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A Night to Remember (1958)

This discussion on "A Night to Remember (1958)" is in the Titanic Movies section; There's many of you here who I hope have much to say about this, my ...

      
   
  1. #1
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    There's many of you here who I hope have much to say about this, my favourite Titanic film.
    For now, in case any of you ave missed it, the film has been restored and re-issued. It is playing at several venues
    in Britain and across the world. This link gives a guide to where it can be seen on the big screen Park Circus

    though it is on at other places too, as its part of Godalming's tribute to Jack Phillips Remembering the Titanic - events in Godalming for 2012 - RMS Titanic and Jack Phillips - Waverley Borough Council

    I'm always amused when watching Titanic (1997) at how many scenes were lifted from the Rank feature, which of course is based on the famous book of the same name.

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    It was the film that sparked my interest in Titanic when I was around 10. Made in Black and White, with obvious use of models, no amazing love story, it got some things wrong etc it is still a very powerful film. I watched my old VHS copy this weekend as part of my own remembrance process. I had forgotten just how moving I always find this film.

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    I'm new to the forum although I have long had an interest in Titanic, sparked incidentally from watching 'A Night to Remember' which just happened to feature one of my favourite actors (Ronald Allen who played the young man on honeymoon to whom Thomas Andrews gave advice about saving themsleves). For me A Night to Remember is the best Titanic film and the most moving, especially the scenes of those in the lifeboats looking back on the ship as it sinks. I always find that very moving.

    I recently visited Belfast and was there for the 100th anniversary commemorations, and can truly say that it was a moving and emotional experience being in the city of Titanics birth on such an occasion.

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    New members may not be aware that ET has a large archive of threads about ANTR. Unfortunately these are currently closed to posting but they can be read, and hopefully will eventually be moved into this new forum and re-opened for posting. In the meantime, comments can of course be posted here.

    For fans of the best film about the Titanic, here's the index page : <b>A Night to Remember</b>

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    This brings up something I've been wanting to ask ANTR-lovers for quite some time: What is it about this film that inspires such affection, when the Cameron movie is often derided and scorned? When I watch ANTR, I see a thoroughly competent job of movie-making, circa 1958, but I see little authenticity in the sets, I see some inaccuracies in the story (including one right at the beginning, where Titanic's bow is christened with Champagne), and I feel that Lightoller is somewhat unduly canonized.

    It is not my intent to deride ANTR here, nor to question anyone's judgment in liking the film, but I would like to get the thoughts of others on WHY this movie gets so much respect, when it has its own set of problems. I hope no one will feel attacked for liking ANTR - as a defender of the Cameron film (its considerable warts and all), I know all too well what that is like.

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    What's special about ANTR? The answer to your question, Sandy, is ... 1958. Well, maybe not so precise as that - any time in the mid to late '50s would do. This was, quite simply, the ideal time to make a film about the Titanic. The key members of your production team would all have grown up in prewar Britain, in a world which hadn't moved very far from the standards, values, behaviour and speech patterns of the Edwardian age. Some would be old enough even to have lived through that period, like producer Bill McQuitty who had been present at the launch of the Titanic, and the production designer who could make good use of memories of his own Edwardian youth. You'd have Titanic survivors on set as advisers. The legacy of the fairly recent World War would provide you with actors to play officers and seamen who had actually been officers and seamen. You could create a screenplay from the combined efforts of Walter Lord (who had traveled on the Olympic) and Eric Ambler, noted for his realistic portrayals of ordinary people in extraordinary situations in postwar classics like The Cruel Sea. These people weren't just making a film about a byegone age, they were the products of that byegone age. And that, rather than having every set, prop and costume spot on, is the source of ANTR's (apparent) authenticity. Though there are many departures from absolute historical accuracy, most things seem right. In short, for many of us the scenarios, the people and the period setting are more believable than those of any other Titanic film - though not necessarily more entertaining.

