onlinesteamboatmuseum

Steamboats in the Movies, Page 3


MississippiGamblerJoanBennettSetForUncleTomsCabin

MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER 1929

This picture of Joan Bennett on the boiler deck goes with the photo of Joseph Schildkraut in the 1929 MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER. The name LA BELLE RIVIERE on the lifeboat / "yawl" suggests this was either actually taken aboard the KATE ADAMS when she was playing in UNCLE TOM's CABIN or that Universal had built a full-scale mock up of more than just the bow of the KATE ADAMS for the latter movie. From the lighting in this photograph it looks like it was taken at night or on a soundstage, in both cases with artificial light, as a "night scene." This almost looks like a negative image rather than a positive print.

GoneWiththeWindScreenCaptureGordonCGreene

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.

steamboat in night of the hunter

NightOfTheHunterJamesGleasonAsUncleBirdieSteptoeEXP

Charles Laughton directed Robert Mitchum in the 1955 suspense movie NIGHT OF THE HUNTER. Set in the Ohio River valley there was a brief sequence in which the DQ was featured.

Both scenes are special effects shots. The shanty boat in the foreground was "matted in" against a scene of the DQ filmed along the Ohio somewhere and for the scene inside the shanty boat they "rear projected" footage of the DQ making her way in the distance.

The little boy is Billy Chapin playing John Harper and the bearded shanty boater is veteran actor James Gleason as Birdie Steptoe.

The movie also used a couple of close ups of the DQ's whistle being blown.

The movie was based on a novel by Davis Grubb who set many of his stories along the Ohio River in the vicinity of Moundsville, West Virginia where he grew up.

Night of the Hunter was Laughton's only directorial effort and had a beautiful stylized black and white dream world feeling to it.

Screenplay by James Agee
Based on the novel

The Night of the Hunter
by Davis Grubb

THE DELTA QUEEN BLOWS HER WHISTLE AS SHE PASSES BY "UNCLE" BIRDIE STEPTOE'S LITTLE SHANTYBOAT WHICH HE REFERS TO AS "CRESAP'S LANDING'S WHARFBOAT" ON THE OHIO RIVER IN THIS FIRST SCENE WHEN YOUNG JOHN HARPER PAYS A CALL:

BIRDIE: (Referring to the steamboat's whistle): She don't put in Cresap's Landin' no more, but she still blows as she passes. Come on in and have a cup of coffee, boy.

JOHN: Ain't nobody stole Dad's skiff?

BIRDIE: Ain't nobody gonna neither as long as Uncle Birdie's around. First day my joints is limber enough, I'll haul her out and give her a good caulkin'. Ain't seen ya in a coon's age, boy.

JOHN: I've been mindin' Pearl. (John's little sister)

BIRDIE: Shucks. Ain't it a caution what a woman will load onto a man's back when he ain't lookin'? Excuse me, Cap while I sweeten my coffee. (Pours some whiskey into his cup of coffee) then looks at the framed photograph of his late wife): Dead and gone these 25 year and never takes her eyes off me. Man of my years needs a little snort in the mornin' to heat the boilers.

JOHN: Yeah.

BIRDIE: I was talkin' to this stranger up at the boardinghouse. He knowed your Dad.

JOHN: Where'd he know Dad?

BIRDIE: I'll not hide it from you, boy. He knowed him in the Moundsville Penitentiary.

JOHN: I gotta go now, Uncle Birdie.

BIRDIE: Well, you just got here, boy.

JOHN: I told Mom I'd be back to Spoon's for Pearl.

SECOND SCENE AT BIRDIE'S BOAT:

[Birdie plays the melody of Oh! Susanna and sings a song about himself]:

BIRDIE:

"'Twas down at Cresap's Landin' along the river shore and Birdie Steptoe was a pilot in the good old days of yore

Now he sets in his old wharf boat and all the big boats heave a sigh, they blow for Uncle Birdie and the times that ere gone by."

JOHN: When'll Dad's skiff be ready?

BIRDIE: Have her ready inside a week. Then we'll go fishing. You leavin', boy? -

JOHN: Yep. Gotta watch out for Pearl, Uncle Birdie.

BIRDIE: Well, good night, boy. Come again anytime. And mind, boy I'll have your Pa's skiff shipshape inside a week.

More from the novel
Night of the Hunter 1953
by Davis Grubb
pages 82 - 83

In the Ohio Valley it is the river that gives and takes the seasons. It is as if that mighty stream were the vast, alluvial artery of the land itself so that when the towns grow weary of snows and harsh fogs the great heart pumps green spring blood down the valley and the banks are warmed and nourished by it and soon the whole environing earth blossoms despite itself and the air comes alive and lambs caper and bleat upon the hillside paths.

