|Page 1 of 8:||       |
|Index||79 reviews in total|
When I was young I was probably the only kid in years who had checked out
our library's copy of Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember." It began a
lifelong fascination with the ill-fated liner. I was home sick on the couch
a short time later when I saw this film for the first time on TV. Forty
years later, I still remember how this movie touched me then. Even then I
was hooked -- not just because the film dealt with the Titanic, but for some
visceral reason I couldn't put my finger on. Still can't -- decades later.
I'm not ashamed to say I continue to get choked up by the scene where Webb
is on the slanting deck with his "son", telling the boy he's never been
prouder of him. Fast forward several years and I'm sitting on the couch
watching this film with my own son for the first time. Sure enough, I'm
having a tough time not losing it all during the Webb and son scene
(especially poignant now) when I sneak a peek over at my boy. I've seen him
cry maybe two or three times in his whole life yet there he sat with
unmistakably moist eyes. What a moment to share. I'm very happy to see so
many other people here feel positively toward this movie. One of the
defining movie experiences of my life.
While I saw and enjoyed the current "Titanic," I've always held a
special place for the excellent 1953 version. Charles Brackett and
Walter Reisch's Oscar-winning screenplay, deftly blending fact with
fancy, tells the story compellingly in about half the time of the
Cameron film. And what a cast! Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb, Richard
Basehart, the young Robert Wagner (looking positively "DiCaprioesque,"
as it were!), the (unfortunately) near-forgotten Brian Aherne, and the
underrated Audrey Dalton all give sterling performances. The special
effects are equal to anything in the Cameron film. And it all comes
together under Jean Negulesco's sure-footed direction. As I say, you've
seen the Cameron film, now see the film where they got it right!
To update these comments almost seven years after they were originally written, the DVD of this film is definitely one for any Titanic buff to have in their collection. It features TWO separate commentary tracks, one by critic Richard Schickel and stars Robert Wagner and Audrey Dalton, the other by Titanic historians. There is also the original theatrical trailer and newsreel footage of the film's premiere and Oscar wins. Most impressive of all, though, is a fascinating feature-length documentary, narrated by Victor Garber (ship-builder Thomas Andrews in the Cameron/DiCaprio film), about the sinking of the Titanic and how's it's been presented in films and on TV from the silent era to the present. All this on one DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Winner of three Academy Awards, the 1953 "Titanic" (dates are important
because of the plethora of identically titled films about the great
disaster), was recently re-released by 20th Century Fox as part of their
important DVD Studio Classics series.
Fascination with the fate of the huge and opulent liner is as strong as ever, especially since improved technology has led to more breathtaking visits to the ship's resting spot on the floor of the Atlantic where state-of-the-art robots with cameras explore the crumbling interiors of the still eerily majestic but rapidly decaying wreck.
The first film dramatizing the fate of the White Star Line's greatest ship came out very soon after the 1912 sinking. Since then there have been many movies and several Broadway shows about the loss of over 1500 lives ("The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and, of course, "Titanic").
20th Century's contribution to the genre came before the historically much more accurate "A Night to Remember," based on Walter Lord's bestselling book of that title. And of course it can't begin to match the special effects and wizardry, to say nothing of a cloyingly popular tune, of James Cameron's international top money grosser.
But Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb bring a dramatic and impelling story to the screen that remains powerful and, really, very sad decades after the movie's release. Directed by Jean Negulesco, "Titanic" has major (and what could have been easily avoidable) errors about the April 1912 collision with an iceberg. That doesn't matter because this film is about the relationship of rich, haughty, upper class European (no nationality specified) Webb and his estranged American wife of some two decades, Barbara Stanwyck. They have an ingenue teenage girl who is a Parisian snob and a younger boy who adores his dad. The feeling is mutual until Stanwyck reveals that her husband, from whom she's fleeing so the kids can grow up in darkest rural Michigan as Americans, isn't the boy's father. The ship is the setting for a family in dissolution with every first-time viewer knowing the matter won't be resolved when the ship docks in new York.
Of course the tempestuous exchanges between Webb and Stanwyck, strongly and believably acted, must give way to the exigencies of dealing with a mortally stricken vessel. Stanwyck and Webb are at the height of their acting careers.. The last dialogue between Webb and his son as drowning approaches is among the most moving and heart-wrenching I have ever experienced in a movie (maybe it's just a guy thing).
Barbara Stanwyck said in an interview that when her lifeboat scene ended she burst into uncontrollable tears, so strongly had she felt the experience of the survivors.
DVDs frequently have extra features which can and do run from the inane to the outstanding. I have yet to encounter a more valuable and fascinating extra than the documentary "Beyond Titanic," a ninety-five minute film only a bit shorter than the movie itself. While many Titanic documentaries focus on the causes of the maritime debacle or the exploration of the sunken ship, this film is about the social and cultural significance and heritage of one of the world's most consistently engrossing and endlessly studied tragedies.
"Beyond Titanic" presents the cinema history of the voyage from the first silent reels emerging soon after the event to the most recent movies. Authors of outstanding books on the Titanic are interviewed and film clips from movies and newsreels bring the story to life.
While watching the movie before we saw the documentary, my teenage son turned to me and cynically asked why women and children should have had a right to available lifeboat seats before men were debarked from the listing vessel. "Beyond Titanic" tackles the social mores of the time and quickly but clearly shows that the heroism of men who yielded the opportunity to get into the boats, and thus forfeited their lives, was a standard that those opposed to woman's suffrage applauded. Fighters for women's rights were embarrassed, indeed appalled, and many clearly felt that no such consideration should have been extended on the basis of gender. Probably no one disputed that children should have been saved before adults (at least I hope so).
There are more extra features including newsreels.
And to think that this new release cost but $9.95.
For the movie, 8/10. For "Beyond Titanic," 10/10.
I enjoyed this version more than James Cameron's magnum opus. The focus
of the movie was more on human drama than special effects, though the
latter was pretty decent for a 1953 movie. Clifton Webb and Barbara
Stanwyck are wonderful as an estranged couple who finally reconcile
just before they have to part. I reckon their story is more poignant
because it's a greater tragedy to be parted when a couple has history
together, as opposed to Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's
characters, who met aboard the ship. They only seem like they've known
each other forever because the movie's so darn long.
I guess it's a matter of which you prefer, plot or effects. It's interesting to note that this Titanic won a screenplay Oscar - its only one - whereas James Cameron's Titanic won 11 Oscars but didn't even get a screenplay nomination.
Just a precaution: If you are expecting a completely accurate historical account of the night with all the scientific details neatly in place, look elsewhere. This film instead focuses (touchingly) on the human drama involved with the ship, with many of the elements of real passengers' accounts rolled into the story of Clifton Webb and wife Barbara Stanwyck (Both excellent; when Isn't Barbara Stanwyck excellent?) and their children. A few real characters are involved, but for the most part the drama surrounding the fictional characters is in the forefront. A beautiful and striking account, the film deserved a few more Oscars than it got, primarily for Miss Stanwyck and a supporting Oscar for Robert Wagner, who does wonderfully in his role.
This film has been overshadowed by the 1997 blockbuster, but this 1953
story of the tragic ocean liner certainly stands tall on its own
merits, not the least of which are the star performances by Clifton
Webb and Barbara Stanwyck.
Built around the domestic drama of a fictional family, the well-known story of the sinking of the Titanic unfolds in an unrelenting and straightforward fashion. Brian Aherne (as the captain) is the victim of delayed and incorrect information and sails the ship right into the iceberg. We get glimpses of the rich and famous who populated the doomed ship as well as the luscious interiors of the ship.
The special effects are tremendous without taking over the film. The final scenes of the sinking ship are awesome. But the story of innocent passengers takes center stage here. Stanwyck and Webb are a squabbling couple with two children. The girl (Audrey Dalton) is a snob who is charmed by a college boy (Robert Wagner). Thelma Ritter plays a Molly Brown- like character addicted to loud jewelry and cards. Richard Basehart plays a defrocked priest. Allyn Joslyn plays the infamous coward who dresses like a woman to gain a seat on a lifeboat. Oh, and that's Mae Marsh the kid gives his seat to.
The final scenes of Webb and son are superb. An excellent film.
I am a Barbara Stanwyck fan first and foremost. I have never seen her make a false move on film. I could name several films that were Oscar-worthy for Barbara, this is definitely near the top. Titanic is an excellent film. It is taut and to the point. No fluff, just substance. Knowing that all of the family won't survive is heart-wrenching. The ending is poignant and ironic and the life lessons are clear. There are surprises at every turn. Everyone in the film turns in top notch performances. I was just simply blown away! They definitely don't make them like this anymore. Rent it, buy it or check it out at your local library, but see it!
The 1997 version was very pretty and had some pretty stunning effects, but this 1953 version had, by far, the best storyline, far better actors and was more engrossing all around. Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb made a fine team and their story added so much to the tragic environment. The excellent acting made up for the dated special effects, though the long shots of the ship going down are quite good, even by today's standards.
If you're unfamiliar with Clifton Webb (3 Oscar nominations, 1 Golden
Globe award -- all for other work) just think Campbell Scott and you'll
not be far off. Webb carries this film. but Ms Stanwyck as his wife,
and Robert Wagner and Audrey Dalton as the young couple are all
remarkably good. Stanwyck is rarely this on, imhb.
The set up is all about the people, not the ship, and it works because when the iceberg strikes, it's as if we never saw it coming, and now these good folk mean the world to us.
The pacing is superb, and I can assure you that you will wish the film were longer. Never mind the barely adequate sets: they don't slow or offset the action. The B&W photography is strangely modern in the ratio of closeups to long-shots. At least enough of the crowd is constantly moving and filling the screen expertly for us not to notice that the camera is usually stationary.
This film was unusually successful on television. It was one of the first of those shown in the late 50's when the networks began showing prime time full length feature films of fairly recent vintage on weekend nights. It was an event. Who knew television could entertain showing prime time movies?
The first I ever saw or heard of the sinking of the Titanic, was one
Saturday evening, when my family sat to watch this film on the old Saturday
Night at the Movies. I have been captivated by the subject ever since. Of
course, since seeing this version,back in the early sixties, I have read
Walter Lord's book A Night To Remember, saw the movie A Night To Remember
based on that book, painfully sat through two terrible TV movies on the
subject, was incredibly bored by the fictional, Raise The Titanic, and
totally enthralled by James Cameron's definitive (for me) version. This
movie remains, on it's own terms, solid big studio Hollywood
Right at the start we're given a good fictional story, with Barbara Stanwyck taking her two kids on The Titanic, to get them away from her snooty husband, wonderfully played by Clifton Webb in one of his best roles. In order to get on the ship, Webb must pay a steerage passenger a great deal of money for a ticket, and agreeing to make sure that the steerage passenger's wife and kids make the voyage okay. This set's up a great scene later on, as the ship is sinking, but it is also about as much of the people on the lower decks that you'll see in this version.
The scenes between Clifton Webb and Barbra Stanwyck are outstanding, There is one scene in particular, when they are arguing about the fate of they're children, that she tells him a long kept secret, that though brief in nature, is played to perfection.
As for the supporting cast, they are not wasted either. Thelma Ritter, one of the truly great character actors, is excellent as usual. A young Richard Basehart, as a priest questioning his faith, is not on the screen a lot, yet is quite convincing. A young Robert Wagner does just fine trying to win the hand of Audrey Dalton who is equally as good as Clifton Webb's snooty daughter. There are several real life passengers portrayed, such as Isador and Ida Strauss, and their big scene where she refuses to leave her husband behind, is touching and heartbreaking.
If you are looking for a realistic account of the sinking of the Titanic, you won't get it here. What you do get, is excellent acting, tight drama, and some heart wrenching moments that you won't ever forget. Spectacular it isn't, good film making it is.
|Page 1 of 8:||       |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|