    One might argue that these advantages would have been even more apparent in a film made earlier - the 1920s or 1930s perhaps. But no, because in that period the British film industry didn't have the resources to create halfway decent sets, props and special effects. And worse than that, it was still in the grip of a Victorian tradition of melodrama, so no matter that those involved would have experienced the Edwardian age in reality - they didn't know how to portray it as reality. A viewing of the 1929 film Atlantic will make that point clear. By the 1940s there was a new trend for realism, but at that time, unlike the Nazis, we Brits couldn't afford to spend millions on making feature films. There was, however, a new style of gritty, stiff upper lip realism in the low key films made to show Britain and the World how ordinary people were coping with the war and the sacrifices it demanded. These paved the way forward, and by 1958 Pinewood was ready to compete with Hollywood by releasing the most costly production ever made in Britain - A Night to Remember.

    By the 1960's it would have been too late. A 1968 ANTR would have been a Technicolor epic made with the support of Hollywood dollars. There would have been pressure to inject more excitement, more romance, more appeal for American teen audiences. Michael Caine would have replaced Kenneth More as Lightoller. Captain Smith would have been Charlton Heston. The authentic Edwardians who made the '58 ANTR would have been in retirement, and contemporary distortions of the portrayal of Edwardian society would have shifted from the not dissimilar 1950s into the radically different 1960s.

    Now, of course, we have the resources to do things a lot better in many respects. Better sets, better props, better effects. Arguably better talent in front of and behind the cameras too (if not in the writing!) What we don't have, and never will have again, is that direct link to the past that the ANTR team had back in 1958. The 1912 of ANTR has a lot of the 1950s in it, but in so many ways that decade (along with those of us in the UK who lived in it) was not very far removed from the Edwardian age, while more recent films have been made by people who, whatever their levels of talent and sincerity, must find it a lot harder to look back that far and see things clearly.

    So there you have it, Sandy. 1958. That's the key.

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    Bob:

    Well said, Sir! I can see your point very clearly.

    For all that I defend Cameron's Titanic, there are things about it that bother me mightily, and many of them are precisely the textural nuances to which you allude. Few Edwardian maidens were prepared to take the risks inherent in a dalliance in the back seat of a Renault, and those very few who WERE prepared would not have been ruddy likely to have done so with a man who had confessed proximity to prostitutes in Paris. You know this. I know this. Cameron's team either did not know it, or ignored it in the effort to appeal to today's teen moviegoers, who are, sadly, where most of the money is nowadays.

    Even Edwardian patterns of movement - particularly for women - were different to today's. I wince every time I see Kate Winslet - who has since matured into a very fine actress - galumphing down the steps of the Grand Staircase towards Leonardo Di Caprio. In those days, ladies WAFTED from place to place (they still did in the '50s, as well - I was there, too), but Cameron evidently had no clue.

    And I would be the very first to agree with you that Cameron cannot write dialogue for beans. It's not merely a question of anachronisms, it's a question of lumpen, leaden sentences that would tax the abilities of Duse to deliver credibly. He also egregiously over-lights Titanic; 1912 incandescent lighting was nowhere near that bright nor anything like that white. Titanic's passengers were hardly fumbling around in the dark, but they weren't caught in a halogen glare, either.

    One of the great strengths of Cameron's movie, though, is its character performances, even when the actors giving them are sometimes forced to do things that they perhaps should not have been. David Warner, as Spicer Lovejoy, is marvelous in his first scene with Di Caprio, delivering his lines about Jack's jacket and shoes with a tight little smile on his face, managing to convey much more menace than any amount of snarling could have done. And Frances Fisher, as Rose's mother, is so emotionally closed off and chilly of mien that a viewer hearing Fleet cry "ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!" could be forgiven for wondering if perhaps he'd spotted Ruth Bukater on the foredeck.

    Thank you for a most perceptive and enlightening response.

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    And Frances Fisher, as Rose's mother, is so emotionally closed off and chilly of mien that a viewer hearing Fleet cry "ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD!" could be forgiven for wondering if perhaps he'd spotted Ruth Bukater on the foredeck.
    I literally just laughed out loud. That woman scared me!

    Mr. Godfrey and Mr. McLendon, your posts were a treat to read. Wonderful discussion!