And so now it was the prime of spring in the bottomlands. Soon the redbone hound would kelt in the creek hollows on nights when the moon was a curl of golden hair against the shoulder of the Ohio hills.

Soon the shantyboat people would join their fiddle and mouth-harp racket to the chorus of green frogs down under the mists in the moonlit willows.

And that morning the showboat Humpty Dumpty had put in at the landing.

Definition of kelt: a salmon or sea trout that is weak and emaciated after spawning

General John Newton photo

Sometime in the '90's I flew into St. Paul and drove from the airport to the Minnesota University where the Gen'l John Newton floated in the Mississippi as a Showboat for the drama dep't.

steamboats in movies

The General John Newton in the Swedish film The Emigrants (1971). This scene (very late in the picture) depicts the crew members digging a grave for an infant that had died aboard the boat.

steamboat movies

The GENERAL JOHN NEWTON appeared in Jack Webb's 1955 Warner Brother's film PETE KELLY'S BLUES in a scene where she passes by a cemetery on the bayou at Lafitte, Louisiana. The data below was from a website about the Newton's career as a showboat at St. Paul.

1899: The General John Newton, a 175-foot-long paddle wheeler, is commissioned. Over the years it serves as a maritime courthouse and is visited by at least four U.S. presidents.

1958: The University of Minnesota purchases the boat for $1 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and renames it the Minnesota Centennial Showboat in celebration of the state's 100th year. The showboat is anchored on the Mississippi River on the University's East Bank and opens with a production of Under the Gaslight.

January 2000: Fire destroys the Centennial Showboat during its renovation. Check out this documentary from YouTube: [offline]

Following are some screen captures from the documentary:

PilotHouseGenJohnNewton_FrankMWhitingForNORI

Pilot House of the Gen John Newton Frank M. Whiting

Minnesota Centennial Showboat

Creator:
Linda A. Cameron
mnopedia.org

Minnesota Centennial Showboat and performers
Minnesota Centennial Showboat and performers, 1965. Photograph by the University of Minnesota Photographic Laboratory.

University of Minnesota professor Frank M. "Doc" Whiting brought a unique type of theater entertainment to the Twin Cities with the opening of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat in 1958. For more than fifty years the showboat presented a variety of student theater productions, from melodrama to Shakespeare, in a floating venue on the Mississippi River.

In 1956, the Minnesota Centennial Commission began to plan for the 1958 state centennial celebration. Frank Whiting, director of the university's theater program, saw an opportunity to realize his dream of a showboat theater on the Mississippi. He proposed a Minnesota Centennial Showboat. The commission agreed, and the search began for a suitable boat.

Finding a paddleboat wasn't easy, and building one on an existing river barge proved too costly. In 1957, Whiting and the Centennial Commission's Tom Swain learned that the US Army Corps of Engineers planned to retire the General John Newton, a 175-foot sternwheeler towboat built in 1899. Minnesota Senator Edward J. Thye helped to arrange its transfer to the university for just one dollar.

The paddleboat arrived in St. Paul on April 3, 1958. The university had less than three months to prepare it for the season opening on June 26. Students helped to recreate the atmosphere of an 1890s showboat by painting walls, sewing curtains, reupholstering old theater seats, building scenery, and sewing costumes.

The first season opened with a production of Augustin Daly's 1867 melodrama Under the Gaslight. Miss Minnesota Diane Albers, assisted by Doc Whiting and Centennial Commission Chairman Peter Popovich, christened the boat by breaking a bottle of champagne across the bow. James S. Lombard of the commission's arts committee cut the ribbon to open the gangplank. Mayor Joseph E. Dillon of St. Paul rang the ship's original bell to invite the theater's first patrons aboard.

In its early years, the showboat traveled up and down the river. It stopped for scheduled performances in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Stillwater, Hastings, Red Wing, Wabasha, and Winona. The student cast, numbering about fifteen, performed one or two plays each season. Each show featured vaudeville-style olios (lively song-and-dance numbers) between acts. In addition to performing, the actors cleaned the boat, greeted visitors, and took tickets, among other tasks.

1969 marked the last season the boat toured. Following that season, it made an appearance in the Swedish film The Emigrants before settling into a stationary mooring site on the river's east bank, below the university campus.

In 1995, the ninety-six-year-old paddleboat moved to St. Paul for $2 million in needed repairs. Fire destroyed the boat on the evening of January 27, 2000, just months before its scheduled reopening on Harriet Island. Only the paddlewheel and burned-out hull remained.

