Steamboat Round the Bend - The Boats

steamboat round the bend

steamboat round the bend

steamboat round the bend steamboat race

Two views of the race from shore. Rogers' CLAREMORE QUEEN is on the left, next over from her to the right is Cobb's PRIDE OF PADUCAH.



Dramatic contrast taken during the race with the gray smoke from PRIDE OF PADUCAH out ahead of the CLAREMORE QUEEN providing a great sense of depth and distance

SteamboatBendClaremoreQueenNeg. 43827Murphy.jpg

Nice action shot of the CLAREMORE QUEEN going full bore during the race sequence with two boats off her portside plowing along next to her. Appears to have been taken from the Sacramento River bank, does not mention if it was taken by a photographer for 20th Century Fox studio or someone who showed up to witness the race from shore.

Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Steamboat Collection Photographs




Still photo taken from the PRIDE OF PADUCAH of a little boat that's approaching on the port side. After Cap'n Eli (Irvin S. Cobb) lost the PADUCAH to Doctor John Pearly (Will Rogers) in the steamboat race, Eli found himself in "embarrassed circumstances" and reduced to operating that tiny little scow. I concluded this by spotting the man in the chair at the rear of the top deck of the little boat.

If you compare it to the publicity photo of Cobb holding a fishing pole while sitting in a chair on the top deck of a boat, you'll see that it must be Cobb (or his "stand-in/double"). In articles on the "final cut" of this movie by Studio Chief Darryl Zanuck it is mentioned that in the original "final scene" of the movie, Will Rogers was standing with a fishing pole in front of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH's pilot house and he waved at Cap'n Eli as he passed in the modest little boat that he was reduced to after losing his big steamboat in the race. In the Trailer/Preview of STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND there is footage of Rogers in front of the PADUCAH's house, grinning broadly at someone "off screen." This would have been from that scene in which Rogers waved good bye to Cobb as Eli. Zanuck and his staff at 20th Century Fox concluded that if the audience saw this scene of Rogers waving good bye, that their eyes would well with tears, as if Rogers was saying good bye to each member of the audience and that they would be left with sorrow at the loss of Rogers in the plane wreck with Wiley Post rather than take away the good feeling of the joy and humor of the movie and the happy ending of Duke being save from the gallows.

That scene was replaced with a brief scene of Fleety Belle in a gingham dress and Duke in his pilot's uniform standing behind the pilot wheel of the PADUCAH, steering it together then followed by another brief scene of Rogers sitting in a chair smoking his corn cob pipe and relaxing on the top deck of the PADUCAH with a fishing pole. In the distance you can barely see out on the river that tiny craft of Cap'n Eli's.

We have an excellent photo (the fourth one on our 3rd page in this collection) of Rogers with a fishing pole and corn cob pipe standing next to Anne Shirley in her gingham dress standing in front of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH's pilot house that must have been taken while that scene of Doctor John waving so long to Cap'n Eli was being filmed. John Ford said that many comedy scenes were cut out of STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND by Zanuck. Ford was none to pleased with this decision. It is doubtful that any of the scenes that "ended up on the cutting room floor" were preserved by the "cutter" as the film editor was called. Of course it would be wonderful if any of the "lost scenes" could be found so we could all see what we have been missing.


Finally got around to making positive I.D.'s on the 5 boats in the starting line up for the race in Steamboat Round the Bend.

Added the names above each boat to this reduced photo of the boats in the line up at the start of the race in Steamboat Round the Bend, from left to right:

T.C. Walker (1885 - 1938)
Port of Stockton formerly Capital City (1910-1942) as "Pride of Paducah"
Cherokee (1912 - 1939)
Leader (1884 - 1938) as the "Claremore Queen"
Pride of the River (1878 - 1942)

steamboat round the bend

Another scene from the set. Dave Thomson notes: "The pair of horses in the lower left appear to be agitated, most likely because of the shriek of steam whistles."


Unusual new photo from ROUND THE BEND . . . just after the boats have taken off out of the "starting gate" the PRIDE OF PADUCAH is far left near shore and CLAREMORE QUEEN is out ahead at center. Spectators are running along the bank trying to keep pace with the speeding steamers.