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    Yes, I'm enjoying it too! To take it a bit further, it might be worth considering why ANTR, which drew large audiences in Britain, didn't do well in the US despite receiving a Golden Globe and good reviews from the Press - albeit not seen by many due to a newspaper strike. Well, first of all it came at a time when colour and wide-screen presentation were becoming the standard, and this film offered neither. It had no stars, or at least none that were known to American audiences. Even Kenneth More appears onscreen for only about 20 minutes, and the Producer's assertion that "the ship is the star" didn't do much to increase the film's box-office appeal. Add to this the fact that it represented a genre - the docu-drama - which rarely if ever was well-received across the Pond where more dramatic (and in every sense more colourful) Hollywood interpretations of history were the norm. The Director thought that Americans found the film too downbeat and depressing, even distressing - "they were coming out in tears" - but without the uplift of an upbeat message or sentimental angle essential to a successful 'tear-jerker'. Kenneth More believed the film had not been promoted and distributed with much enthusiasm because it wasn't made with American money.

    These failings in the American marketplace were much in the minds of the Hollywood film executives approached by James Cameron 40 years later, and were still a cause of great concern. It must be said that Cameron did succeed in addressing and (you might say) correcting what could be seen in commercial terms as errors of judgement back in 1958. He showed that, with the right formula, people would flock to see "just another film about a sinking ship". But did he create a better film? He certainly came up with a product which much better satisfied the demands of a modern audience. I see no reason to pillory him for that. I just wish he hadn't written the script!

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    Bob:

    It's my belief that Cameron might have escaped the amount of criticism he got had he done just one thing: He needed to make the "doomed romance" element of his script more plausible by confining it to two members of the First Class. There was absolutely no reason this could not have been done (God knows enough young men in First Class perished), and it would have made all the difference with Titanophiles. Other errors, such as the Hollywood-obligatory locking of the Bostwick gates, would have been criticized, but not to the extent they have been, I think.

    I find your comments on ANTR's technical aspects interesting, because you're quite right - it was an era when American movie-goers were primed to expect, in Cole Porter's words, "Glorious Technicolor, breathtaking CinemaScope and stereophonic sound." Since I don't know a great deal about ANTR's production history, I am left wondering why it was not filmed in color, to improve its chances in the North American market. Certainly, the British film industry was well-acquainted with color film-making; Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes" (1948) contains some of the finest Technicolor design and filming ever seen on the screen, far more advanced than American work in the process; the movie is full of things that simply were not technically possible when it was made - and yet, there they are.

    Cameron's film and ANTR share one failing: Margaret Brown is depicted as a plain woman. She was actually rather attractive, and she must have had somewhat more social finesse than she's credited with in films about her; J.J. Astor seems to have found her agreeable company.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandy McLendon View Post
    Bob:

    Even Edwardian patterns of movement - particularly for women - were different to today's. I wince every time I see Kate Winslet - who has since matured into a very fine actress - galumphing down the steps of the Grand Staircase towards Leonardo Di Caprio. In those days, ladies WAFTED from place to place (they still did in the '50s, as well - I was there, too), but Cameron evidently had no clue.

    .
    Movie talk! If they had really used authentically recreated costumes from the time period, I don't see how Kate Winslet could have galumphed. From looking at the dress patterns of the time, women would have only been able to waft, or risk falling down.

    I haven't seen the Cameron movie in years, but my niece told me she saw it for the first time a few weeks ago with some of her 20-something friends. It was interesting to hear her say they thought Leonardo DiCaprio seemed too modern to be believable for the time period. Fascinating to me, because I don't remember that type of criticism when the movie first came out.
    Writer with 2 names-my own and my pen name- Lia Garret

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    Sandy, there was another option. Keep Jack in 3rd Class and re-write Rose as an Irish immigrant! Or maybe compromise and place them both in 2nd Class. Wouldn't work, of course - you gotta have all that 1st Class opulence to pull in the audiences. Hang on - why not have unlikely romantic entanglements in all three Classes? Get me Julian Fellowes!

    Producer Bill MacQuitty has written that ANTR was made in small-screen black & white so that he could include library footage, but I think there's more to it than that. There's actually very little stock footage in the film (including a few seconds of clips from the wartime German Titanic), and none of it essential. But in Britain at least, audiences were familiar with a highly respected docu-drama tradition which began in wartime and continued into the '50s, represented by films like The Dam Busters, Reach for the Sky, and (especially relevant) The Cruel Sea, all of which were set in WW2. This was a formula that required the use of lots of real stock footage, and created an expectation that reality was black & white, while widescreen colour was better suited to escapist fantasy. Unless you're Powell and Pressburger - if you've seen A Matter of Life and Death you'll know what I mean by that! I wonder if Schindler's List would have been more (or less) effective if filmed in colour?

    You think Margaret Brown was rather attractive? In her youth perhaps. I believe she would have been very good company, but to be honest she looked more like Burt Reynolds than Debbie Reynolds.

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    Dee, that particular criticism of DiCaprio's role was quite widespread as I recall. A streetwise late c20th kid transported back in time. There was argument, however, about whether this was due to his performance, to the hair & makep department, or to the screenwriting. I hardly need to cast my vote!

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    Dee: There were several problems with Winslet's costumes. One, the narrow circumference at the hem (the "hobble" effect, or a somewhat "easier" variation of it) seen in that era's dresses was discarded to give Winslet more ease in walking and running. Another one was that polyester was used for a few of them, and poly never picks up the light in quite the same way as, say, a silk satin.

    If you want to see 1912 costuming that is quite reasonably accurate (in and of itself, not counting the efforts of the hair and makeup departments), try 1962's "The Music Man," costumed by Dorothy Jeakins, set in 1912 Iowa. Normally, star period costuming has to be modified somewhat, to rid it of anything modern-day audiences might find strange or unattractive. On "The Music Man," Jeakins discovered two things: 1) Shirley Jones looked absolutely ravishing in 1912 fashion, and 2) Jones trusted Jeakins.

    The costuming on the townswomen in "The Music Man" is especially worthy of note, because it is very finely graduated according to each character's social and financial status. Hermione Gingold, as mayor's wife Eulalie Shinn, got costuming more lavish than that seen on Shirley Jones. But at the other end of the scale, some players were given clothing deliberately sewn and trimmed to look home-made, with crooked details, etc. It's extraordinary work, particularly when you stop to think that few movie-goers would notice.

    The only letdown in "Music Man" is seen on some of the chorus dancers' costuming, much of which has a 1962 feeling; one dancer wears a headband that would have been right at home on "The Patty Duke Show."

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    Bob:

    I hope that I am not exposing any naked emperors by saying this, but it is my opinion that one of the chief signs that civilization is coming apart at the seams is the emergence of Julian Fellowes as the world's most conspicuous writer of class-based drama. The man simply does not know what he's talking about half the time. I turned off Downton Abbey after twenty minutes - and when THIS viewer declines to watch Maggie Smith, a writer may deduce that his project is in no small amount of trouble.

    Yes, I was referring to Margaret Brown's younger years, but still, I don't see the need of film-makers to turn her into a brassy gargoyle.

    P.S.: I didn't have any real trouble with Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic; he very strikingly reminded me of the young James Cagney in it.

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    The young James Cagney? Ah, so that's why Cameron wrote Jack's most memorable line: "Made it, Ma! King of the World!"

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    Bob:

    Very perceptive.

    The 21st Century has no lock on street-wise kids, anyway. Children of the early 20th Century often had to shift for themselves at ages we today would consider appallingly young. An orphaned child might well take to the streets to avoid an orphanage; that sort of so-called "care" had changed very little from Dickens' time.

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    I think Cameron's Titanic would have been much improved if they'd ditched the Jack and Rose story altogether, but I understand he had to do it to attract the lowest common denominator in order to sell as many tickets as possible. Tailoring the movie to the sensibilities of history buffs wouldn't have done much for his bottom line, I'm guessing. Too bad.

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    Tracy: A movie with a budget of $200 million is going to have a love story, for sure. What I've never understood, though, is why Cameron couldn't have had Rose fall in love with a young fellow from First Class. There could have been any number of reasons for such a romance to be "unsuitable," and therefore capable of providing the necessary dramatic tension. I also think the scene in the Renault was damaging; you did not DO that in an age without contraceptives, not if you had any regard at all for your future. 1912 society could be extremely harsh on a young woman who made a mistake like that. Being turned out of one's family home, disowned and excised from one's parents' wills was not at all unheard-of.

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    Y'all got a great thread going here! One of you ought to write a review for this site: Old Vs. New: ANTR vs Titanic 1997, and go into all the points that make one story better then the other, with one final winner. The article would be the opinion of the writer, but I'd certainly be interested in reading it. I remember watching Titanic 1997 for the first time and being captivated by it. I'm still drawn into it, but I do sort of busy myself with other stuff while the first half is playing, only listening and not really paying full attention.

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    There's room I think for both. ANTR satisfies the likes of us. Titanic '97 satisfies the average movie-goer. The real losers are the films that don't make the grade in either camp. No names mentioned!

    Sandy, Cameron was keen to emphasize the great distinction between the sunlit uplands of 1st Class and the Nether World to be found at deeper levels, both of society and of the ship. Thus Jack and Rose. And curiously he might have been influenced in this by ANTR. He has acknowledged that he is a great admirer of the earlier film and of its producer Bill MacQuitty: "Allow me to take this opportunity to express my thanks, as your vision to create the film 'A Night to Remember' has had a ripple effect though modern culture, manifesting itself most recently in my own film 'Titanic', inspired in part by your film." And when MacQuitty set out to promote ANTR to the execs of the Rank Organisation back in the '50s one of his main selling points was that he intended to stress the social divisions of the time as exemplified by the Class system within the ship. Another was that (with Titanic '53 in mind) he didn't want the film to be seen as a vehicle for star performances or romantic melodrama - well, Cameron did say he was only partly inspired by the result!

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    Bob, one thing that should be pointed out here for those who don't know - Cameron's admiration for ANTR extended to purchasing its remake rights. His "direct steals" from ANTR - and they are most definitely there - stem from the absolute legal right to do so.

    I think Cameron missed some good nuance with J.J. Astor and wife Madeleine. Madeleine Astor was J.J.'s second wife, whom he married after a most scandalous divorce. Divorce was only just possible then, and one was expected not to re-marry. J.J.'s flouting of that rule is the scandal to which Rose refers while giving Jack the low-down on the fine folks in First Class. J.J.'s friendship with Margaret Brown (which was real, and which pre-dated the Titanic's sailing) was one measure of how far he'd fallen socially; Mrs. Brown was not ordinarily all that welcome in what was referred to as "best society" of the time. J.J. seems to have determined to set his own course after his divorce, paying less attention to what was "done" and "not done." I do question Cameron's decision to make the Countess of Rothes complicit in Ruth Bukater's attempted snubbing of Mrs. Brown; ordinarily, Britain's nobility could afford to be a bit more socially tolerant than a member of America's "Four Hundred."

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    One can only dream of what Titanic '97 might have been had it truly been a re-make of ANTR. And if Cameron had approached the screenplay as did Eric Ambler: "Everything was in the book. All I had to do was knit it together". As MacQuitty similarly put it, Ambler's brief was to "Weave a seamless web out of Walter's book of hundreds of characters and situations - a sack of pearls that needed threading".

    It would have worked. It would have attracted good reviews, perhaps even critical acclaim. It would have had box appeal. But enough to recoup the huge investment? I very much doubt it.

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    Would a decent movie of Titanic fall into the trap of too many story lines? I mean, in ANTR, Walter does this, but we are only introduced to characters as they pop up in the story of the sinking.

    With a movie, you'd have to introduce the person at the beginning, and whether or not we really know what happened while they were on the voyage the whole time, we'd have to have them doing something. Obviously, with 1st Class, quite a few people can be introduced with follow-through story lines, but Walter also talked about 2nd and 3rd class passengers, and we don't know what all of them were doing, just bits and pieces from their survivor accounts.

    I just wonder if a true retelling of the Titanic saga would get bogged down with cumbersome story lines for all involved.

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    If you tried to include everybody, of course it couldn't work, and for ANTR there was never any serious intention to make up a string from all the pearls in the sack. The film in fact has very few real passengers as named characters in the cast. It relies rather on composite characters representative of groups rather than individuals. Even Kenneth More's character, while named in the cast as Lightoller and based upon the real 'Lights', is to some extent a composite.

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    Bob: There is one exception to the "composites" concept - one of the minor actresses is rather obviously supposed to be the querulous Imanita Shelley, if one knows one's Titanic. Something tells me a great deal of fun was had by all on that one!

