French film director Louis Malle and the SS Andrea Doria

Today in 1956 the Italian line SS Andrea Doria collided with the Swedish American Line’s SS Stockholm resulting in one of the most famous maritime disasters of all time. Remarkably, while over 1600 passengers and crew were aboard the Andrea Doria, only 46 lives were lost as a result of the collision even though half her lifeboats were inaccessible due to the severe list she took on after the incident. Much of this can be attributed to the improved maritime communications post-Titanic and the close proximity to the United States mainland and nearby vessels who quickly rendered assistance.

A week or so after the casualty, a team of divers located the Andrea Doria on the ocean’s floor and, led by a young Louis Malle, they were able to shoot the first underwater footage of the vessel in her final resting place.

Of course, Malle developed into a prolific and awarded film director who was nominated for three Oscars and won several awards at Cannes. One of his earliest successes was Le Monde du Silence (The Silent World) which he co-directed with famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau and which won Canne’s prestigious Palm d’Or (Golden Palm) in 1956. Here’s an snippet for this groundbreaking film.

While the Andrea Doria met her end 52 years ago, it’s amazing that the SS Stockholm continues to sail today under the name MS Athena for Classic International Cruises; not surprisingly, there’s no mention of her special place in maritime disaster history which probably is a sound marketing strategy.

For another famous director who launched his career doing maritime movies check out the previous post Stanley Kubrick and The Seafarers.

PBS – The Secrets of the Dead – The Sinking of the Andrea Doria

Andrea Doria – Tragedy and Rescue at Sea (some annoying pop-ups here)

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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