This film is part of Free

Fair Oriana

The spectacular story of the building of a massive ocean liner.

Documentary 1961 28 mins


This terrific documentary tells the story of the making of the huge TSS Oriana, last of the Orient liners. Sponsored by United Steel, source of much of Oriana's raw material, it takes us from Scunthorpe and Rotherham steel mills to Barrow shipyards via Southampton docks to the open waves. By turns lucidly informative and splendidly bombastic, it's not just the story of a ship but an epic hymn to the interconnection of industries.

United Steel's regular film producer Wallace Productions entrusted the project to director Bill Mason. Shipbuilding and launch scenes were shot at Vickers-Armstrong in Barrow where Paul Rotha's classic Shipyard had been filmed twenty-five years earlier. Contrasted with Rotha's modernism, Fair Oriana's stately images, rousing orchestral score and 'Voice of God' narration belong to the classical 'high pomp' phase of industrial documentary, a style that would go out of fashion in both documentary and corporate films but remains appealing when done well. Top-rank industrial filmmaker Mason (best known for his Shell and BP motor-racing films) made three major films for Wallace/United Steel. The other two, Steel Town and Project Spear, are also available on BFI Player.