Steamboat Round the Bend
Outtakes, Promo Photos, and Behind the Scenes


Anne Shirley as Fleety Belle with John McGuire as Duke in an affectionate pose.

Steamboat Round the Bend

Publicity still, evidently from the "happy ending" of the 1935 film after Will Rogers and his crew had won the PRIDE OF PADUCAH from Irvin. S. Cobb in the steamboat race and saved Rogers' nephew Duke from the gallows with the aid of the evangelist called "The New Moses" who had witnessed Duke's fight with the man he was accused of murdering.

The prop department forgot to darken the inside of the bowl of Rogers' corn cob pipe which is in bright mint condition, so it had obviously never been smoked by Rogers or anyone else.

Anne Shirley looks so attractive in that dress. For most of the movie she was dressed in either boy's clothes or in an old Civil War era frock with a skirt that was too short and her legs covered with absurd pantalettes. The actress was born Dawn Evelyn Paris in New York in 1918, so she was 17 when she made STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND. She changed her name after playing the character Anne Shirley in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES made in 1934, the year before she played Fleety Belle here.

Will Rogers was a big fan of aviation but was grounded from flying while he made this movie for fear that something might happen to him before the movie was finished but after the movie was wrapped up he and Wiley Post flew up to Alaska where both men were killed in the crash of Post's plane at Point Barrow on August 15, 1935.

Stepin Fetchit

Stepin Fetchit as Jonah, Will Rogers as Doctor John Pearly and former prize fighter John Lester Johnson in his uncredited role as Uncle Jeff in the scene where the CLAREMORE QUEEN was approaching the steamboats lined up for the race. Uncle Jeff is holding the lead line like he's fixin' to take some soundings.


Unusual still from "Round the Bend" which may have been filmed as a scene for the movie then "cut" from the final version. Francis "Frank" Ford seems to be offering some advice to the little girl sitting on sacks of grain while a little boy sits between them nearby looking a little dubious about this strange white man. The little girl looks a bit baffled and/or intimidated. The PRIDE OF PADUCAH is behind them probably during the scene where Rogers as Doctor John is talking to the New Moses at the boat landing. We have a long shot of the two men, full view head to toe with the PADUCAH behind them in the distance. Somehow the image has dropped out of the museum pages. I'll scare up my latest scan of it and send it to you.


Photo of Will Rogers (in costume as "Judge Priest"), Irvin S. Cobb and Director John Ford during the filming of JUDGE PRIEST in 1934, the year before STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND was filmed on the Sacramento River with Rogers and Cobb as Doctor John and Cap'n Eli.

JUDGE PRIEST was adapted from Irvin S. Cobb's short stories about a small town Kentucky Judge with Will Rogers as Judge William 'Billy' Priest.
Screenplay written by Dudley Nichols and Lamar Trotti who also co-wrote also the script for ROUND THE BEND the following year).
Francis Ford (John Ford's brother who played "Efe" in ROUND THE BEND) also played a juror in JUDGE PRIEST."

Cobb's Judge Priest anthologies:

Back Home: Being the Narrative of Judge Priest and His People - 1912 collected stories
Old Judge Priest - 1916 collected stories


Presenting Dr. Rogers.
October 12, 1934

The photoplay which Fox has assembled around Dr. Will Rogers, the eminent newspaper columnist, presents the cowboy Nietzsche in one of the happiest réles of his screen career.

Based on Irvin S. Cobb's brief histories of the homespun Kentucky judge, it shows the native American humor at its best. "Judge Priest" is also fortunate in its staging and in the superior direction of John Ford. It has the mellowness of the judge's favorite brand of corn whisky, the sentimental warmth of the honeysuckle outside his front porch and the plaintive melancholy of the Priest whippoorwills.

In its closing scenes the new film makes a pretty shameless assault upon the lachrymal glands, and it would be less than accurate to describe how the Music Hall's audience laughed through "Judge Priest" without also reporting the tearful collapse of the lady film reviewer when the camera faded out on the heartbreaking parade of the Confederate veterans.

This is a comedy of character as much as of incident and some of the screen's most ingratiating players have been enlisted to support the excellent Mr. Rogers. That cloudy streak of greased lightning, Stepin Fetchit, is riotous as the judge's man of all or no work and he is always threatening to drop the auditors into the Music Hall's plush aisles. Charles Grapewin is fighting Shiloh and Gettysburg all over again wherever two or three are gathered together. As the bleary-eyed juror who finds it necessary to liquidate his baccy in open court, Francis Ford provides the Broadway cinema with its most hilarious moment since Mae West posed as the Statue of Liberty. Berton Churchill is the classic expression of pompous insincerity as the judge's political opponent.

For sentiment there are Henry B. Walthall, the little colonel of "The Birth of a Nation," as the Civil War veteran and town preacher, and David Landau as the grim blacksmith with the tragic and heroic past.

