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The Canoes of the movie "Black Robe."

Discussion in 'Open Forum' started by Andy Hutyera, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. Andy Hutyera

    Andy Hutyera The Red Canoe Guy - Life Member

    Just watched the movie "Black Robe" from Netflix. There were plenty of beautiful shots of a small fleet of canoes being paddled down what was supposed to be the St. Lawrence River in the late 1600's. The canoes looked a lot like the big fiberglass birchbark replicas that Ralph Frese used to make. Does anyone know anything about the origin of the canoes used in the movie? Just curious. Too bad Ralph is gone. It would have been fun to call him and ask.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2013
  2. bredlo

    bredlo LOVES Wooden Canoes

  3. Kathryn Klos

    Kathryn Klos squirrel whisperer

    Great list, Brad-- thanks!
  4. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I just received a question about who made the canoes in this film. Having watched only the original trailer, I couldn't tell if they were actually bark canoes, or glass boats made to look like bark. Guess I'll watch the movie... but if anyone has insight into that question, I'd be glad to hear of it!
  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    I can remember being in Ralph's shop when they were making the canoes for some Hollywood production (maybe Centennial, I think that was the Robert Conrad as a trapper one). They were bending thin cedar ribs and thin planks into the fiberglass shell, so it might be fairly hard to tell them from a real bark version. Ralph was joking about the fact that the actors were not particularly good paddlers, so there was a cable attachment on the bow stem below the waterline so that the boats could be towed and end up in the right place at the right time.
  6. Dan Miller

    Dan Miller cranky canoeist Staff Member

    For those who haven't seen it, here is a press photo:
    Black Robe.jpg

    and a link to the trailer:

  7. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

  8. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    I scrolled through the movie, looking at the canoe scenes. There's one scene in which some canoes are pulled up on shore, upside down, and there's a sameness across all the boats that sure looks like factory-made boats; the outer surfaces are too smooth to be bark... Question answered. Thank you!
  9. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    Yep, I agree. My first reaction to all the photos was that somebody really gooped an incredible (and unusual) amount of pitch on all the stems. Also, and Ferdy would probably know for sure, but using five pieces of bark, cross-seamed together to make the bottom of what can't be more than a 20' canoe also seems really strange. Those seams on a real bark boat would be sewn overlaps, and they would probably form lumps which actually need quite a bit of pitch.

  10. pklonowski

    pklonowski Unrepentant Canoeist

    In the picture above, the canoe to the right has ribs in it... but Merrimac canoes have faux ribs, too. It's not a difficult addition.

    Then there's the practical aspect... in some scenes, they're dragging the canoes onto or away from the shore. Might not want to do that with a real birchbark canoe. But then, it's hollywood, so authenticity is limited.
  11. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

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