Forty years ago, New York’s famed Grand Central Terminal faced destruction until historic preservationists and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis stepped up to save it. This year, Grand Central celebrates its 100th Birthday, as yet another American engineering and architectural icon finds itself in a race against time. As part of a national campaign to save America’s Flagship, the SS United States, renowned director Robert Radler has completed a new documentary, SS United States: Made in America. The film is the sequel to Radler’s acclaimed PBS documentary SS United States: Lady in Waiting, produced by Emmy Award winning writer Mark B. Perry in 2008. The new film includes rare archival footage and updates on the plight of the “Big U” and the SS United States Conservancy’s efforts to save the fastest ship ever built.
The new 55-minute film is being released through the SS United States Conservancy’s social media and other online platforms in five installments over the coming weeks. Chapter One can be viewed by clicking HERE. Each chapter concludes with a call to action encouraging viewers to support the innovativeSavetheUnitedStates.org campaign where visitors can save and personalize pieces of the vessel online for as little as $1 and upload photos and messages that link to their own social media profiles.
“Until the advent of the internet, I often felt like I was the only one who remembered this great ship,” says Radler who is best known for directing HBO’s “the Substitute” Movies, the Best of the Best martial arts dramas, plus a host of television shows including Hercules and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. “Through the power of new technology and social media, we have found that there a community of people all around the world who care about this great vessel and her place in history. That’s why it is fitting that this film be premiered and promoted online to help ensure the SavetheUnitedStates.org campaign is a great success.”
Like so many who saw her during her service career, Radler who grew up in New York, was mesmerized by the SS United States as she steamed in and out of New York Harbor along with the other great 20th century liners. “There was something about this ship that set her apart from all the others. With that streamlined bow and those huge red, white and blue funnels, she looked like she was going 50 miles an hour standing still,” he recalls. His interest in the ship has been a life-long journey. As a young film student he was one of only a few ever permitted to film the ship while she was mothballed in Newport News following her lay-up in the 1970’s.
The SS United States’ transatlantic speed record – set 60 years ago on her maiden voyage – will likely never be broken. One of the nation’s greatest engineering achievements, the vessel epitomized the nation’s post-war industrial and technological might and “can-do” spirit. Once a Top Secret Cold War weapon and the ship of choice for celebrities and presidents, today she sits in Philadelphia harbor rusting, awaiting restoration and repurposing.
“The SS United States epitomizes the term “Made in America” and Bob Radler has again captured the ship’s power, technological innovation and national symbolism with his thoughtful and moving film,” states Susan Gibbs, Executive Director of the SS United States Conservancy, which purchased the ship in 2011. The Conservancy has only a limited time to raise more than $1 million to keep the vessel in the water for another year while redevelopment and museum plans are finalized. “This film is a part of our Save the United States Campaign. Everyone who participates in SavetheUnitedStates.org will become part of our permanent interactive museum exhibition and help ensure that this ship endures and inspires for generations to come.”
“She is as significant an American icon as the Empire State Building or Grand Central Terminal. In America, we can’t make a ship like this anymore,” says Radler. “Lady in Waiting” reached US households through PBS stations and brought the plight of America’s Flagship to millions of people around the world. Now that the Conservancy owns this ship and is racing to raise the funds to save her, I hope this film will motivate people to take action in support of an irreplaceable piece of American history.”