...Let's go to the movies...
So, We all know about the James Cameron blockbuster, 'Titanic' you might know about the 1979 film 'S.O.S Titanic' or possibly you might have heard of the 1996 Tv-movie 'Titanic' starring Catherine Zeeta Jones. But do you know about the many , many other Titanic movies? Well now's your chance to find out about them!
1912- So our first movie adventure happens to be in 1912, the same year the Titanic sank. It was pretty much a load of bogus material mixed together to make a 10 minute newsreel for people to view in movie theatres immediately following the sinking. Most of the footage was that of the Titanic's sister ship the Olympic, which, having been completed a year earlier, had much more extensive photographic coverage. Unsophisticated movie audiences of the time were easily taken in by these deceptions.
1912- Another from this year. At least one primitive "animated" reconstruction of the disaster was released by the sales company's animated weekly to satisfy movie audiences' hunger for any kind of footage related to the Titanic. It was common practise in this period to produce animated versions of news events that did not enjoy the benefit of coverage by real movie cameras. A similar animated version of the sinking of the Lusitania produced three years later still exists.
1912- Again 1912 produce yet another "movie". The motion picture was a primitive entertainment medium in it's infancy. In fact there were a handful of individuals connected with the film industry on the Titanic. Most did not survive. One who did was Dorothy Gibson, a past-time actress, who was also a 1st class passenger. Within weeks of her rescue, her studio, Éclair film co. , capitalized on the connection by releasing a ten minute feature 'Saved from the Titanic'. In the film, Ms. Gibson wore the same dress in which she had boarded a Titanic lifeboat. She was actually one of the first in a lifeboat, whereas in the film, the heroine helps rescue several people and is one of the last to enter a boat. This film no longer exists and there were undoubtedly several other silent film versions of the Titanic Disaster which did not survive. It is estimated that almost 90% of films made during the silent era are lost forever. An early German film about the disaster was assumed lost but was discovered weeks after the release of the Cameron film.
1929- British International pictures released 'Atlantic' in both silent and sound versions. The film was a then-rare example of what today has become a television staple, the international co-production with talking versions in English, French and German. For many European audiences, it was the first all-talking film that they had seen and, like most early talkies, the dialogue sequences are stultifying bad with most of the actors demonstrating a profound discomfort at having to emote into a then unfamiliar microphone. The film was based on Ernest Raymond's play, 'The Berg' and was shot at Elstree studios in England. The shots of the lifeboats being lowered down the side of the ship were filmed on a real liner docked in the river Thames. The title 'Atlantic' is also the name of the ship as the film producers were threatened by a lawsuit from the White Star Line, one of many attempts by the shipping company to discourage filmmakers from dramatizing the Titanic disaster.
1933- The Fox production 'Cavalcade', based on a play by Noel Coward, featured a scene where a doomed honeymoon couple are discussing their plans for the future on the deck of an unidentified ship. As they move away from the railing, we see the name 'Titanic' printed on the life ring. The film won an academy award for best picture of 1933.
1937- 'History is made at night', stars Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur as is billed as a "romantic/comedy/drama". The climax of the film takes on board a new luxury liner that collides with an iceberg in the North Atlantic after the captain is instructed by the owner to ignore the ice warnings and race for a record crossing. Other than this collision, the connection with Titanic is flimsy at best. In the film, the ship's bulkheads hold, the liner is saved and the passengers, who were earlier lowered into lifeboats, are able to get back on board.
1938- Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick felt that the Titanic story had the requisite epic historical that he found so attractive in film projects. Selznick decided that a British director was needed to handle the story properly, so he imported Alfred Hitchcock, then (and still) one of Britain's best-known film directors. Selznick's initial plan called for purchasing the American liner 'Leviathan', then waiting on the scrap line in Hoboken, New Jersey, and towing it to California through the Panama canal. The studio would then overhaul the top decks to resemble 'Titanic', shooting the movie on it, then sinking the ship off Santa Monica while the Camera's were running. There were numerous difficulties involved in preparing the script and the expense of purchasing and overhauling 'Leviathan' proved to be prohibitive. Besides, by this time, Selznick was deeply involved in one of his other projects, 'Gone With The Wind'.
During World War 2, the German film industry,
firmly under the control of the Nazi's, made a propaganda version called
'Titanic'. It was one of the most expensive [German] films ever made until that
time (ring any bells?). By then, the war had turned against the Third Reich and
average Germans were experiencing many deprivations in food, gasoline and other
resources. Yet the film was a pet project of Hitler's confidant and powerful
minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbles. The fact that the real disaster
highlighted British incompetence and corruption appealed to Goebbles and there
was considerable opportunity for dramatic license.
'Titanic' was a flop when released. Regular bombing raids on German Cities by the combined British and American Air forces did not whet the public's appetite for a disaster. The Nazi censors yanked it from circulation when they discovered that German audiences were still far too sympathetic towards the British passengers despite the obvious propaganda quotient. The propaganda value also backfired as the Titanic in the film could easily be interpreted as an allegory of the Third Reich itself. 'Titanic' was, however, quite successful when shown in occupied France. Herbert Selpin was the director of 'Titanic' and he had made several earlier distinguished films. Selpin resisted many efforts by the Nazi's to exaggerate British cowardice even more than appeared in the final film. He openly displayed his contempt for his Nazi masters and was murdered in his prison cell on the orders of Goebbles, having never seen his last film. Perhaps, in some ways, he was the final victim of the Titanic disaster.