Steamboats in the Movies - MGM's Cotton Blossom, page 2

Advance to the rear 6 frames 60 percent for NORI

MGM put the Cotton Blossom (from SHOW BOAT 1951) into service again in 1964 as the "Donnie Dixon" for the extremely broad and corny farce set during the Civil War called "Advance to the Rear." Six widescreen frames attached. The "captures" were pretty dark off the DVD but I was able to brighten and enhance them in Photoshop. The stacks were cut off in the upper right frame so I extended them, added smoke from a photo of the BEN HUR and extended the sky also.

Advance to the Rear (1964)
100 minutes
Director: George Marshall
Samuel A. Peeples and William Bowers (screenplay)
Jack Schaefer ... (story)
based on a novel "The Company of Cowards" by Jack Schaefer

New York Times Review
June 11, 1964

"Advance to the Rear, a broad and dinky little comedy starring Glenn Ford, Stella Stevens and Melvyn Douglas, opened yesterday at neighborhood theaters.

If ever a picture lived up to its title, it's this one.

The stars and the others flounder sheepishly in a warmed-over brew of slapstick and pratfalls as the Blues and Grays bump heads in wild confusion.

Even the sideline brightness of Joan Blondell cannot save the film."

Cotton Blossom on MGM lake


Two more shots of the COTTON BLOSSOM in ADVANCE TO THE REAR. Leaning on the side of the pilot house in the top photo is a sign that reads "DONNIE DIXON."


"Lobby card" for MGM's 1951 SHOW BOAT

1951 lobby card for MGM's SHOW BOAT - Coloring of the "COTTON BLOSSOM" and performers was done only minimally, in True TECHNICOLOR the hues would have been richer, more varied and vivid.


A "Do It Yourself" paper model of MGM Cotton Blossom from 1952

"The Showboat Cotton Blossom" a 3 Dimensional Volumetric MICROMODEL British Made by Micromodels, Ltd. 1952 Folder measures 3 1/2 X 5 inches unopened These can still be found online for purchase.

This must have been a promotional tie-in that came out at the same time or after the 1951 MGM movie of SHOWBOAT was released in the UK 6 British Pounds when new with 6 cards printed in color The hobbyist would cut out the mini-elevations of the the steamboat out of the 6 cards and assemble them by hand. It appears that the model makers may have hand painted portions of the model after they had put it together.

Along with the cover are 3 photos of how the "Cotton Blossom" looked when assembled by artisans Chris Palmer and Rod Moore.


Micromodels' COTTON BLOSSOM assembled by Cris Kelley. "Best of Show" - Looks Great!

Micromodels' COTTON BLOSSOM tiny scale model assembled by Cris Kelley. Looks like "Best of Show" to me

Cotton Blossom in SANTIAGO X 4 70 percent EXP

Warner Bros. rented MGM's prop steamboat COTTON BLOSSOM (from SHOW BOAT) in 1956 and renamed it VICKSBURG for a movie entitled SANTIAGO in which Alan Ladd is hired to take a cargo of rifles aboard this steamboat from the coast of Florida to Santiago, Cuba in order to arm local rebels who are trying to overthrow the Colonial Spanish government. On the left are action frames of the sternwheel and bow demonstrating the boat's speedy crossing of the Gulf which in reality could have easily turned into "heavy seas" that would swamp and sink a river steamboat but it's relatively clear sailing for the protagonists except that they have to run the Spanish blockade which is between them and the coast of Cuba. That is Chill Wills as the VICKSBURG's Captain outside the pilot house. Am not sure who played the steersman at the pilot wheel in the lower right frame. There are some "shoot 'em up" scenes in the movie to qualify it as a moderately good "action adventure."

Santiago (1956) Directed by Gordon Douglas Screenplay by Martin Rackin & John Twist from the novel by Martin Rackin Starring Alan Ladd


MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM was used quite a bit by MGM itself and other studios as in this latest "find" . . . a still from Warner Bros.' SANTIAGO, 1956, with Alan Ladd in which Warners rented MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM, renamed her the VICKSBURG and filmed day and night scenes on the lake where the BLOSSOM floated on MGM's Lot 3 in Culver City.

The smokestacks are "swallowed" up by the darkness which may have been caused in part by some air brush artist in the publicity department. The "sailing ship" on the right may have been one of MGM's BOUNTY replicas for their 2 versions of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY.


MGM's Cotton Blossom in SANTIAGO

Alan Ladd and Lloyd Nolan on MGM's Cotton Blossom steamboat mock-up for the Warner Bros. film SANTIAGO.


MGM's 1962 Cinerama Western spectacular HOW THE WEST WAS WON included several steamboat sequences.

Top frame is in the cabin of the Sacramento Queen in which MGM used it appears that MGM's art director may have used some of the interior details - (arches and skylights) from the cabin set which they had built for their 1951 musical SHOW BOAT. Note a model of a sidewheeler secured to the bulkhead above the bartender, far right.

In the second frame MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM is visible as an atmospheric backdrop on the right outside the window in a night time scene where Gregory Peck stands indoors in the foreground with a carpet bag.

In the third frame is reused footage from MGM's 1957 Civil War epic RAINTREE COUNTY of the Delta Queen, apparently on the Ohio River somewhere with a boxy contrivance behind the pilot house to conceal her single smokestack and to provide housing for the rig that diverted her smoke into twin stacks.

recent acquisitions

Here's the COTTON BLOSSOM again, this time renamed the CHATTAHOOCHEE QUEEN for the 1953 Dick Haymes musical comedy for Columbia Pictures called CRUISIN' DOWN THE RIVER.


