Hollywood to Honolulu – Filming aboard the SS CALAWAII in 1932…

A Turner Classic Movies preview from ONE WAY PASSAGE aboard the SS CALAWAII in 1932 – great view of LASSCO’s steamship SS CALAWAII arriving in Honolulu.

Kay Francis and William Powell filming aboard the SS CALAWAII.

With three-quarters of its scenes actually made at sea aboard LASSCO’s SS CALAWAII, especially chartered and turned into a “floating studio” for the production of ONE WAY PASSAGE, starring William Powell and Kay Francis, established a new record for realism.

For an entire week, the SS CALAWAII, with its officers and crews, cruised about the blue Pacific at the behest of Director Ty Garnett and his company, who had the big ocean liner entirely to themselves for the filming. The ship had been chartered by Warner Bros.

The Los Angeles Steamship Company (LASSCO) was little-known steamship company founded in 1920 would dominate passenger service from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Its stylish ships and celebrity passengers made the voyage glamorous and helped establish the port of Los Angeles as a major passenger ship destination. In 1920 the only available steamship travel to Hawaii from California was from San Francisco. LASSCO’s directors envisioned the Los Angeles to Hawaii route as an opportunity for new growth.

In September of 1920 LASSCO general manager Samuel Naphtaly met with members of the United States Shipping Board to arrange for a charter of surplus World War I ships. The Shipping Board allocated the German liners AEOLUS and HURON later that year to LASSCO. Arriving at the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Company in 1922, the ships were refurbished for tropical service, painted white, and renamed SS CITY OF LOS ANGELES and SS CITY OF HONOLULU. These sleek passenger ships would soon be joined by the SS CALAWAII and later a second CITY OF HONOLULU. (The first City of Honolulu sank on her maiden voyage) A new service to Hawaii was born, with Wilmington as the port of departure for Los Angeles. In 1927, the combined sailings of Los Angeles Steamship Company vessels would carry more passengers to Hawaii than the rival Matson Line.

by Martin Cox

The Los Angeles Steamship Company came into being around the purchase of two ships already famous on the West Coast; the YALE and HARVARD. These two vessels were originally built for New York-Boston service, then later operated by Admiral Line on the West Coast before World War 1. The U.S. Navy purchased them both in 1918 for use as troop transports between Southampton and Le Havre.

When the two ships were offered for sale after the war, a group of Los Angeles business men, with the backing of the LA Chamber of Commerce, formed the Yale-Harvard Syndicate, and bought the ships from the Navy. Thus the Los Angeles Steamship Company was formed on June 10, 1920. Harry and Ralph Chandler of the Los Angeles Times were included on the Board. YALE and HARVARD were brought around from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and extensively reconditioned by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and dry-dock Company, and converted from coal to oil burning.

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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