Sunday Matinee: Titanic

No not the James Cameron film but the Titanic in general. One hundred years ago today the Titanic sank. She had hit an iceberg at 23:40 (ship’s time[a]) on Sunday, 14 April 1912 and two hours and forty minutes later the great ship sank at 02:20 (05:18 GMT) on Monday, 15 April, 1912.

Everybody seems to remember Cameron’s tacky romantic monstrosity that made a ton of money when it original hit theatres which is currently playing in 3-D at the cinemas making a few more extra dollars Mr. Cameron but here’s a look at several movies that dealt with the Titanic that were made before 1997.

The very first film about the Titanic was released in theatres 29 days after the disaster had happened. Saved from the Titanic was a short film made in 1912 and starred Dorothy Gibson an actual survivor from the Titanic. She co-wrote and starred in the film which reenacted her rescue from the ship. Naturally it was a big hit but was criticized for cashing in on the disaster so quickly. Unfortunately the film has been lost after a fire destroyed the last remaining prints.

Atlantis (1913) The first full length film was also the first full length Danish film ever made. Based on the novel Atlantis by Gerhart Hauptmann which was published a month before the actual Titanic disaster, the film was released in 1913 and was subsequently banned in Norway for being insensitive to the disaster. Directed by August Blom the film focuses more on the various romances of the story’s hero Dr. Friedrich von Kammacher. His love for a dancer leads him to board a ship (named the SS Roland) that naturally hits a large object and sinks killing most of the passengers because of a shortage of life boats. Bonus trivia: legendary Hollywood director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) worked on the film as an assistant.

The first talkie about the Titanic was the 1929 British film Atlantic. Again the plot revolves around romance but this time a married man is having an affair with one of the passengers until disaster strikes. The movie was original called Titanic but lawsuits forced the filmmakers to change the name.



Titanic
(1943) was Nazi propaganda film where the hero of the tragedy is a German officer who is trying to stop the evil ruthless and greedy British and get them to slow the ship down before they crash. The British owners of the ship are also manipulating the stock market to make a profit off the ship in some wacky scheme that involves making the ship go fast. The film ends with an inquiry where the good German tries to reveal the truth but is ignored. The epilogue states that “the deaths of 1,500 people remains un-atoned, forever a testament of Britain’s endless quest for profit.”

20th Century Fox made Titanic in 1953 which focused an an estranged couple, Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb. The film wasn’t historically accurate but it still managed to get a couple Oscar nominations for best screenplay and costumes. (It won for screenplay).

The best of the Titanic films was this 1958 British film A Night to Remember. It was fairly historically accurate and it was told primarily from the point of view of Second Officer Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More). Also romance did not play a role in the story much like most previous versions had.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good.

One thought on “Sunday Matinee: Titanic”

  1. Thanks for this, Shane. “A Night to Remember” was on TCM last night. It’s amazingly true to Walter Lord’s book, and the special effects stand up well, even after a viewing of James Cameron’s film. One of the best things about the older film was the minimal music score.
    The 1953 film is pure melodrama, but Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb are always worth watching. Wasn’t this also Robert Wagner’s film debut?

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