USS Texas and The Sand Pebbles

The USS Texas battleship

In August 1966 Robert Wise took his film crew and cast to Houston Texas to film what was going to be the opening sequence in The Sand Pebbles. Although The USS Texas was the perfect battleship for the part, built in 1912 and commissioned in 1914, it's condition as a museum piece had been deteriorating from many years of neglect. The distinguished history of this ship can be found here. Fortunately it was still in good enough shape to film the necessary scenes detailed in the script. To read this portion of the script click here. In addition to the script there were a few storyboards developed (shown below) to aid in the film production.

The visit to Houston was also documented by the Houston Chronicle newspaper and remembered in a 1988 article by Jeff Millar which is available here. The photos below highlight Steve McQueen (signing autographs, being interviewed, etc.) aboard the USS Texas. Unfortunately the scenes filmed aboard the USS Texas were deleted from the final print although they were shown prior to the movie at the Houston premiere. These scenes are considered lost although a few reels may have survived. One story goes that Robert Wise felt so bad for an actor/friend whose part was cut from the film that he gave him a reel of these deleted scenes as a gift. Perhaps other reels exist in some dusty vault or closet somewhere.

Houston Chronicle photos

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McQueen signing autographs on USS TexasMcQueen being interviewed on USS TexasMcQueen aboard the USS TexasMcQueen on the set aboard the USS texas