But mostly it is the Judge's show and the lovable old fellow is a constant joy. He is the very best of company. A philosopher and a gentleman, he lives alone in the house which holds the memories of his dead wife and child, presides over his court with fine simplicity and joins the Negro washerwomen in song at the taffy pull. The story tells how he saves his young nephew from a match-making mother and the taciturn blacksmith from jail. The court-room climax threatens for a while to plunge the whole enterprise into beery sentiment, but the film fortunately retains its sense of humor and rescues itself from bathos. In the romantic parts, Tom Brown and Anita Louise are an agreeable pair of lovers. Put "Judge Priest" down as a thoroughly delightful sentimental comedy, and let it remind you Will Rogers, although he bears the burdens of the nation on his shoulders, continues to be a remarkably heart-warming personality.

based on Irvin S. Cobb's character of "Judge Priest"
Screenplay Dudley Nichols and Lamar Trotti
directed by John Ford; a Fox production.
music and lyrics by Cyril J. Mockridge

Judge Priest . . . . . Will Rogers
Jerome Priest . . . . . Tom Brown
Ellie May Gillespie . . . . . Anita Louise
Reverend Ashby Brand . . . . . Henry B. Walthall
Bob Gillis . . . . . David Landau
Virginia Maydew . . . . . Rochelle Hudson
Billy Gaynor . . . . . Roger Imhof
Flem Tally . . . . . Frank Melton
Sergeant Jimmy Bagby . . . . . Charles Grapewin
Senator Horace Maydew . . . . . Berton Churchill
Mrs. Caroline Priest . . . . . Brenda Fowler
Juror No. 12 . . . . . Francis Ford
Aunt Dilsey . . . . . Hattie McDaniels
Jeff Poindexter . . . . . Stepin Fetchit


Will Rogers as Doc Pearly fishin' from the top deck of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH. He was in the same pose seated in the same chair with fishin' rod and all in the very last scene in the movie but the railing was not fancy like this, it consisted of plumbed pipes and joints and the camera was looking from a point of view suspended above the river. This is a detail from the insert inside the DVD case for the 2006 20th Century Fox DVD release of the movie.


I cropped in on this to focus on the "Floating Museum" banner on the CLAREMORE QUEEN and Fleety Belle and Duke sitting on the river bank admiring the spectacle.

Don't believe this set up was ever put on motion picture film, probably a publicist directed the still photographer to shoot a number of stills that could be used to promote the actress and actor, the boat and the river scenery.


"Swamp gal" Fleety Belle (Anne Shirley) with Dr. Pearly's nephew, the steamboat pilot Duke (John McGuire). The "engaged couple" were photographed on the foredeck of the CLAREMORE QUEEN.

Anne Shirley was born Dawn Evelyeen Paris, in New York City on April 17, 1918.

She began her career as a child actress under the name Dawn O'Day,

She adopted the name of the character Anne Shirley that she played in the first film version of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES in 1934.

Among her films was STELLA DALLAS (1937), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She retired from acting in 1944, at the age of 26. She remained in Los Angeles, where she died at the age of 75 on July 4, 1993.

John McGuire was born on October 22, 1910.

As an actor he was best known for STANGER ON THE 3RD FLOOR (1940), SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) and INVISIBLE GHOST (1941).

McGuire died on September 30, 1980 in Dublin, Ireland.


John McGuire as Doc's nephew, the pilot DUKE

Anne Shirley as Duke's bride the "Swamp Gal" FLEETY BELLE

Irvin S. Cobb as ELI, Captain of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH


This was the last movie for Will Rogers. He died in an airplane crash shortly before the release of Steamboat Round the Bend.


Will Rogers looking into the wrong end of the telescope in the pilot house of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH. Irvin S. Cobb as Cap'n Eli and Vester Pegg as the pilot Mink are feigning great amusement.

Cap'n Eli

Irvin S. Cobb, Cap'n Eli of the PRIDE OF PADUCAH evidently really fishing or just posing for a publicity still during shooting of STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND on the Sacramento River.


Irvin S. Cobb as Cap'n Eli seems to be listening to somebody on another boat or on shore while he holds a speaking trumpet. Could be that Cobb was listening to instructions from director John Ford.

The twin smokestacks on the Sacramento River steamer which played the PRIDE OF PADUCAH were added to the boat to make it resemble a Mississippi River style boat. The pilot house and other details are very reminiscent of the DELTA QUEEN's which was in the same fraternity (or should it be "sorority"?) of Sacramento River boats.

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


8 x 10 press photo of STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND author Ben Lucien Burman. Rubber stamped on the back August 8, 1939 along with the initials N.E.A. which probably stood for National Education Association

Text of the caption which was printed under a cropped version of the photo in newspapers:

When a distinguished committee gave Ben Lucien Burman's most recent novel, "Blow for a Landing," the Southern Authors' Award for the best book of 1938, it was recognition of the authenticity of his writing.

For Burman - pictured above at the helm of the river steamer GORDON C. GREENE - actually has served as a cub pilot on the Mississippi.

(The steamboat that Ben was a cub pilot on was the TENNESSEE BELLE according to a note hand written by him preceding his autograph which he inscribed in a copy I have of his novel STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND].