When Hollywood Calls Looking For A Classic Wooden Boat – How Would You React?

Photo courtesy – Lucy_Fan’s photostream@flicker

For good reason, most people who own an antique or classic boat (or a number of boats) consider them to be very precious and are always very careful to make sure everyone around them treats the boats with the same level of respect that they do – and for the most part, that works just fine. Remove your shoes, use the step pads, don’t fart on the original Kapok seat cushions, etc.

So if you received a phone call one day from a Hollywood film producer asking if you would be willing to let them use your precious classic boat for a few scenes in a feature film – How would you react?

Well – Our guess is that most boat owners would be caught off guard, think about it for 30 seconds and say – “HECK YA!”

Vintage Photo Courtesy – Desilu Studios

Then a few hours later, after the shock wears off and you think it through, your next reaction would be “WHAT THE HECK DID I JUST AGREE TO!!”

Vintage Photo Courtesy – Desilu Studios

In late June, just after the 2012 Lake Arrowhead Boat Show in California, fellow Woody Boaters Ollon Downing and Brian Robinson received one of those phone calls from a Hollywood producer asking that very question. Here’s their story…


Recently Ollon Downing and I were contacted to use our boats of for a 2013 feature film, his 1938 19′ Chris-Craft Custom “Mountain Mistress” and our 1938 22′ Gar Wood Streamliner “Empress”.

The studio in Hollywood we shot at (formerly Desilu Studios) was the same studio where I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and Seinfeld were produced, among others.

Ollon commented – “Having the opportunity to visit the old Desilu Studios was a thrill, to stand in the footsteps of Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel.”

It was a one day shoot for two completely different scenes of a musical-comedy film, using the two boats separately. Ollon and his wife Sammy’s boat was used for the final “Ride off into the Sunset” scene with the feature couple on a full green-screen, with the Monte Carlo waterfront to be added using sophisticated Computer Generated Images (CGI) later.

Ollon noted – “Yes, that was Dennis Farina (in the dark glasses) checking out “Mountain Mistress” as the crew prepared for the scene. He loved the boat and was very interested in everything about it. He was a great guy to talk to. Hopefully a future celebrity woody owner.”

It was a great day. Everyone on the set loved the boats, asked a lot of questions about them and went out of their way to protect them. A common question was, “Is that a real boat or just a prop?” Many were surprised to find out that it really had an engine and had been in the water the whole week prior. Of course the recurring joke of the day was… “Lets do the crash scene next.”

“Then it was time for the scenes with Brian’s boat. We saw these girls walking around in bathrobes all day and had no idea why, until… No movie magic required!”

Ollon Downing talking classic boats with Dennis Farina

Because the boats stayed on the trailers, the crew rigged up ways to move the boats from side-to-side and up-and-down in the bow to simulate actual water movement – we will have to wait and see how convincing to turns out! Ollon’s boat even had the name changed (with a temporary vinyl sticker) for a transom shot scene.

Our Gar Wood was used for a comical fantasy-dream sequence where one of the movie’s main characters is in a wheelchair in the aft cockpit, surrounded by bikini-clad actresses while the other male lead pours champagne for the ladies.

Basically everyone is having a really good time. Again, Monte Carlo will be added to the background later (which is why the flag of Monaco flies from the stern pole). It is all meant to take place in the 1970s.

(Check out the next two photos… The first as the actors & crew prepare for the scene and then in the second shot, it appears that the Director (or someone) said ACTION and the scene comes to life… Great stuff. – Texx)

We were both in and out of the studio in one looong 13 hour day, then the 2-hour drive back home for me. We had a good time and both of our boats made it through unscathed (again – luckily).

Brian & Ollon

Thanks to Ollon & Brian for sharing your Hollywood story with us here at Woody Boater. We were very impressed to hear now well the actors and crew respected the classic boats and that this was a successful and enjoyable experience for both Ollon & Brian. We know that Brian’s Gar Wood “Empress” has been used a few times in the past for commercials, and it’s always great to see these beautiful wooden boats being used in a feature film.

And, hopefully there will be a check in the mail for their long day of classic boating in Hollywood…

Vintage Photo Courtesy – Desilu Studios

Photo courtesy – Lucy_Fan’s photostream@flicker


15 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Now the sound man will dub in the mighty roar of a 5 hp out board so it sounds vaguely like a boat but you can still hear the dialog.

  2. Tom Carter
    Tom Carter says:

    Not to be crass, but…what was the compensation? Honor, Glory and Fame? Expenses? Credits? Or cash beyond dreams?


  3. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I would very enthusiastically participate if an opportunity like this came on offer to me. I have done all sorts of things for lesser motivations, and the object for me is to use the boats and this is certainly a form of use. It also promotes the hobby and gives visibility, so as long as the producers assumed liability for damage, why not do it?

    Great story!

    • ranger
      ranger says:

      Me, too!

      I would love it if our boat was in a film or commercial…

      another item for the scrapbook and photo album!

  4. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    It would be great if we could enlarge some of these photos. I’d like to get a closer look at the “seat covers” in Brian’s boat.

  5. Jim Frechette
    Jim Frechette says:

    I have done a few of these shoots. Two of them were commercials for trucks so the boats were just towed around. Safe enough. The other one was a movie were the actor actually drove my boat, a 1930 Chris Craft Model 100. Everything was going well until he was bringing it back to the slip and crashed the aft section into the outdrive of a nearby boat. I had to replace a plank and refinish the side. It was $500/day for two days use of the boat and $1500 for the repair. Probably not worth it. Live and learn!

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    I have to say that late last night (or early this morning) as we were preparing this story, searching through the thousands of images of Lucille Ball was a wonderful experience.

    It reminded me that although Lucille Ball was known for her unique style of comedy, she was also a very beautiful woman, with a great deal of class.

    That fiery red hair and those blue eyes were legendary…

  7. Orange outfit
    Orange outfit says:

    Why torture us with smaller pictures when we click on a photo with a orange bikini

    please adjust the monitor or better introspection


    • Texx
      Texx says:

      We recently updated the website to better handle the increased traffic and are currently working on repairing this glitch…

  8. Randy Brown
    Randy Brown says:

    I have a Vintage Dorsett Catalina year 59 or 60 needs to be restored… I would really like for somebody to put this back to its former glory I simply do not have the time…

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