Steamboats in the Movies, page 2




Queen of the Yukon 1940 "prop" steamboat on Cedar Lake San Bernadino Moutains

This 8 x 10 movie still of a prop steamboat built by Monogram Studio for a Far North gold rush story on the Yukon River came from an eBay dealer in the Netherlands and provides a nice high angle image of the studio built QUEEN OF THE YUKON at "White River Landing" in the northwest corner of man-made Cedar Lake in the San Bernadino Mountains near Big Bear Lake. Cedar Lake served as a location in a great many Hollywood movies, most famously in HIGH SIERRA with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino in 1941.

The "prop" sternwheeler (that I have somewhere in a profile image on a 1940 lobby card for this movie) later served in at least one other movie, very likely one of the nine Royal Canadian Mounted Police hero "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon" adventures in which it was renamed the ARCTIC QUEEN. Have not yet found out how long the this mock-up of a steamboat was located on the lake and whether it sank, was scrapped or moved to Big Bear Lake to serve in some other capacity. Have included files of the mill and the lake and the prop boat when it was renamed ARCTIC QUEEN.

The rustic mill on the right (designated as the "White River Trading Post" for this movie, was built for the 1936 Technicolor spectacular THE TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE, a romance set during a feud in the mountains of Kentucky. I bought a jumbo postcard of this mill on Cedar Lake during summer vacation from high school in nearby Lake Arrowhead and I built a good sized wooden scale model of the mill but I my only reference was an Eastern elevation so I had to imagine how the other 3 sides looked. In a contemporary color photos taken from across the lake the Western elevation of the mill and another view taken from the South it appears that the building has been completely rebuilt along the same lines but of upgraded construction and may serve as a social center or restaurant these days. Cedar Lake has been and probably continues to be a Christian summer camp that includes cabins and other facilities.

The following "preview"regarding QUEEN OF THE YUKON from a 1939 publication promoting upcoming 1940 movie releases sounds like it was written by one of Monogram's publicists. I've prefaced that "preview" with PUNQ's summation from letterboxd dot com which is closer to the mark as far as appraising the production values of the film. The only DVD I've found of the movie so far was of such poor quality that it was very difficult to watch. It a mint condition print of the film could be transferred to Blu-ray it would be much improved.

The screenplay was supposedly based on a Jack London story but so far I've only found one tale by him that featured steamboats, it was called "Trust" and I have included the opening of that story below the reviews.

Reviewed by PUNQ
"Veteran actors Charles Bickford & Irene Rich are good. Queen of the Yukon (1940) is based on Jack London's writings, that's all good too.

But this is a Monogram picture, so the rest isn't. Rough uninspired production as always from the little company."

From: The MOVIES . . . and the people who make them. (1940)
Published weekly by Theatre Patrons, Inc., New Haven, Conn.:


(Running time, 74 minutes)

Produced and distributed by Monogram

Director: Phil Rosen

Screenplay: Joseph West

Story: Jack London

Photography: Harry Neumann
Editor: Russell Schoengarth
Glenn Cook Assistant Director

Paul Malvern Associate Producer
R. Schoengarth Film Editor
Edward Kay Music Director

Karl Zint Sound Engineer
Scott R. Dunlap Company
E. R. Hickson Technical director

C. J. Bigelow Production Manager
Scott R. Dunlap in charge of production


Ace - Charles Bickford

Sadie - Irene

Rich Thorne - Melvin Long

Grab - George Cleveland

Stake - Guy Usher

Helen - June Carlson

Bob - Dave O'Brien

Carson - Tris Coffin

"Effective Jack London action melodrama featuring Irene Rich as the operator of a river gambling boat who sells out to a crooked mining company after her young daughter arrives from the states. The usual complications result in the culprit's confession and marriages all around. For many years Sadie Martin as the "Queen" of the Yukon has reigned aboard her gambling boat, steadfastly refusing to sell out to Thorne, representative of the Yukon Mining Company. When Sadie learns, however, that daughter Helen, who is unaware of her mother's occupation, is coming for a visit, she determines to cover up by making a deal with Thorne. Helen thinks her mother's profession is a thrilling one, and she even neglects Bob, her young surveyor friend, in order to indulge a schoolgirl's crush for Ace, Sadie's tough lieutenant. The mining company, meanwhile, cheats the miners and Thorne involves Bob by giving him compromising paper to file. Bob learns the truth, returns to trounce Thorne, who finally signs a confession. A double wedding, Ace and Sadie, Helen and Bob, caps the complications. Irene Rich as Sadie presides over the gambling tables with calm precision, slips into the mother role with ease and conviction. Charles Bickford as Ace is properly hard-fisted and harsh when he needs to be. June Carlson is decorative enough as the adolescent Helen, while Dave O'Brien is adequate as surveyor Bob. George Cleveland and Guy Usher as gin-swigging miners work in a bit of comedy. The film includes some nice fist-swinging and a number of other exciting action scenes. Both direction and photography are accomplished."


First something from Wikipedia about the White River in Yukon Territory which the photo from the movie includes signage for "White River Landing and Trading Post."

The White River (French: Rivière Blanche) is a tributary about 200 miles (320 km) long, of the Yukon River in the U.S. state of Alaska and the Canadian territory of Yukon. The Alaska Highway crosses the White River near Beaver Creek. The White River is glacier-fed and contains large amounts of suspended sediment. It transports 19 million tons of sediment per year in the upper part of its basin. This dramatically changes the clarity of the Yukon River, which remains sediment laden from the confluence to its mouth.

Trust by Jack London, 1908

All lines had been cast off, and the Seattle No. 4 was pulling slowly out from the shore.

Her decks were piled high with freight and baggage, and swarmed with a heterogeneous company of Indians, dogs, and dog-mushers, prospectors, traders, and homeward-bound gold-seekers.

A goodly portion of Dawson was lined up on the bank, saying good-bye.

As the gang-plank came in and the steamer nosed into the stream, the clamor of farewell became deafening.

Also, in that eleventh moment, everybody began to remember final farewell messages and to shout them back and forth across the widening stretch of water.

Louis Bondell, curling his yellow moustache with one hand and languidly waving the other hand to his friends on shore, suddenly remembered something and sprang to the rail.

"Oh, Fred!" he bawled. "Oh, Fred!

The "Fred" desired thrust a strapping pair of shoulders through the forefront of the crowd on the bank and tried to catch Louis Bondell's message.

The latter grew red in the face with vain vociferation.

Still the water widened between steamboat and shore.

"Hey, you, Captain Scott!" he yelled at the pilot-house. "Stop the boat!"

The gongs clanged, and the big stern wheel reversed, then stopped. All hands on steamboat and on bank took advantage of this respite to exchange final, new, and imperative farewells.



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.

recent acquisitions

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.

steamboats in movies

Buster Keaton, 1928 as Steamboat Bill Jr. on the Sacramento River.




Buster Keaton STEAMBOAT BILL Jr. Lobby Card


The attached photo is Keaton's co-star Ernest Torrence as Captain William "Steamboat Bill" Canfield Senior. Sitting on a capstan aboard the STONEWALL JACKSON loading his corn cob pipe with tobacco from a pouch.

Keaton's STEAMBOAT BILL JR. 1928 6 frames

Attached 6 screen captures from Buster Keaton's 1928 silent action/comedy filmed on the Sacramento River, STEAMBOAT BILL, JR.

Steamboat KING (twin stacks) belongs to the father of Keaton's love interest. The STONEWALL JACKSON (single stack) belongs to Keaton's Dad.