Monday, March 21, 2016

SS United States Silver Screen Review: Bon Voyage (1962)

   “…When you step aboard this magnificent luxury liner, dull care will magically vanish, anxieties disappear. You will live five lovely, lazy, carefree days afloat.”
                - Harry Willard, Bon Voyage (1962)

   Bon Voyage is the story of a family who goes on the vacation of a lifetime to France. It was based off the 1957 book Bon Voyage by Marrijane and Joseph Hayes.

A quick review of the film:
   It was a happy Disney comedy. Very cute and simple. It’s runtime is its biggest detractor (132 minutes, and it can get slow). The teenage relationship between Amy and Nick seemed to have lots of major problems. It also approached some intimate, progressive subjects that would not fly for Disney today.

Now to the ship:
   For the book (which I found, bought, and read), the ship used was the RMS Queen Mary. So it was interesting that while many storylines and pieces of dialogue were word-for-word from book to movie, Disney chose to go with the SS United States. The story I had heard was Walt Disney took a trip on the SS United States and it became his favorite liner. It is possible he wanted to showcase the new ship, or that he couldn’t get permission to film on the Queen Mary. Another change from book to movie was father Harry Willard getting seasick from the QM’s rolling. The Queen Mary was known for rolling badly until she received stabilizers. While the United States did roll as well, this particular storyline was dropped, so Harry did not get sick.

   The ship is very integral to the plot by being the mode of transportation the Willard’s take to their vacation destination of Paris. Almost 30% of the movie was filmed with the ship [The first 39 minutes of the 132 minute movie].

   The beginning starts off with shots of luxury liner row and the United States’ bow, followed by overview and close-up shots inside the United States Lines’ Pier in New York City. Throughout the sea portion of the movie, there are many exterior shots of the ship sailing at sea. When there are scenes outside with actors, there are two locations used: the First Class Game Deck (deck behind the aft funnel) and somewhere on the Sun Deck starboard-side Open Promenade. For the Promenade, the camera shot beyond the railing (you can see the railing in many of the shots). I believe they might have lowered a lifeboat down to be able to achieve this shot.

   Only one interior location, the First Class Ballroom, I can verify was shot on board. The rest did not have any ship location I recognized. These would be the Library, a dining room used for breakfast, and the family’s stateroom and adjoining hallway. While these locations’ design styles fit with ship's, they feature wooden furniture. The SS United States was known for its lack of wooden features, more proof that these were most likely soundstage sets.

   I just have to say, I was surprised how bright the funnels’ colors were. Boy were they beautiful. I have gotten used to seeing the faded, flaking funnels of today. It was refreshing seeing the colors’ power. I really hope to see them like that again.

Look at that 'stack! Still from Bon Voyage! (1962)

Movie: Cute family movie, but too long and major problems: 2.5/4
SS United States: Important to plot, exterior and interior shots: 4/4

Read a review on Bon Voyage from the New York Times HERE.

[Originally posted on my now-defunct Wave Breaker Blog, April 9, 2015]

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