FACES - Universal, 1957
RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL - Universal, 1958)
RIVERBOAT - Revue Productions television series that was broadcast on NBC, 1959-1961
FOUR FOR TEXAS - Warner Bros., 1963
THIS PAGE shows the Enterprise in FOUR FOR TEXAS and other movies. To see the ENTERPRISE in MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER and the TV series RIVERBOAT, go to page 1 - click here.
Universal Studios Prop Boat in Four for Texas
In 1963 Warner Bros. rented the boat and filmed portions of FOUR FOR TEXAS on Universal's back lot "lake." There was a sequence where they transformed the boat from a neglected sternwheeler to this spic and span casino boat LA MAISON ROUGE, supposedly in Galveston, Texas. The two big stars of the movie were Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Here are two starboard views.
The painting above was made to cross dissolve to the live action footage below. If you look closely the only human figure from the live action which is included in the painting is the deck hand at work on the sign board on the side of the pilot house. Whoever the artist was had to be an accomplished illustrator since the painting has that distinctive illustration style to it. Would be interesting to know if Universal preserved the art work or if it ended up in private hands.
As part of the storyline of FOUR FOR TEXAS the ENTERPRISE was transformed from the drab SULTANA to the elegant LA MAISON ROUGE. Nothing like paint, gingerbread and brass belts around the smokestacks to give a boat some pizzazz. - Dave
The art department did a nice job freshening up the full sized prop from a neglected packet to the casino boat "La Maison Rouge," which in the screenplay is located in Galveston Bay off the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.
Seen above, the prop boat's pilot house "dolled up" in day and night shots in FOUR FOR TEXAS.
Other Appearances of the Universal Studios Prop Boat
After its debut in THE GAMBLER, Universal's prop steamboat got pressed into service in the 1954 James Stewart Western directed by Anthony Mann entitled THE FAR COUNTRY that begins in Seattle in 1896 and ventures up to Alaska with a boat load of cattle during the Klondike gold rush. The top two frames were "matte shots" in which much of the upper portion of the scene was a painted in post-production, enhancing the steamboat and adding mountains in the distance
Some footage taken of the HENDERSON on the Columbia River for the 1952 James Stewart Western BEND OF THE RIVER, also directed by Anthony Mann served to give the illusion that the "CHINOOK" (as the boat is called in THE FAR COUNTRY) is paddling from Seattle to Alaska. Frames from BEND OF THE RIVER can be found among our earlier postings of movie stills.
Universal's prop boat in THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ—20th Century Fox, 1954. The screenplay was inspired by the classic revenge story "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas, introduced as a serial in France in 1844 - 45. Appropriately this saga of a gambler from Natchez saga also takes place in the 1840's.
Returning to New Orleans, following four years of army service in Texas in the 1840s, Captain Vance Colby finds his father, a professional gambler, has been killed. The police tell him his father was killed while caught cheating in a card game by Andre Rivage, an arrogant young dilettante. Vance protests that his father was an honest gambler and never used marked cards, but the police inspector tells him there were witnesses. Aided by a riverboat owner, Captain Barbee, and his daughter, Melanie, Vance sets out to clear his father's name and avenge his death.
I have not yet seen the movie which is available on DVD from "Loving the Classics." Will be interesting to see if stock footage of a real steamboat or if a scale model was used to show the boat paddling away on the Mississippi. lovingtheclassics.com
"LILY SCARLET" in Duel on the Mississippi 1955
Universal prop Riverboat (a.k.a. ENTERPRISE) without any smokestacks in an "exploitation" flick directed by William Castle (best known for many low budget shockers like The House on Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts and The Tingler). Released by Columbia Pictures in '55
This time Universal's riverboat bears the same name as the movie's leading lady "Lily Scarlet" (Patricia Medina).
Available on DVD from Amazon.com.
DUEL ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Director: William Castle
Release date January 1st, 1955
1 hr. 12 min.
An aristocrat (Lex Barker) has a machete duel with the leader (Warren Stevens) of a Creole girl's (Patricia Medina) bayou gang in 1820s Louisiana.
Publicist's tag line"THE ROARING STORY OF THE NOTORIOUS LILI SCARLET—GAMBLING QUEEN OF THE MISSISSIPPI!"
A little longer synopsis:
In bustling era of 19th-century Louisiana, sugar is as valuable as gold, and pirates like Lily Scarlet (Patricia Medina) will do anything to get it. After robbing Jules Tulane's (John Dehner) estate of his crop, Scarlet takes over Tulane's land debt and forces him to pay or go to prison. In exchange for postponing his debt, Scarlet allows Tulane's son, André (Lex Barker), to work as her servant. When André and Scarlet fall in love, it leads to jealous rage from Scarlet's former paramour, expert swordsman Hugo (Warren Stevens) - and when Hugo looks to raid the Tulane estate again, it is up to André and Scarlet to take him down and save the estate.
Appearing in MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES, 1957.
The attached frame is from the Comedy/Western RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL (1958), starring War Hero turned Actor Audie Murphy. Murphy's co-star Walter Matthau as "Judge Kyle" lived aboard the little shantyboat on the far left.
A recent photo of Universal's riverboat.
Photo of a scale model of the ENTERPRISE "Riverboat" - most likely in a pond in the middle of a walkway at Universal Studio. The name "MATTERHORN" was superimposed in the lower left corner outside of the oval vignette so this photo probably came from a theme-park web site or blog (the name "Matterhorn" derived from the attraction at DISNEYLAND which is about 1 10th the size of the actual mountain on the border of Switzerland and Italy).
The model was probably functional and used to film scenes of the ENTERPRISE for the RIVERBOAT series in a miniature "riverscape" with a scaled down "wooded shoreline" and water that was activated to simulate a current. The model could have run on a track or may have been radio controlled.
The photograph of the model was most likely taken when it was on display outdoors in a pond in the middle of a walkway somewhere on Universal's property.