University theater professor C. Lance Brockman led a campaign to obtain a new showboat. In December 2000, the university agreed to a partnership with the City of St. Paul, the St. Paul Riverfront Development Corporation, and the Padelford Packet Boat Company to build a new showboat. Construction began the following spring in Greenville, Mississippi.

Christened the Frank M. Whiting, the new Minnesota Centennial Showboat arrived at Harriet Island on April 17, 2002. It opened on July 4 with a production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The Minnesota Centennial Showboat exposed students to a unique type of theater. Student actors embraced the over-the-top style of melodrama. Designers and student crews met the challenges presented by a small performance space. Audiences joined the fun by booing and hissing at the villain and applauding the hero.

The showboat program earned the Tourism Partner of the Year Award from the St. Paul Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2004. The Padelford Packet Boat Company joined the university's Department of Theatre Arts & Dance to create the C. Lance Brockman Showboat Scholarship later that year.

The final curtain came down on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat at the end of the 2016 summer season. The university's fifteen-year agreement with the City of St. Paul expired, and the university cut the program for budget reasons. Fittingly, the final season featured a revival of Under the Gaslight.

The university sold the boat to the City of St. Paul for one dollar. As of 2018, future plans for the showboat are pending a new management agreement.

MississippiGamblerJosSchieldkraut1929EXP.jpg

Dudley Early is credited with doing the "Titles" which I assume were dialogue cards. It's not clear if the "sound version" of this contained anything more than music and sound effects. This film was probably the basis for a remake by Universal under the same title starring Tyrone Power in 1953 when the gambler's name was "Mark Fallon." None of the names of the characters in the '53 version were the same as the '20 version.

The most fun thing in this movie still, beside the Gambler being almost as pretty as the two admiring girls is the head of his can which is a skull. The skull/death motif probably implied that Jack Morgan was a deadly duelist with sword or pistol. The characters are obviously on the boiler deck of a steamboat but it can't be determined if this was a set or a real boat on the Sacramento River where it was probably filmed.

The movie was a few minutes under an hour long so apparently wasn't an "epic" by anyone's standards.

The Mississippi Gambler 1929
Notes from IMDB:

Joseph Schildkraut was (improbably) cast as a Southern gambler in this film to capitalize on his equally improbable casting as Gaylord Ravenal in the part-talkie version of Show Boat. Actor Otis Harlan, who portrayed Captain Andy in the 1929 "Show Boat", was reunited with Schildkraut for this film.

A print of the silent version of this film survives in the UCLA Film and Television Archives.

The picture portion of the sound version survives in 16mm. The soundtrack discs are evidently lost.

Directed by Reginald Barker
Written by Edward T. Lowe Jr.
Story: Karl Brown, Leonard Fields
Dialogue: Winifred Reeve, H.H. Van Loan
Titles: Dudley Early
Cast
Joseph Schildkraut Jack Morgan
Joan Bennett Lucy Blackburn
Carmelita Geraghty Suzette Richards
Alec B. Francis Junius Blackburn
Otis Harlan Tiny Beardsley
William Welsh Captain Weathers
Music by David Broekman
Cinematography Gilbert Warrenton
Editing by Robert B. Wilcox
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 3 November 1929
Running time 57 minutes





Fighting Coward

Madera, California is located in the San Joaquin Valley

Madera Tribune NEWSPAPER promotion
14 August 1924

Transcript of Advertisement:
NATIONAL Theatre
Madera's Cool Spot

Come and see "The Fighting Coward" change his yellow streak to blood-red!
Howl while he gets a reputation as a dangerous-as-dynamite desperado!
For that's where the big fun starts In this laugh-a-second Cruze-directed comedy hit. with ERNEST TORRENCE - MARY ASTOR - NOAH BEERY

STORY:
FIGHTING COWARD

LEADING PICTURE

James Craze and his entire producing company of actors, actresses, electricians, carpenters, cameramen, extras, etc., traveled overland a distance of 4300 miles from Hollywood to Natchez, Miss., for scenes tor the new Paramount picture, "The Fighting Coward." Within a short distance of the historic southern city, the man who made "The Covered Wagon, "Hollywood." "Ruggles of Red Cap," "To the Ladies" and other successes, found the exact locations called for in the Booth Tarkington story, one of Southern life before the Civil War. Real old Southern mansions, steamboats, levees and plantations serve as the background for the dramatic action. Natchez turned out to a man to assist the director in making his new production a faithful motion picture record of life in the south about 1850.

