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Travel Cunard Line - Canadian Route (1923)

Courtesy of North West Film Archive

Main image of Travel Cunard Line - Canadian Route (1923)
35mm, 1596 feet, black & white, silent
Production CompanyCunard

A journey across the Atlantic to Canada, from embarkation and life on board, paying particular attention to meals, entertainment and the family friendly environment, to arrival in Quebec City and Montreal.

Show full synopsis

A promotional film highlighting the benefits of third-class travel to Canada via Liverpool or Southampton on one of Cunard's brand new super-liners. The film is beautifully produced and even if it exaggerates the luxury and perfect organisation of the voyage, it also tells us much about transatlantic travel in this period.

The film records the scale and complexity of Cunard's business, from the splendour of its iconic Liverpool headquarters to the highly organised dockside operation, focusing on logistics - from the huge crowds gathered to wave off friends and relatives to the postal vans delivering to the ship. The latter was a lucrative concession for the company to carry mail overseas. Cunard also ran special trains transporting passengers to their emabrkation points. All of these elements combine to reassure the potential customer; the implication is that anyone trusted to carry the mail or able to hire a whole train is clearly reliable, trustworthy and safe. In fact, Cunard had the best safety record across the Atlantic. With the Titanic disaster and the U-Boat campaigns of WWI still fresh in people's minds, such reassurances were important.

The voyage itself is represented as a series of views of life aboard, with well-equipped dining areas and entertainments such as deck sports and dancing. Particular attention is paid to entertainment for children. The camera dwells on family groups, although at boarding there seem to be a prepoderance of single men. At the end of the voyage, disembarking at Quebec City, a trio of ladies in headscarves carry a large cloth bundle, suggesting that they may be migrants from some part of Europe. It's possible that the emphasis on families is another attempt reassure potential travellers about the company they can expect to meet on board. The stewards are shown as particularly friendly and courteous, helping mothers by carrying babies and toddlers off the ship.

The destination is shown in carefully planned overhead shots showing panoramas of Quebec City and Montreal. There are several beauty shots of the new super-liners, RMS Ausonia and SS Antonia and Andania, at sea, as well as their interiors and decks. These three represent half of a sextet specially commissioned for this route by Cunard and completed around 1921/1922. They were comfortable and efficient ships, not particularly fast but economic and carrying just Cabin (second-class) and third-class passengers.

Bryony Dixon

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Embarkation (5:55)
2. Dining on board (3:21)
3. Fun and games (2:10)
Farming for Boys (1930)
Mitchell and Kenyon: Cunard Mail Steamer 'Lucania' (1901)
Liverpool: Across the Mersey