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Old Sailing vessels "made up" as famous ships for the movies

A fascinating article from the January 1936 issue of Popular Mechanics Monthly about the rebuilding of the vessels for use in the 1935 Mutiny on the Bounty film has been found at the J. Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park..


A scene from "Mutiny on the Bounty" showing former cargo carriers rebuilt as eighteenth-century vessels.


H.M.S. Bounty, as reproduced by movie shipbuilders. The ship was formerly the two-masted schooner Lily.

Old Sailing Vessels "MADE UP" AS FAMOUS SHIPS for the Movies

ANCIENT WINDJAMMERS, rescued from the oblivion of Pacific Coast shipyards, are reviving the glories of famous ships of history and romance. Carefully reconstructed under the guidance of Hollywood research experts, they sail proudly before the eyes of movie cameras as reproductions of such storied vessels as H.M.S. Bounty and the Hispaniola of "Treasure Island."

For example, the high-pooped eighteenth-century armed transport that forms a setting for most of the stirring events of the film version of "Mutiny on the Bounty" is literally built around the hull of the old two masted schooner Lily, a former cargo carrier. When Hollywood producers decided to film the story of the famous mutiny, they ransacked shipyards for suitable sailing vessels. With four other veterans of sail, the Lily was brought out of retirement and placed in the hands of skilled shipbuilders at Wilmington, Calif., where many other ships have been "made up" for important roles in the movies.

Working from old plans of the original Bounty and details from the narrative of Capt. William Bligh, her commander on her ill-fated voyage to the South Seas, modern shipwrights began their task of reproducing the historic vessel. To begin with, the hull of the Lily was far too narrow. Built on rakish lines, she lacked the breadth of beam of a ship of war of 150 years ago. To remedy this defect, new ribs were placed around the original hull and covered with planking. The space between this outer covering and the original hull was filled with concrete; which served the useful purpose of ballasting the ship.

Before and after: the smaller picture shows the bow of the Lily before reconstruction was begun. Above, how the bow of the movie Bounty looked after reconstruction.

In place of the Lily's fore-and-aft rig, the movie Bounty was given three masts and a square rig like that of her famous predecessor. Every detail of the complicated rigging is faithfully reproduced. Frowning through ports in the after part of the upper deck are four four-pound cannons. She also carries a pair of swivel guns, mounted on stocks forward, and six aft.

How Hollywood shipbuilders take veteran cargo carriers resurrected from the ship graveyards of the Pacific and rebuild them for roles in film dramas of the sea.


The full-size reproduction of the Bounty under construction in a California shipyard. New ribs are being installed around the old hull of the schooner Lily to give the required breadth of beam.

In contrast with the year it took English shipwrights to build the original Bounty, movie workmen transformed the Lily into a full-size reproduction of the old ship in only twenty-eight working days. Ten thousand dollars was paid for the schooner, and it cost another $50,000 to rebuild her. Hollywood does not consider that an excessive price to pay for a film shipwreck, but because old sailing ships are getting scarcer every year, it was decided to build a smaller model for use in scenes depicting the wrecking of the ship at Pitcairn Island.


This twenty-seven-foot model of the Bounty was built for use in shipwreck scenes. It was powered with an automobile engine.

Only twenty-seven feet long, this miniature Bounty reproduces the larger vessel in every detail and is perfectly seaworthy. In addition to a full set of sails, it carries an automobile engine geared to a concealed propeller which kicks the tiny ship along in realistic style. Fitted with buoyant tanks, it was "wrecked" on the California coast, and later repaired for exhibition.

 

Notes: 


The original article at the J. Porter Shaw Library at the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park.
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