Watching Movies on a Battleship

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Having just watched the academy awards, it is appropriate to ask if Herbert Hoover was a film buff.  The simple answer is “yes!”  As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover helped promote the emerging U.S. film industry at home and abroad.  He was good friends with studio mogul Louis B. Mayer of MGM and even supported the creation of two documentary films: one on the American Relief Administration and the other on the Commission for Relief in Belgium.  These films were described in previous blog posts.  The Goodwill Tour offered Hoover and his party access to an assortment of Hollywood and educational films on board the battleships USS Maryland and USS Utah.  A run of the USS Utah’s ship’s newspaper, The Big U,  lists the films shown during the trip.  Different films were shown on the quarterdeck than the upper deck, but both decks eventually saw the same films.  The quarterdeck was the area that the ship’s captain used and therefore the area where President-elect and Mrs. Hoover would have enjoyed the movies.  The period covered in the trip is from December 18, 1928 through January 5, 1929.  All are silent films in black and white and run from 70 minutes to 2 ½ hours long.  Many have not survived.  The selections reveal an interesting assortment of entertainment:

December 18th
Quarterdeck [Q]: Tempest, John Barrymore and Camille HornMovie: Tempest
Upper deck [U}: Q Ships, documentary produced by the British Navy

December 19th
Q: Wright Idea, Johnny Hines and Louise Lorraine
U: Win that Girl, Sue Carrol and David Rollins

December 24th
Q: Four Sons, James Hall and Margaret Mann (John Ford director and uncredited John Wayne role)
U: The Whip, Ralph Forbes and Dorothy Mackaill

December 25th
Q: Beggars of Life, Wallace Beery and Louise BrooksBeggars of Life
U: Mother Machree, Victor McLaglen and Bell Bennett

December 26th
Q: The Whip
U: Beggars of Life

December 27th
Movie: SubmarineQ: Submarine, Jack Holt and Dorothy Revier (Frank Capra’s first “A” budget film)
U: Craig’s Wife, Warner Baxter and Irene Rich

December 28th
Q: Mother Machree
U: Red Lips, Charles Rogers and Marian Nixon

December 29th
Q: Craig’s Wife
U: The Glorious Trail, Ken Maynard and Gladys McConnell

December 20th
Q: Jazz Mad, Jean Hersholt and Marian NixonPatent Leather Kid
U: The Patent Leather Kid, Richard Barthelmess and Molly O’Day

December 31st
Q: Varsity, Charles Rogers and Mary Brian
U: Jazz Mad

January 1st
Q: Shadows of the Night, Flash (a dog), Lawrence Gray and Louise Lorraine
U: Pay as You Enter, Clyde Cook and Louise Fazenda

January 2nd no issue of The Big U

January 3rd
Q: Pay as You Enter
U: The Baby Cyclone, Lewis Cody and Aileen Pringle

January 4th
Q: Streets of Illusion, Ian Keith and Virginia Valli
U: No film

January 5th
Q: Avalanche, Jack Holt and Olge Baclanova
U: No film

The records from the USS Maryland indicate that one reel educational films from the University of California Extension Service were shown, largely dealing with Central and South American themes.

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