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    Indeed there are passengers in the film who are not composites - about a dozen who are named in the casting list (though not necessarily in the onscreen credits). Others who for obvious reasons are provided with fictitious or ambiguous names, like Ismay ('The Chairman') and the Duff Gordons. Many very brief and uncredited appearances - like W T Stead, and the woman who almost falls between the ship and a lifeboat and is unidentified in the film as in reality. There's even one (the gambler Jay Yates) who is now known not to have been on the ship at all!

    Something to consider here is that ANTR was made at a time when many of the survivors, and even more of the loved ones of victims, were still alive. This was surely a further reason for using composite and/or un-named characters, especially those who were fated to die onscreen.

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    Now here's an interesting question about the casting. Did Lawrence Beesley appear in the film? Not an actor playing him, but the man himself? Beesley, still spritely as a much older man, was on the set as a 'technical adviser'. MacQuitty had the idea that it might be fun to equip him with a costume and insert him into the background of a suitable scene as an uncredited extra. Beesley was all for it, but there was a problem - the actors' Union were not at all happy about the idea of a part in the film, however small, going to somebody who was not one of their own. In his memoirs MacQuitty leaves it at that, but I wonder. These were very special circumstances, and MacQuitty was a persistent and very persuasive man who generally got what he wanted.

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    Thank you for the link to archive ANTR comments Bob. I'll be visiting there quite often I think !

    I agree with VillageJen, Bob and Sandy's posts were delightful to read, and actually struck the right chord. I totally agree with their comments but just wouldn't know how to express them as well as they have. I work at a school and the kids were watching Cameron's Titanic film as a treat at the end of term, but I always made sure I brought ANTR to their attention by stressing that although Cameron's had all the Hollywood movie stars, big sets, romance and the usual Hollywood hype, ANTR is certainly worth a viewing even if it's only to compare the two movies.

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    Hallo, Jean, and thanks for your comments. Regards to the other 8 Jeans, by the way!

    You did a good service to the kids by showing Cameron's film and then recommending that ANTR was worth a viewing. Next time, might I suggest that you reverse the order in the billing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Godfrey View Post
    Hallo, Jean, and thanks for your comments. Regards to the other 8 Jeans, by the way!

    You did a good service to the kids by showing Cameron's film and then recommending that ANTR was worth a viewing. Next time, might I suggest that you reverse the order in the billing?
    I agree wholeheartedly with your preferred order of billing, however, can you imagine showing (God forbid) a black and white film, starring a group of actors they didn't recognised to a group of 14 year olds!!

    On the ANTR theme, some years ago I wrote to Kenneth More asking him about his experiences whilst filming ANTR. He sent me a great signed photo and comments on the reverse as follows:

    'We filmed Glasgow docks and Lake at Ruislip. It was hell jumping in!!'

    I also discovered that he has a connection with Jersey (where I live) in that he went to boarding school here and used to live in the same street as me!!

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    Well, Jean, this is the way I used to do it:

    Me: Would you like to see an old black & whilte film about a ship sinking?
    Class: *&!!@?<&* off!
    Me: So you'd prefer one of my usual lessons?
    Class: OK, bring on the film.

    If it was hell for Kenneth More, my sympathies are with the others - he was the only one in a wetsuit!

  33. #33
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    Jean: I think you are greatly to be admired for getting such young people to watch a black-and-white film at all! Many simply will not do it. We are now far enough removed in time from the black-and-white era that there are two generations of prospective moviegoers who consider such films unwatchable. Sadly, this scorn for such films means that studios offer many fewer black-and-white titles on home video than they could; the market for what they call "classic catalogue" is seriously limited by the factor. I am glad you persevered!

    I would like to point out something about the re-release of the Cameron film. While he did transfer it to the 3-D process, he declined to re-do the special effects, in the manner of George Lucas (the Star Wars films) and Steven Spielberg (E.T. and others). He has also declined to go back and correct errors; the film will stand as an artifact of the time of its making, warts and all. I vastly prefer this to the revisionism practiced by the likes of Lucas and Spielberg.

    Interestingly, the re-release of the Cameron movie has thus far grossed another $200 million worldwide. That is equal to its negative cost*, which is rare performance for a fifteen-year-old film that has been in continuous release on home video.

