Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Titanic, 1953

Fanscination with The Titanic rolls ever onward - in its centenary year. We will soon have a new 4-part series written by Lord Julian Fellows (DOWNTON ABBEY), and of course whatever one thinks of James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster, the second half after the iceberg hits is stunningly well done as one really feels the ocean invading and sinking the ship ... so it was interesting to catch Jean Negulesco's 1953 version. Winner of three Academy Awards, the 1953 TITANIC holds up well, even on a much smaller budget - as does the 1958 A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, with Kenneth More, perhaps the best all-round version of events without silly stories at the forefront.

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.

20th Century's contribution to the story hold the interest with Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck heading the cast as an ill-matched couple; she is in fact leaving him and returning to America with their children as he joins the ship at the last minute to reason with her. Webb and Stanwyck bring their expertise to this soap opera story and it remains very affecting. Add in young Robert Wagner, more like a 50s teenager than a 1912 one, and Thelma Ritter as the famous Unsinkable Molly Brown, and Brian Aherne as the captain and the stage is set for some dramatics. Negulesco keeps it going nicely and it has that early 50s 20th Century Fox look in spades.

The tempestuous exchanges between Webb and Stanwyck are strongly and believably acted, and then we have the sinking of the vessel - not as graphically done as in the later versions, but suitably stiff upper lip to the end. Interesting to compare these versions this anniversary year, we shall be hearing more about them.


  1. This is my favorite version of the sinking, although I agree that A Night to Remember is more accurate and that comes in second for me, Barbara and Clifton really give the feeling of a couple who would have been sailing on the ship and their parting is immensely moving as are his last scenes with his son. Thelma of course is inimitable.
    The Cameron version never really worked for me, maybe I'm too literal but there is no way that Kate and Leo's characters would have even met let alone him, a steerage passenger, wandering freely around the ship in 1912! That spoiled most of the film for me but Gloria Stuart was terrific, Kate good and once the ship hit the berg it did become very involving.

  2. I agree, this is the best version... my favourite line, "My poor Richard, how you hate me and for the wrong reason. Not because I committed an offense against common decency, but because Norman isn't and elegant extension of Richard Ward Sturges. For you what happened is not a mortal sin, it is an inexcusable breech of etiquette."