Monday 8 August 2016

Mystery film set

The grand daughter of Jimmy Snow, who kindly provided the behind the scenes photos from Battle for the River Plate in the last post, is trying to discover the titles of all the films her grandfather worked on and has a series of photographs from the set from an unknown film. A reader of this blog may recognise the set and be able to place the film title to which it belongs.

The set is of the deck of a ship and the ships name is visible on a board in one of the photos, namely HMS Dreadnought which was a famous British ship from the world war one era. Also the sailors on the deck appear to be in naval uniforms that correlate with the world war one era and there is one character wearing a Pith helmet.

If anybody has any clues as to the title of the movie and its year of release please use the comment system. Remember you can click on an image and view it at a larger size.

UPDATE May 2019:

Long time reader McTodd has solved the Movie Title of the mystery set photographs. The Movie Is The Midshipmaid made by British Gaumont in 1932. See his comment in the comments section below.

The film can be viewed and downloaded from the Internet archive here.
He found a reference to the set including some photographs of its construction in
Home Movies & Home Talkies 1932 pp.162-163 also available on the internet archive.



  1. I'm baffled, but incredibly intrigued, what a find! Incidentally, the set, though spectacular, is inaccurate in that HMS Dreadnought did not have superimposed gun turrets.

  2. Also, I forgot to add, the turrets are shaped more like those on later superdreadnoughts (early 12-inch gun dreadnoughts had faceted turrets made of flat panels, later 13.5-inch and 15-inch gun superdreadnoughts' turrets had rounded faces). So all in all, that set appears to be based on the layout of a superdreadnought, rather than that of HMS Dreadnought herself. Intriguing...

  3. I have a feeling this may be from a British musical comedy of 1934 starring Jack Hulbert called 'Jack Ahoy!' My interest in the film was piqued by a photograph on p.109 of Richard Rickitt's book 'Special Effects The History & Technique', which I'm sure you own (it shows a water tank set-up of miniature Nelson-era ships-of-the-line, much smaller than those in the later 'Lady Hamilton'). This provided the background for a dream sequence early in the film where the 1934 sailor played by Jack Hulbert dreams himself back in Nelson's time. Anyway, most of the first half of the film takes place on the quarterdeck of Hulbert's battleship, a fairly obvious film-set which, despite the appalling quality of the download I found, looks very much as though it may be the set above ('my' download has since vanished from YouTube, though a similarly grotty quality upload is currently available - don't be fooled by the running time of 2h28m, for some reason the upload has been looped twice, and the film is actually only 1h14m!). If you, or anyone else, can track down a decent copy on DVD, it may be possible to confirm or debunk this theory of mine.
    View it here:

  4. I think you may be on to it Roger it looks like the same set alright, the only difference being the name on the side which appears to be "Stupendous" rather than "HMS Dreadnought" in the photos. It could of course been re-used for this film from another film or vice versa.

  5. Apologies for the tardy reply, I've been away. There are various relatively minor differences with the positioning of various deck structures, and different shapes (the curved structure which goes up from the deck then bends through 180 degrees has a sort of grill capping the downward part: in the set photos this is round, but in the screengrabs it is square). I assume they were built from wood and so were probably capable of being moved around to suit camera angles etc. But there are enough similarities (the 'mushroom' ventilators, the barbettes with ring-like ridges around the base, and turrets etc.) for me to think they are basically the same set. I wondered about the name on the screengrabs being something like STUPENDOUS, or even based on real ships such as GLORIOUS, FURIOUS, COURAGEOUS etc. But I wonder if what looks like OUS is actually the OUG in DREADNOUGHT, glared out by the lighting and awful video quality...? So frustrating!

    I've uploaded to Flickr some comparisons of your set pics with screengrabs, plus an image I found from Jack Ahoy! on Getty Images...

  6. I think I have at last solved the mystery!

    Check out the linked images below from Home Movies & Home Talkies Volume 1 (June 1932 - May 1933) which I downloaded from

    They are pages carrying a short article (with photos) of the building of a battleship set for Gaumont's The Midshipmaid, aka Midshipmaid Gob[!]...

    And you can download the whole damned film from - guess where? -!

    Also linked are a couple of screengrabs from the above, including one in which you can see the ship's name on a lifebuoy - HMS Dreadnought!

    Note it was made by Gaumont - as was Jack Ahoy! two years later in 1934, which I previously theorised as being the mystery film. Despite a few minor set differences, perhaps caused by breakages in between the films, I'll bet they used the same basic set again in the later film. After all, being tight-arsed British studios I'd expect some recycling!

    Home Movies & Home Talkies 1932 pp.162-163

    The Midshipmaid aka Midshipmaid Gob (1932)
    img src="
    img src="

  7. McTodd you are a legend, after three years you have solved the mystery. Are there any miniature sequences in the movie?

    1. Not that I could see, I'm afraid, though I did only skim through it. There's footage shot around an actual naval port and lots of stagey set-bound shenanigans...

  8. Having just watched the film by the links provided here, I note that while Crewmen do, indeed, wear covers identifying the ship as HMS Dreadnought, the configuration of the set and the establishing shots of the ship are of a much more advanced battleship. Specifically HMS Barham! Nice to find film of her OTHER than her death.

  9. One unfortunate error in my previous post: It is not Barham in the establishing shots but her sister HMS Malaya. Barham was undergoing refit while The Midshipmaid was being made.


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