A successful attempt at an even-handed portrayal of the White Star Line's (later part of Cunard) luxury liner R.M.S. Titanic's sinking from the standpoint of 2nd Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, himself the most senior of the ill-fated ship's Deck Officers to survive the disaster. (Lightoller later went on to distinguish himself as a line British Naval Officer during the First World War and served as a Senior Naval Staff Officer (convoys) during WWII. Between wars he owned and operated a successful family business producing pleasure craft.) His own survival of the sinking, along with several others, is shown atop one of the liner's two "collapsible" lifeboats which was capsized in floating off the liner as it sank. The picture depicts then known facts (c1958) as reported after the sinking; such as the woeful lack of adequate lifeboats, the ship's band playing true to the very end, White Star's co-owner Bruce Ismay's somewhat less than chivalrous departure from the sinking vessel -... Written by
There was no tank big enough at Pinewood Studios to film the survivors struggling in the water to climb into lifeboats, so it was done in the open-air swimming bath at Ruislip Lido in London at 2:00 am on a cold November morning. Kenneth More recalled that when the extras refused to jump into the water, he realized he would have to set an example. But when he jumped into the water, he recalled: "I leaped. Never have I experienced such cold in all my life. It was like jumping into a deep freeze just like the people did on the actual Titanic. The shock of the cold water forced the breath out of my lungs. My heart seemed to stop beating. I felt crushed, unable to think. I had rigor mortis... without the mortis. And then I surfaced, spat out the dirty water and, gasping for breath, found my voice. 'Stop!' I shouted. 'Don't listen to me! It's bloody awful! Stay where you are!' But it was too late as the extras followed suit." See more »
Junior wireless operator Harold Bride is seen attending the service on the Carpathia at the end of the film. He was at this time unconscious in the ship's hospital. See more »
[the engineers keep working knowing it is unlikely they will survive]
If any of you feel like praying you'd better go ahead. The rest of you can join me in a cup of tea.
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The Titanic disaster has provided material for quite an assortment of films, and a number of them have at least something to offer. This is one of the more effective, with its straightforward and, based on the knowledge then available, factually accurate approach. One particularly worthwhile aspect is that it spends more time detailing the reasons for the disaster than do most movies on the subject.
Often movies that try to stay close to the facts suffer from a lack of focus, especially when there is/are no central character(s) to hold things together. In this adaptation of "A Night to Remember", they solved the problem by focusing much of the action around Second Officer Lightoller, who was involved in some way in so many different aspects of what happened. As a device it works well, and there is enough action involving the other characters to keep it balanced.
Another inherent challenge in the story is that there are so many characters, and most of them hold some interest. In this adaptation, they chose simply to depict as many brief situations as possible, often without giving much with which to identify the characters. If you are familiar with Walter Lord's book, it is often possible to identify many of them, but otherwise, it might be a little confusing to sort through so many characters.
For such a detail-heavy story, this is an effective and commendable movie. With very few frills, it tells the story believably and sometimes memorably.
It does a pretty good job of meeting the main challenges, not telling the complete story, of course, but providing a worthwhile overview of events.
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