"My thanks to the Curator of the James MacArthur Digital Scrapbook
for this article."
(21 September 1963)
Embarking on a 'Great Adventure'
How the amazing story of a Confederate submarine was re-created for a new series.
The Great Adventure is the title CBS has bestowed on its new weekly series of historical dramas, which takes to the air this Friday, September 27. In the case of “The Hunley,” which will be opening the episode, the description “great adventure” is no exaggeration. The Hunley was a small, primitive submarine used by the Confederates in a daredevil attempt to break a Union blockade of the Charleston, S.C., harbor in 1864. Three crews had died in test voyages of earlier versions of the submarine, and the television play recounts the perilous plan of a fourth crew to use the Hunley in a lonely assault on a Union battleship.
Making the TV show was something of an adventure too. Four submarines had to be built -- not because three weren’t seaworthy but to fulfill production requirements. There were three full-sized versions: One that could float, for exterior shots; one that couldn’t float, for a scene in which the sub is sitting on a pier; and another model used only for interior shots. The fourth Hunley was a quarter-scale miniature, for underwater sequences.
Workmen also built the city of Charleston, in a miniature scale model, and part of its waterfront, life-sized. The drama was filmed in and alongside an outdoor water tank on the back lot of a studio in California’s San Fernando Valley.
Height is usually an advantage for an actor -- but not for this show. Except for the three stars -- Jackie Cooper and Gene Evans, who are six-footers, and James MacArthur, 5-feet-10 -- the actors chosen to play Hunley crew members had to be on the short side in order to fit into the cramped interior of the submarine.
"My thanks to the Curator of the James
MacArthur Digital Scrapbook