    * The "negative cost" of a movie is the amount of money spent on putting it on film and turning that film into a releasable movie. Everything from scriptwriting charges to costume and set costs, to actor and crew salaries, to special effects, editing, dubbing and titling are included.

  34. #34
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    Well, it doesn't help matters that the only place on TV you can see movies from 1900-1960 is on the Turner Classic Movie Channel on cable in the U.S. They used to show older movies on regular channels all the time.

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    Bill MacQuitty recalled: "I told James (Cameron) that we shared one problem in common. 'What was that?' he asked. 'Getting the money', I replied. 'I had to raise half a million pounds and you had to raise $230 million'. We both laughed." In 2001 ANTR's Director, Roy Baker, remarked: "I'm still told by Bill that our film has yet to go into profit". But I imagine that when MacQuitty said that he was still laughing!

    (The production cost of ANTR in today's money would be around 10m or $16m)

  36. #36
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    Bob: That allows for inflation, but sadly, the cost of the various crafts services needed on a movie has risen much more dramatically than costs in general. In 1939, Gone With the Wind cost roughly $4.25 million. Simple inflation would make that around $66 million today, but there is no way you could duplicate what is on the screen for that amount of money. A remake of GWTW made to the same standard as the original would probably cost an amount closer to what Cameron's Titanic did.

    Studios used to have all their crafts services people under contract, at so much per week. Now, they have to outshop nearly everything, and it's fiendishly expensive. That's much of what made Titanic '97 so expensive; all that millwork and carving for paneling, all the custom-made chairs for the First Class dining salon, reproductions of the Marconi equipment, all of it done at whatever specialist firms were equipped to do it - it all added up. And up. And up.

  37. #37
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    Yes, I know, Sandy. I've made that same point myself in other threads when people inquire what it would cost to enjoy the labour-intensive delights of 1st Class travel if the Titanic was still in service today. Or indeed to build a replica Titanic. Since 1912, prices in Britain have gone up by around 60 times. But labour costs have risen by a factor of around 300. Of course, the level of labour as opposed to machine input has in many areas been much reduced, which complicates matters except in areas where craft skills - or the constant attentions of all those stewards - are indispensable.

    It would be very difficult to calculate precisely what the cost of ANTR would be if remade today to the same standards, and that's not what I was intending to show. Keeping in mind that MacQuitty was able to source a great deal of his props and sets from scrapyards rather than costly replication, and with due allowance for the average level of wage inflation in the UK allied to general price inflation my best guess would be that the 'parts and labour' costs involved back in 1958 would translate in terms of the spending power of a modern pound to no more than 20-25m.

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    well, I no doubt it's my FAVE TITANIC MOVIE of all time! Actors are all brillant, special mention to the great Michael Goodliffe as the brave, indeed desperate Thomas Andrews. The smoking room scenes gave me chills evry time I saw them! Kenneth More is all genuine, meanhwhile Lightoller isn't my fave character of the story. The sets are wonderfully mades especially from considering the financial amount for a blockbuster in the late 1950's.

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    Aside from Kenneth More, the actor who got most screen time in ANTR was John Cairney as Irish 3rd Class passenger Patrick Murphy. Cairney sees his role as equivalent in some ways to that of Jack Dawson in Cameron's film: "Leonardo DiCaprio played the same part I did, which was obviously fattened out for him. But it was the lower-class guy falling in love with the girl ... while the steerage class were locked in, my character found a way out, and so did DiCaprio’s ... The difference was, he was paid thousands of pounds a second and I was paid 20 a day." That says a lot about the economics of film-making back in 1958, when very few actors had celebrity status and their payment was a minor element in the budget! Possibly the best paid were the stuntmen, who charged 1 per foot for jumping from a height into the water. So in a few seconds they could earn as much as Cairney did in a week. But the cheapest performance came from the Asturias, a vintage liner with a full set of real Welin davits, which played the part of the Titanic in all the boat-launching scenes. James Cameron paid millions to replicate The Titanic's boat deck; the breakers' yard which had acquired the Asturias rented it to the Rank Organisation for ten nights at just 10 per night.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandy McLendon View Post
    Bob:

    It's my belief that Cameron might have escaped the amount of criticism he got had he done just one thing: He needed to make the "doomed romance" element of his script more plausible by confining it to two members of the First Class. There was absolutely no reason this could not have been done (God knows enough young men in First Class perished), and it would have made all the difference with Titanophiles. Other errors, such as the Hollywood-obligatory locking of the Bostwick gates, would have been criticized, but not to the extent they have been, I think.

