Cruise History – 1930s home movies aboard the liner SS Bremen and photos of famous passengers. Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Winston Churchill, Marlene Dietrich, J. Krishnamurti, William Randolph Hearst and Jimmy Donahue.


These are amusing black and white home movies shot aboard the SS Bremen in 1930 courtesy of

The SS “Bremen” of 1929 was one of a pair of ocean liners built for the Norddeutsche Lloyd line (NDL) for the transatlantic passenger service.

The “Bremen” was notable for her low streamlined profile, and modern approach to her design.

Her sister ship was the SS|Europa|1930|2, later renamed “Liberté”.

The German pair sparked the building of the large (and very expensive) express liners of the 1930s.

1936 – Cary Grant, the popular movie star, is pictured aboard the S. S. Bremen, as he arrived in New York City.


“Bremen” and her sister were designed to have a cruising speed of 27.5 knots, allowing a crossing time of 5 days. This speed enabled Norddeutsche Lloyd to run regular weekly crossings with two ships, a feat that normally required three. It was claimed that Bremen briefly reached speeds of 32 knots during her sea trials.

09 Jul 1929, Southampton, England --- 7/9/1929- Southampton, England: The 48,000 ton liner "Bremen" pf the North German Lloyd lines arrived at Southahmpton, England to have her hull painted in drydock, one of the only three drydocks capable of holding the giant liner. The other two drydocks are the one in Holland and the other in Hamburg, Germany, when the "Bremen" has been painted it will make a short trial trip into the North Sea. View of the "Bremen" being towed into the drydock at Southahmpton. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBISOriginally it was planned to have the “Bremen” make a simultaneous transatlantic crossing with her sister “Europa”, but the “Europa” was held up by a serious fire during fitting-out, so the “Bremen” made a solo maiden voyage, departing Bremerhaven for New York City on 16 July, 1929. She arrived four days, 17 hours, and 42 minutes later, capturing the westbound Blue Riband from the RMS|Mauretania|1906|2 with an average speed of 27.83 knots. This voyage also marked the first time mail was carried by a ship launched plane for delivery before the ship’s arrival. A Heinkel He12, piloted by Jobst von Studnitz, was launched a few hours before arrival in New York with a number of mailbags. On her next voyage she took the eastbound Blue Riband with a time of 4 day 14 hours and 30 minutes and an average speed of 27.91 knots. This was the first time a liner had broken two records on her first two voyages. The “Bremen” lost the westbound Blue Riband to her sister “Europa” in 1930. “Bremen” lost the eastbound Blue Riband to SS “Normandie” in 1935.

As Nazism gained power in Germany, “Bremen”, and her pier in New York, were often the site of Anti-Nazi demonstrations. On July 26, 1935 a group of demonstrators boarded “Bremen” just before she sailed and tore the Nazi party flag from the jackstaff and tossed it into the Hudson River. On September 15, 1935 Hitler declared the Nazi Flag to be the exclusive national flag of Germany in response to this incident, removing the status of the original flag of the Weimar Republic as co-national flag.

On August 26, 1939, in anticipation of the 1939 invasion of Poland, the Kriegsmarine high command ordered all German merchant ships to head to German ports immediately. “Bremen” was on a westbound crossing and 2 days from New York when she received the order. “Bremen”’s captain decided to continue to New York to disembark her 1770 passengers.

She left New York without passengers on August 30, 1939. She made use of bad weather, and high speed to avoid Royal Navy cruisers, arriving in Murmansk on September 6, 1939. On December 10, 1939, the “Bremen” made a dash to Bremerhaven, arriving on December 13. On the way she was sighted and challenged by the S class submarine HMS|Salmon|N65|6. While challenging “Bremen”, an escorting Dornier Do 18 seaplane forced the “Salmon” to dive for safety..

The “Bremen” was used as a barrack ship; there were plans to use her as a transport in Operation Sealion, the intended invasion of Great Britain. In 1941, the “Bremen” was set alight by a crew member while at her dock in Bremerhaven and completely gutted. A lengthy investigation discovered that the arson was the result of personal grudge against the ship’s owners and not an act of sabotage. She was broken up in 1946.

04 Sep 1936, New York, New York, USA --- 9/4/1936-New York, NY-Henry Fonda, film star, and Mrs. George (Frances) T. Brokaw, New York society woman who he is reported to soon marry, are pictured upon their arrival in New York City Sept. 4, on the S. S. Bremen. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Henry Fonda, film star, and Mrs. George (Frances) T. Brokaw, New York society woman who he is reported to soon marry, are pictured upon their arrival in New York City Sept. 4, 1936 on the S. S. Bremen.

1930s -Marlene Dietrich, German movie star of “The Blue Angel” and other films returning from Germany on the S.S. Bremen.

1937-J. Krishnamurti, the Indian philosopher, aboard the S.S. Bremen, arriving in New York City for a vacation.

1934- New York, NY- William Randolph Hearst, prominant Americcan newspaper publisher, pictured aboard the S.S. Bremen as he returned to New York, Sept. 27, after a trip abroad.

James Paul Donahue, Jr. (the Woolworth heir) arrives in New York on the SS Bremen in the early 1930s.  “Jimmy” was no doubt the most famous and notoriously Gay New York archetypal playboy of the 20th century. Grandson of Frank Woolworth, chain store millionaire.

1933 – New York: Toting about 60 pounds of copper on their necks, and bearing all appearances of human giraffes, three former residents of Upper Burma arrive in New York aboard the SS Bremen to join the Barnum and Bailey Circus. When asked their opinion of America, the ladies answered, “Przchmgrowow” – which might be considered a diplomatic retaliation.

Jack Johnson, former heavyweight champion, and his wife on the S.S. Bremen.  Germany was far more tolerant of intermarriage than the USA.

1931-New York, NY: Former Chancellor of the British Exchequer Winston Churchill, surrounded by reporters on the S.S. Bremen, when he arrived in New York this morning, Dec. 11. Mr. Churchill, who was accompanied by his wife and daughter Diana, will make a lecture tour of the country.

1933-New York, NY- Max Schmeling (l), Germany’s former Heavyweight Champion of the world is welcomed by Jack Dempsey, also a former Heavyweight Champion of the world, as the former arrives in New York today (Friday) on the S. S. Bremen. The German boxer is to meet Max Baer in a bout sponsored by Dempsey.



About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…