Steamboats in the Movies
Universal Studio's Prop Boat Enterprise in
Named "JOHN B. DICKEY" for MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER, stunt men play the heroes and villains having a brawl on the bow of the boat filmed at night. Note the stunt man jumping overboard on the left appears to be wearing "sneakers" which stunt guys often used because they got better traction on slick surfaces and were less likely to slip than when they wore "everyday" or period costume shoes.
There's a light in the pilot house and another in the cabin on the boiler deck that are hitting us smack in the eye, the lighting cameraman probably had them put there because the motion picture camera was positioned at an angle where it wouldn't see them. This is the best view I've ever seen of the front of the boiler deck cabin of Universal's riverboat.
Here the motion picture camera is set up on the boiler deck looking down on the stairs where character actor John McIntire convenes with leading man Tyrone Power. "Boom operator" upper right holds the microphone above the actors to catch their dialogue for the sound recordist.
A nice selection of nautical lamps sit on the shore waiting to be installed by a studio electrician aboard the steamboat set which is floating on what appears to have been a much bigger back lot lake at Universal studio in 1953 than exists today.
For those folks who are captivated by "behind the scenes" movie photographs, here's the cameraman and microphone boom grip on the boiler deck of the movie set capturing the performances of Tyrone Power as Mark Fallon standing on the staircase below gambling partner John McIntire as Kansas John Polly.
General Electric get a nice plug here with a box of their light bulbs in a box lower right. Note that the sides and back of the pilot house have had their windows removed and black backing secured behind the stern and port side walls for some particular requirement of the director or cinematographer for a sequence the set is being prepared for.
Here's a unusual "behind the Scenes" photo taken during filming of MISSISSIPPI GAMBLER at Universal.
The lighting cameraman probably requested that the portside bulkheads of both the pilot house and the cabin below be draped with black fabric to facilitate shooting from a particular motion picture camera angle from down below. The horse drawn carriage lower right adds interest to the composition.
Tyrone Power as gambler Mark Fallon is seen standing in front of the pilot house above the name SULTANA as the boat was called in this sequence.
The frame on the upper left of the St. Louis landing was composed of live action and a matte painting which extended the stern of the boat, the river itself and added a boat in the distance and another one on the right. Upper left the boat's name was "JOHN B. DICKEY" and in the lower right "SULTANA."
Western Street Landing.
All captions provided by Dave Thomson, Steamboats.com primary contributor and historian.