COTTON BLOSSOM cameo in a popular 1965 sitcom: MY FAVORITE MARTIAN

Go West, Young Martian: Part 1 (Season 3, Episode 1)
1st broadcast on 12 Sep. 1965

My Favorite Martian: Complete Season 3 available on DVD's

Partial synopsis relevant to the steamboat sequence of this episode from the Internet Movie data base:

Uncle Martin rebuilds his cathode-ray centrifugal time breakascope - convinced that if he transports himself to just before the time he crashed, he can fix the problem and fly back to Mars. Detective Bill Brennan inadvertently flips the switch for the delay function, sending Tim O'Hara and Martin back in time. Instead of 1215 Merry Old England where they were sent last time, they are sent to 1849 St. Louis.

Unfortunately the CCTBS didn't make the trip with them. Instead it should still be in the exact same spot in what is the site of Los Angeles in 1849. Unfortunately, they run into Bill Brennan's great-grandfather, also a lawman, who arrests them for passing off "fake" money that Tim brought with him from 1965.

With some Martian trickery, they break out of jail just in time to catch a riverboat up the Missouri. This marks the start of their trek to Los Angeles. On the riverboat, they run into a woman who happens to be Mrs. Lorelei Brown's great-grandmother, Loralei Glutz.

The unfortunate circumstance of their meeting is that Tim, hearing her cries of a thief who has stolen her pocketbook, punches out the person who was chasing the crooks instead of the crooks themselves. Tim has altered the course of history as the pocketbook contained her dowry, without which she cannot get married which in turn means that Mrs. Brown would never have been born. So they have to catch the crooks and get Loralei Gltuz' dowry back to her. But the crooks turn the tables - they recognize Tim and Martin as the one's who were locked up in St. Louis and plan on turning them in. Before the ship's captain can do so, Tim and Martin abandon ship into the Missouri.


An illustration based on MGM's "Cotton Blossom"

The artist who painted this detail of a cover illustration is not credited in the book it came from. It was painted for the front of a 1965 paperback edition of Mark Twain's 1883 memoir and travelogue LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. with an Introduction by John Willoughby; Classics Series CL55, Airmont Publishing, 1965.


Attached another example of an artist who used as reference a photo of the MGM COTTON BLOSSOM for use this illustration. It is from a 1956 British edition of Twain's HUCK FINN by Walter Hodges. The steamboat in the upper part of the painting has the trademark twin curved staircases on the bow. The characters on the raft in the lower part of the painting are Huck Finn, Jim and the two con men who call themselves "The Duke" and "The Dauphin."


Elevation drawing of the Cotton Blossom starboard profile.


SHOWBOAT sheet music album - 5 songs by Kern, Wodehouse and Hammerstein II

SHOWBOAT sheet music album of selected songs copyrighted 1927 that Jerome Kern composed for the musical. The fifth and last song in the album is Old Man River. This soft cover publication is undated but published sometime after the 1951 release of MGM's movie SHOW BOAT. The photo on the cover is of MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM full scale prop steamboat boat and the man in the top hat in the foreground is Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenal.


Magnolia Hawks and Gaylord Ravenal rehearse the melodrama "Tempest and Sunshine" aboard the MGM's "Cotton Blossom"

The first rehearsal of Magnolia Hawks and Gaylord Ravenal of the melodrama "Tempest and Sunshine" aboard the MGM's showboat "Cotton Blossom," directed by Cap'n Andy Hawks below and in the soft focus background box seat sits his wife and Magnolia's mother Parthy Hawks with the signature arches that were omnipresent just below the ceiling in the long "cabins" that ran the length of the boiler deck between the staterooms and the promenade that ran along the outside on passenger "packets."

A showboats like MGM's "Cotton Blossom" would not have been typical (since the "theatre portion" of a showboat was traditionally built on a barge that was pushed by a sternwheel towboat) the arches that the art directors included in their plans were borrowed from the thousands of sidewheel and sternwheel packet boats to maintain the "flavor" of steamboat architecture since this "Cotton Blossom" was equipped with its own boilers and steam engine like passenger packets were.


The COTTON BLOSSOM again in MGM's 1960 version of HUCKLEBERRY FINN starring Eddie Hodges in the title role. Here the precocious actor is waving his straw hat at everybody on board in the opening scene of the steamboat landing at Hannibal, MO.


SHOW BOAT promotional art for RCA LP

Here is MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM steamboat prop for their 1951 Technicolor SHOW BOAT as referenced by an artist whose name as nearly as I can make out was Alfred Galrich, for the cover cover of a 1958 "Popular Album News" monthly magazine of the RCA VICTOR Popular Album Club pen and ink plus watercolor, black and red on white paper. 6.95 x 8.80 inches as published.

Show Show Boat
Music Jerome Kern
Lyrics & Book Oscar Hammerstein II
Recording Date November 4, 1958, Hollywood, CA
Conductor Henri René
Performers Gogi Grant, Anne Jeffreys & Howard Keel
RCA Victor Vinyl
original release LSO 1502

CD Release:
Title Show Boat (with Kiss Me, Kate)
Format CD
Label Sepia 1151
Released 2010-07-13
Barcode 5055122111511
Audio Stereo


SHOW BOAT promotion on the cover of a French "fanzine" from 1952

Cover of the Belgian edition of the French "fanzine" CINEMONDE from March 21, 1952 promoting MGM's SHOW BOAT with a photo of cast members in front of the prop steamboat COTTON BLOSSOM. Joe E. Brown as Cap'n Andy at center introduces Ava Gardner as Julie Laverne far right. Costumes were made "over the top" in eye-popping hues which were deemed necessary for Technicolor productions in those days.

More Cotton Blossom - click here