James Cruze has established a reputation for the notable casts of his productions, and the list of players, who appear in "The Fighting Coward," is of the same brilliant character as the rosters of "The Covered Wagon" and the rest. Ernest Torrence, Mary Astor, Noah Beery, Phyllis Haver and Cullen Landis are featured in the picture, which opens a two days run at the National Theatre tonight. Others include Carmen Phillips, Bruce Covington, Helen Dunbar and Frank Jonasson. Landis has the role of Tom Rumford, southern born but northern bred, who returns to his home in the South and becomes engaged to his cousin. He encounters the terrible dueling code which prevails, and of which he is ignorant. He is challenged to a duel by a rival for the girl's hand, and refuses because he firmly believes that this is just a polite form of murder. He is driven from his home and deserted even by his sweetheart. The story of his final triumph and the finding of a now love forms one of the strongest, not to say strangest, climaxes ever filmed. An excruciatingly funny comedy "Smile Please," featuring the funniest of all screen comedians Harry Langdon, together with the International News reel of world events, completes an unusually attractive program.

A Paramount Picture

The Fighting Coward

A James Cruze Production

California Digital Newspaper Collection
cdnc.ucr.edu

steamboats in movies

Captain Cooley's AMERICA as the "Winfield Scott" in the 1924 silent film THE FIGHTING COWARD, the first of 3 adaptations of Booth Tarkington's play MAGNOLIA. The other two versions were the talkies RIVER OF ROMANCE, 1929 with Wallace Beery and MISSISSIPPI, 1935 with Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields.

The gent with the eye patch in the foreground is actor Ernest Torrence in the role of General Orlando Jackson. In 1928 Torrence portrayed Captain William 'Steamboat Bill' Canfield, father of Buster Keaton's character William Canfield Jr. in STEAMBOAT BILL JR.

I found this movie still back in the 90s and loaned it to Ralph DuPae to copy and he had a negative made of it and added it to the Murphy Library collection.

AmericaCabinFightingCowardMarch1924EXP

Photo taken by still camera operator during the filming of THE FIGHTING COWARD in the cabin of Captain Cooley's AMERICA in March, 1924. A reference slate with the number 22 is on the narrow counter of the clerk/purser's office next to a door leading to the deck outside. Hinged vertical shutters above the counter can be opened for business when the clerk and/or the purser are on duty to serve the passengers.

In THE FIGHTING COWARD the AMERICA's name was changed to "WINFIELD SCOTT" (see photo of actor Ernest Torrence above).

Madera, California is located in the San Joaquin Valley

Madera Tribune NEWSPAPER promotion
14 August 1924

Transcript of Advertisement:
NATIONAL Theatre
Madera's Cool Spot

Come and see "The Fighting Coward" change his yellow streak to blood-red!
Howl while he gets a reputation as a dangerous-as-dynamite desperado!
For that's where the big fun starts In this laugh-a-second Cruze-directed comedy hit. with ERNEST TORRENCE - MARY ASTOR - NOAH BEERY

STORY:
FIGHTING COWARD

LEADING PICTURE

James Craze and his entire producing company of actors, actresses, electricians, carpenters, cameramen, extras, etc., traveled overland a distance of 4300 miles from Hollywood to Natchez, Miss., for scenes tor the new Paramount picture, "The Fighting Coward." Within a short distance of the historic southern city, the man who made "The Covered Wagon, "Hollywood." "Ruggles of Red Cap," "To the Ladies" and other successes, found the exact locations called for in the Booth Tarkington story, one of Southern life before the Civil War. Real old Southern mansions, steamboats, levees and plantations serve as the background for the dramatic action. Natchez turned out to a man to assist the director in making his new production a faithful motion picture record of life in the south about 1850.

James Cruze has established a reputation for the notable casts of his productions, and the list of players, who appear in "The Fighting Coward," is of the same brilliant character as the rosters of "The Covered Wagon" and the rest. Ernest Torrence, Mary Astor, Noah Beery, Phyllis Haver and Cullen Landis are featured in the picture, which opens a two days run at the National Theatre tonight. Others include Carmen Phillips, Bruce Covington, Helen Dunbar and Frank Jonasson. Landis has the role of Tom Rumford, southern born but northern bred, who returns to his home in the South and becomes engaged to his cousin. He encounters the terrible dueling code which prevails, and of which he is ignorant. He is challenged to a duel by a rival for the girl's hand, and refuses because he firmly believes that this is just a polite form of murder. He is driven from his home and deserted even by his sweetheart. The story of his final triumph and the finding of a now love forms one of the strongest, not to say strangest, climaxes ever filmed. An excruciatingly funny comedy "Smile Please," featuring the funniest of all screen comedians Harry Langdon, together with the International News reel of world events, completes an unusually attractive program.

A Paramount Picture

The Fighting Coward

A James Cruze Production

California Digital Newspaper Collection
cdnc.ucr.edu

RiverOfRomanceBoatSetForNORI

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.

RIVER OF ROMANCE (1929)

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.





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