Monday, June 6, 2011

Hollywood at Sea, Part 2

The Hollywood Navy (Part Two)
First printed as the cover story in the Compass Rose, Vol. 6 No. 2 Spring 1987

The Museum’s “Hollywood Navy” falls into two categories: miniatures constructed by studio craftsmen especially for a particular motion picture; and models built by hobbyists representing famous ships that have appeared on the screen.

The most impressive studio “miniature” is the POSEIDON. Using the QUEEN MARY’s specifications, it took ten studio craftsman three months to construct the 22’ model, complete with four working propellers, interior lighting and smoking funnels. In the picture, “The Poseidon Adventure”, 20th-Century Fox sank her in less than an hour but it took five museum hobbyists one year to restore her, including the official “Cunard red” paint on her stacks.

Other studio models come in assorted sizes. In the 5’-10’ class are an old lumber schooner that served as a floating prop for “Slave Ship” while a Chinese junk appeared in “Sand Pebbles”. One miniature that delights the younger visitors in the PENGUIN SUBMARINE featured several years ago in the “Batman” T.V. series.

"BOUNTY replica built on schooner LILY hull for MGM's classic "Mutiny on the Bounty", starring Charles Laughton.

Nearby on the Main Deck, a neat replica of HMAV BOUNTY serves as a reminder of the three motion picture versions of the mutiny. When the 1984 replica of the full-scale ship was berthed adjacent to the Museum, large crowds turned out to see her. Even the venerable USS CONSTITUTION claims a Hollywood connection via her nickname OLD IRONSIDES, the title of a 1920’s swashbuckler.

In a similar way the CHARLES W. MORGAN and WANDERER are representative of early whalers in the silent movie, “Down to the Sea in Ships”, while the BLUE NOSE II and William E Fay Sr’s dramatic HELEN MARGARET depict the type of topsail fishing schooners used in “Captain’s Courageous”. The widescreen production of “Windjammer” starred the CHRISTIAN RADICH, the Norwegian training ship moored at the museum in November 1979. Craig Smith’s splendid watercolor of her hangs on the Promenade Deck.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum itself has served as location for several TV programs. Episodes of “Misfits of Science” and “Murder She Wrote” shot interior scenes on the Main Deck. The 15’ model of the brig, TRADITION, was used in a “MacGyver” segment. The adjacent waterfront has been used over a number of years. One of the neighboring Wilmington Transportation Company’s fleet of tugs was featured in an early TV series, “Waterfront”, starring Preston Foster. Docked next to the Gun Deck is an ex-minesweeper, the WILD GOOSE, John Wayne’s former yacht, which continues to be a hit with the public although it is not part of the museum.

The HOLLYWOOD underway as a training ship, date and photographer unknown.

On the 20th Century Deck, the model of the freighter, SS HOLLYWOOD, comes in for its share of attention. Thinking the obvious, visitors are chagrined to learn that it was named for David Hollywood, the manager of the local shipyard where it was built (now Southwest Marine, across the channel from Ports O’Call), rather than the glamour capital. Meanwhile, TVs enduring “Love Boat”, the PACIFIC PRINCESS, continues to glide majestically down the channel past the museum leading the parade of cruise ships out to sea.
--- Marian Skidmore

"The Hollywood Navy", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Marian Skidmore was presented on the front cover of the Spring 1987 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996. Note that the original article was printed 24 years ago, reflecting the historic nature of dates, names of movies stars and motion pictures of the day.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:

A term used in navigation, it refers to … see prior blog post, “Jack London in Southern California” for explanation.

The first entry for brig from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 67 is quoted as, “a two-masted vessel, square-rigged on both masts…”.

The entry for Chinese junk from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 1976, p. 435 is quoted as, “a native sailing vessel common to Far Eastern Seas, especially used by the Chinese and Javanese. It is a flat-bottomed, high-sterned vessel with square bows, with two or three masts carrying lugsails often made of matting stiffened with horizontal battens…”.

The entry for schooner from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 495 is quoted as, “schooner, possibly deriving from the Scottish verb ‘to scon’ or ‘scoon’, to skip over the water like a flat stone… A typical schooner has a “fore-and-aft rig on two or more masts…”.

In the Royal Navy of Great Britain, HMS stands for His Majesty’s Ship. The description of HMAV BOUNTY in Wikipedia shows the acronym HMAV referring to His Majesty’s Armed Vessel.

This week's post features Marian Skidmore’s article and her references to ships in the Los Angeles Harbor and ship models donated to the Museum.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
New books and pamphlet this month!

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