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
The footage used during the launching sequence of the Titanic is that of the 1938 launching of the Cunard Liner Queen Elizabeth, as no footage of the Titanic's launching actually existed. Despite the nearly thirty year difference in the two launchings, the substituted footage worked perfectly in conveying what a ship launch in the period was like. See more »
About 14 minutes into the movie, what looks like a full-size sun reflector on a big stand, is seen sitting unused, dead-center, in the background for 3-5 seconds as the steerage passengers say good-bye to friends and a priest near their homes. 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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Roy Ward Baker's masterly docudrama still holds up well even after nearly a half century. It is a far more historically accurate, and broader-scoped version than the James Cameron 1998 epic. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the latter, the former still wins the prize for historical veracity as well as for dramatic impact.
Les from Brighton asks a couple of questions and poses a few comments meriting response:
Q: With a huge iceberg nearby would it not have been obvious to run the Titanic aground upon it?
A: Obvious, perhaps, but hardly practical. Icebergs are harder than steel and any attempt to beach an ocean liner on a berg (particularly with nearly perpendicular slopes) would only invite more damage to the vessel. There is some speculation that Titanic might have survived if the lookouts had detected the berg only one minute later than they did. The deck officer would have had no time to attempt evasion and Titanic would have rammed the berg-head on instead of sustaining a glancing blow, which peppered the hull with breaches to sea along her port bow three hundred feet aft. Conceivably, for a head on blow the damage might have been restricted to the first two or so of the first four watertight compartments, which might have allowed Titanic to remain afloat.
Q: In a similar vein on spotting the light on the horizon (the Californian) I would have thought that setting out for it in one of the lifeboats manned by as many beefy rowers as they could cram into it might have been a good way to get its attention.
A: SS Californian was anywhere from ten to fifteen miles from RMS Titanic on the night of the sinking. An oar powered life boat (not built for speed but for capacity) with a full crew can make, perhaps, three to four knots on a flat sea. This would mean, roughly, two and a half to four hours for even a beefy lifeboat crew to reach Californian, even if Californian had been close to Titanic, and even if the boat crew had the strength and endurance to pull at maximum speed for the entire time. Titanic struck the iceberg at 11h30 on 14 April and sank at 02h20 on the 15th, slightly under two and a half hours between impact and foundering. There was not enough time to attempt a rescue effort along those lines, and the boat needed for it was better used to get passengers off Titanic.
Q: On the other hand had I been aboard I may have been running around like the rest
A: There was very little running around. The crew of Titanic were unpracticed in evacuation procedures, but they were highly disciplined. They loaded the boats and launched them as quickly and efficiently as they could, but the boats were nowhere near capacity when crew launched them. Walter Lord suggests that one of the factors contributing to the high death rate among passengers (there was room in the lifeboats for 1200 passengers and crew, but only 714 survived) was not necessarily that the large number of steerage passengers were deliberately kept from getting to the boat decks, but that few crew members took the initiative to try encouraging steerage passengers to go the boat decks. Even if a few crew members made the attempt to drive passengers to the weather decks, however, most passengers making it to the deck found it too cold and uncomfortable and simply turned around to go back to the warmth of below decks until it was too late.
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