The legendary little stearmer CHEROKEE which raced under its actual name and is referred to in dialogue between Doctor John and Fleety Belle . . .
Footage of the CHEROKEE steaming along on the Sacramento River was rear projected behind what would have been the starboard stern 3/4's view from the CLAREMORE QUEEN's pilot house.
Fleety warns John, "The CHEROKEE is gaining on us!" Doctor John lets Efe and the stokers know that they need to add more fuel to the fire under the boilers.


These show the race line up with few "extras" (crowd scene "day players") in them. They may have been taken before, after or during a lunch break on the production of STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND.

Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Steamboat Collection Photographs


I photocopied these photos of the LEADER in the Disney Research Library back in the '80's. It was dated 1928 and rubber stamped "Al D'Agostino" who was probably the photographer.

If the 1928 date was correct then the LEADER had gingerbread added for a silent film prior to her being renamed the CLAREMORE QUEEN for Steamboat Round the Bend in 1935.

There's a story point early in the movie in which Doctor John (Rogers) points out to his alcoholic engineer that the boat he's taken possession of is looking shabby and needs fixing up and they do paint her in the next sequence.

So the scruffy appearance of the LEADER here may have been the starting point prior to her being freshened up as the CLAREMORE QUEEN and these photos may have been taken when the art directors were looking over the LEADER in '35 (rather than '28) before they gave the boat new name boards saying CLAREMORE QUEEN.


In case anyone wonders how I identified the boat that played the "Pride of Paducah" in Round the Bend, here's a photo of the PORT OF STOCKTON (which was originally called the CAPITAL CITY), built in 1910 with her stacks converted from a single to a double configuration to look more like a Mississippi River steamboat.

In this photo the PORT OF STOCKTON's name on her bow and pilot house name boards had not yet been changed by boat yard sign painters to "Pride of Paducah" (in honor of Irvin S. Cobb [whose hometown was Paducah, Kentucky] who played fictional Eli, the Captain of the fictional boat in STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND.

The design of this boat and her "sister ship" the FORT SUTTER build in 1912, anticipated the style of the DELTA QUEEN and DELTA KING. The curved front of the pilot house is the most prominent similarity with the overall profile of the boat from stem to stern also being very reminiscent of the two DELTAs.

Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Steamboat Collection Photographs


Four screen captures of Claremore Queen and Pride of Paducah from the Steamboat Round the Bend race sequence. Wish that the actual pilots of the boats had been interviewed to give their account of steering them during these scenes.


Detail of one of the new photos with the PRIDE of PADUCAH and CLAREMORE QUEEN "neck & neck" during the race. Was able to adjust contrast so clouds in the sky are enhanced, makes for more depth and "atmosphere."


The Pride of Paducah in between takes.

The Claremore Queen starts out well, running neck and neck with the Pride of Paducah. Suddenly Fleety Belle spots the New Moses on the shore. She manuevers the boat over, then John lassos the New Moses and drags him onto the boat. The New Moses is righteously alarmed that the innocent Duke is to be hanged, and he joins in with the rest of the crew, Efe (Francs Ford), and Jonah.

As they run out of firewood, they start burning anything they can - furniture, wood from the deck - nevertheless, the Pride of Paducah passes them. With no other option, Doctor John gives the okay to use the wax museum for fuel. When he obtained the museum, the figures were dressed as heroes of the North: Ulysses S. Grant, etc. To make the museum more appealing to Southerners, he took the cigar out of Grant's hand and dressed him as Robert E. Lee. They sacrifice the wax figures as if to fulfill some strange Biblical prophecy from Matthew 13.42: "They will throw them into the fiery furnace," but without the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" mentioned in the verse (probably because they are only wax figures). Despite sacrificing the statues, the Pride of Paducah is still ahead.

Down in the boiler room, the New Moses catches Efe taking a swig of Doctor John's elixir. He checks it and noting that it contains rum, he hurls it into the furnace. The alcohol sends out a burst of flame and that gives the rest an idea. They discover plenty of Doctor John's elixir and begin throwing the bottles into the furnace. The boat picks up speed and flames shoot from the smoke stacks, as if to warn Captain Eli that he's about to lose his boat. The Claremore Queen wins the race.

