Guest Author - Amber Grey
On April 10, 1912, the most illustrious ship ever to set sail on the ocean waters left the England harbor bound for New York on its maiden voyage. It would never reach its destination. On the night of April 14th, Titanic struck an iceberg. The ship that was proclaimed to be "unsinkable", that not even God could sink the ocean liner, sunk in a matter of hours, losing the lives of 1,514 people. Since 1912, the RMS Titanic has captured audience and filmmakers attention and imagination.
"Saved from the Titanic" was a silent film released a mere month after the sinking. It starred actress Dorothy Gibson, who was an actual survivor of the tragedy. The 22-year old boarded the first lifeboat launched from the ship with her mother. However, they were not out of danger. Once the lifeboat was released into the water, it began to sink itself due to a hole in the floor. Only by using articles of their own clothing to plug the hole, were the lifeboat's passengers able to save themselves from the icy waters. To authenticate the picture, Gibson wore the same clothes in the picture that she wore that fateful night. When the film was released, Gibson was met with harsh criticism about capitalizing on the tragedy but she defended herself in saying that it was a tribute to the victims of the tragedy. The film was only 10 minutes long but it won sold out shows across America. Unfortunately for us, the film was lost in a studio fire and is considered a lost film.
If there is a film that capitalized on the tragedy for personal gain, it was "Titanic" (1943). This bizarre film was made to be a German propaganda film for the Nazi party with Joseph Goebbels commissioning the film. "Titanic" was about a fictitious German Officer, Herr Peterson, who foresees the flaws in Jacob B. Ismay's request to increase the ship's speed towards its destination. When the ship strikes the iceberg, Peterson and other German passengers are seen as heroes while British characters are portrayed as the villains. The film was shot on board the cruise ship, SS Cap Arcona. In the final days of World War II, the Arcona was struck by the Royal Air Force who mistakened it for a military ship. The ship sunk with a record of 5,000 casualties. The film was later banned by Goebbels but was rediscovered in 1949.
And finally, there is "A Night To Remember" (1958), the docudrama about that tragic night on April 15, 1912. Unclear as to whether or not it was due to budgetary restraints, this film shows the Titanic sinking in one piece, despite survivor's accounts of the ship breaking in two, which was confirmed by the wreckage. Before James Cameron's 1997 epic, it was and still is considered to be the closest film in historical accuracy. Titanic survivor and fourth officer Joseph Boxhall served as a technical advisor on the film while another survivor, Elizabeth Dowdell attended the film's premiere in New York. In the 1997 epic "Titanic", Cameron paid homage to this film in many of the shots and sequences he used in his portrayal of the sinking.