5 Titanic Movies You Probably Didn’t See
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. This maritime disaster is the most widely told tale of a ship sinking. It occurred on April 15, 1912 and took the lives of over 1500 people. Among the dead were some of the richest and most powerful people in the world. The news at the time blamed class warfare and lack of preparation for the amount of lives lost. Even though more than half the people could have been placed on the lifeboats, only a little over 700 actually got a seat on them. In the aftermath, stories have been written and many movies have been made about the disaster. Probably the most famous of these films is James Cameron's Titanic (1997). Titanic has been highlighted in more than one film, though. Here are five of those Titanic movies that you might not have seen.
This is possibly the most famous movie on this list. This 1958 movie, based on the best selling novel by Walter Lord, was the closest recount to what actually happened on the ship that fateful night. Actual blueprints from the ship were used for accuracy. The story is taken from the point of view of passengers on the ship and the ship's second officer, Charles Lightoller. While there are not many people you might recognize in the movie, one is actress Honor Blackman (James Bond's Pussy Galore) and a young Sean Connery in an uncredited role as a a seaman on the doomed vessel. While the movie didn't have a huge special effects budget, the film is pretty accurate in its description of the sinking. Titanic buffs should definitely see this movie.
This 1964 movie was a musical and a big hit for MGM. It stars Debbie Reynolds as Margaret Brown, the Denver socialite who was an actual passenger on the Titanic. The scenes on the boat were lifted from an earlier, 1953 film (see below), but the movie has some fun scenes depicting Molly's life trying to become accepted by high society. If you remember the Cameron film (in which Molly Brown was played by Kathy Bates), Molly Brown had a problem getting along with "old money". That was a truth taken from real life, but you won't find many other facts in this film. It does give you a better glimpse of this gutsy lady who yelled at the crew on Lifeboat #6 to go back and look for survivors of the shipwreck. In real life, Lifeboat #6 was unable to save anyone from the water.
Ten years later, 20th Century Fox gave a go at the Titanic legend with their own movie. Initially, the movie was supposed to be named "Nearer My God To Thee" which was supposedly the last song the band played as the unsinkable ship sunk. It was determined that the name Titanic would have more recognition, so they changed the title at the last minute. This black and white epic won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, but did rather poorly in the theater compared to some of the other films that came out that year (From Here to Eternity, Roman Holiday, War of the Worlds, and Peter Pan). The movie starred Robert Wagner, Barbara Stanwyck, and Clifton Webb. Even though it is based on a historical event, the main story was fictional, just like Cameron's epic forty years later.
If the name sounds familiar, it may be because this was the first film to use the name Titanic as its sole title. The movie is a German-made story produced by Hitler's own Minister of Propaganda, Hermann Goebbels. Why make a film about a British steamer? It was designed to show the incompetence and greed of the British. Goebbels took real life characters and made them even more sleazy and evil than they were in real life. Almost nothing about this movie is true. Even the Germans recognized this movie as a sham. There are some classic lines in the movie, such as the German first officer stating that the other officers were sailing a "ship of fools". White Star managing director, Bruce Ismay, who actually survived the sinking is heard to say to Captain Smith, "I demand a seat in a lifeboat!" In the end, the movie sank faster than the ship and the director, Herbert Selpin - and this is not a joke - was forced to commit suicide in his prison cell after complaining about how lame the film actually was...
If the year looks familiar to you on this movie, that would be because it came out only a month after the sinking of the Titanic. Released in May, 1912, this 10 minute silent film starred actual Titanic survivor, Dorothy Gibson. This was tabloid sensationalism at its best. Gibson was one of the world's highest paid actresses (along with Mary Pickford) when the Titanic sank. She just happened to be on board the ship when it hit the iceberg and her film company - French owned Eclair Films - convinced her to make this one reel short. Gibson was playing the card game Bridge with friends in the lounge and escaped on Lifeboat #7, which was the first boat to leave with 26 people on board. The lifeboat held 65 people when full. One of the selling points of this movie was that Gibson wore the exact same outfit she wore that terrible night: A white, silk evening gown, with a cardigan and polo coat. Beyond that, the outfit was about the most authentic part of the film. While being a hit, all copies of this movie were destroyed in a fire at Eclair Studios in 1914.