The governor himself is to hand out the award, so Doctor John and the New Moses explain their story to the governor. All three rush to the gallows where Duke is about to be hanged. They arrive just in time to save him. In the final scene, Duke and Fleety Belle are piloting the Pride of Paducah as Doctor John watches the foam fly from the paddlewheel.


Dave Thomson points out that the smoke in this shot may mean that there's a real fire, possibly due to special effects that got out of hand. He points out that you can see two men running up the sidewalk at left wearing uniforms that don't match the period costumes. They could be a fire marshal and a security guard running towards the boats to investigate.


As Mink the pilot said to Captain Eli the pilot house of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH: "Cannon's about to go BOOM!"


Still of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH in an oval vignette format taken from a landing on the shore of the Sacramento River that consisted of a floating barge where some "extras" in costume stood waving to the boat in the distance.



Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Steamboat Collection Photographs







Round the Bend Boats that were in the Race: LEADER and T.C. WALKER ~California views

California Views
Prints can be ordered from Pat Hathaway Archives at the links below:

Steamer LEADER (that "played" the CLAREMORE QUEEN) taken at Stockton

Steamer T.C. WALKER (remodeled with twin stacks that was on the far left at the start of the steamboat race) taken at Stockton


Steamboat Slough, an alternate branch of the Sacramento River, named for its popular use by steamboats traveling between San Francisco and Sacramento. Its mouth is found at an elevation of 3 feet / 1 meter, 2 miles above Rio Vista, between Grand Island and Ryer Island. Its head is 11 miles above where it leaves the Sacramento River, between Sutter Island and Grand Island, at an elevation of 26 feet at 38°18'17" North 121°34'25" West

Above detail of a large navigation chart measuring approximately 2 1/2 feet X 4 feet:




The following has been abridged from: steamboat slough.htm

Welcome to Steamboat Slough in the California Delta ... History page!

A "slough" is an old fashioned word for "river." Steamboat Slough was considered by famed California historian Mr. Bancroft to be the main branch of the Sacramento River when the original survey maps and books were written. That is one reason both Sacramento County and Solano County boarder along Steamboat Slough. Steamboat Slough certainly has a colorful history, particularly when it was one of the primary routes for steamers or paddle wheelers taking passengers, dry goods and foods between the gold mining hub or launch point of Sacramento to San Francisco, and back.

Hence there's lots of records of shipwrecks from those truly wild west water days.

Steamboat Slough was originally referred to as the "Middle Fork" of the Sacramento River, according to the map from 1852, and official surveys for the federal government by Mr. Ringgold, chief surveyor at that time. In the 1852 map there is an area referred to as "Hog'sback Shoal" on the Middle Fork, which is probably in close proximity to where Snug Harbor is today. However, very soon thereafter, maps began referring to the waterway as Steamboat Slough. A noted author of the time, Mr. Hutchings, in his 1862 book of California refers to it as Steamboat Slough in his sketches.

The 1949 Guide book of "California Place Names" says on page 320: "Steamboat Slough {Yolo}: When the Sacramento was first navigated, fewer obstructions to navigation were encountered in Steamboat Slough than in the old Sacramento River, as the other branch is called.

For many years the slough was therefore the channel preferred by navigators. . . ."


STEAMBOAT-RACING-IN-SACRAMENTO British Pathe newsreel late 1930's

Six frame captures from British Pathe archival newsreel of the DELTA QUEEN racing the PORT OF STOCKTON in "STEAMBOAT RACING DOWN SOUTH" by Gaumont British News in 1938, filmed only 3 years after the race John Ford staged on the Sacramento for STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND in 1935.

Although this was filmed in Northern California on the Sacramento River the title implied that it was filmed "Away Down South in Dixie"—a geographical misrepresentation. The narrator's voice sounds uncannily like the voice of famous movie director Cecil B. DeMille. This short film runs only 38 seconds long and can be viewed at this link:

British Pathé
Steamboat Racing In Sacramento 1938
Steamwheelers race down Sacramento River in California

Steamboat racing Sacramento
FILM ID: VLVAB612BEI74C4RVQJQBQB1U2P20 MEDIA URN: VLVAB612BEI74C4RVQJQBQB1U2P20 GROUP: Reuters - Gaumont British NewsreelARCHIVE: Reuters 11/07/1938 STOCK: Black & White DURATION: 00:00:38:00


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All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.