    I find your comments on ANTR's technical aspects interesting, because you're quite right - it was an era when American movie-goers were primed to expect, in Cole Porter's words, "Glorious Technicolor, breathtaking CinemaScope and stereophonic sound." Since I don't know a great deal about ANTR's production history, I am left wondering why it was not filmed in color, to improve its chances in the North American market. Certainly, the British film industry was well-acquainted with color film-making; Powell and Pressburger's "The Red Shoes" (1948) contains some of the finest Technicolor design and filming ever seen on the screen, far more advanced than American work in the process; the movie is full of things that simply were not technically possible when it was made - and yet, there they are.

    Cameron's film and ANTR share one failing: Margaret Brown is depicted as a plain woman. She was actually rather attractive, and she must have had somewhat more social finesse than she's credited with in films about her; J.J. Astor seems to have found her agreeable company.
    Margaret Brown seems to come off as sort of a hick in both ANTR and "Titanic" (1997) . Actually I understand she was quite fluent in several languages and was a big help with some of the surviving immigrants.

    I probably shouldn't even mention it, but I have heard it said that "Titanic" (1953) was -Quote - "The worstTitanic movie ever made." - Unquote. A list of errors would take up much too much space on this forum, so I won't even attempt that.

    IMHO Brian Aherne is a rather poor physical portrayal of Captain Smith ; there is no J. Bruce Ismay ; there is no Thomas Andrews and there is a "thinly veiled" character of "Maude Young" instead of Margaret Brown. In my opinion the only redeeming part is the snappy dialogue between Webb and Stanwyck. Even "Gifford Rogers" and "Annette Sturges" were a little closer in social standing than "Jack and Rose.".....And "Gifford Rogers" did survive.

    This was the first of the three "Titanic" movies that I have seen on the big screen and later on DVD's.

  41. #41
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    Robert:

    For my money, the 1953 version exposes the great weakness of Hollywood moviemaking during the studio era - hubris. There was a great over-confidence in the factory system of moviemaking that had evolved over the course of decades. "Hey, we got standing sets of ship decks. We got the backlot. We got warehouses fulla props. We got racks uh costumes. There's all these people sittin' around on contract. Let's make a movie about thuh Titanic!"

    Movies never get things exactly right - the Cameron film didn't after spending many times what the real Titanic cost. But the '53 film is a special case of "don't-give-a-damn-itis," with everyone evidently figuring that no facts or authenticity could hold a candle to the sight of Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb orating their way through a mediocre script.

  42. #42
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    The 1953 "Titanic" strikes me as a typical Hollywood advertisement of star power from the era as opposed to having any real authenticity. It's almost like the producers said "Let's get two of the biggest movie stars going around to portray a troubled couple in a typical love story, oh and by the way we'll have it on board the Titanic."

    But for all that I don't believe it's the worst Titanic film ever made - that honour goes to the 1996 mini-series featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones, with 1979's "S.O.S. Titanic" running a very close second.

    Unlike some, I actually really enjoyed 1980's "Raise the Titanic" - at least it was something a bit different.

    Cheers,
    Adam.

  43. #43
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    As cheesy as Raise the Titanic! looks to young people today, we have to remember two things:

    1) It was a couple of decades before really good digital effects were available, and -
    2) In the mid-1970s, there was no certain knowledge that Titanic broke up; survivor accounts varied. It was still plausible that the old girl was resting gently on the bottom.

  44. #44
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    Hi Sandy,

    "Raise the Titanic!" is completely unrealistic, from the storyline (what was it,a vault of byzanium that went down with the ship or something?) to the condition of the wreck (even the glass dome was still partially intact!), but I think that's part of what makes it appealing - it's almost like a kind of science fiction film.

    The effects aren't great but the final scenes where she finally makes it to New York City are brilliant.

    Cheers,
    Adam.

  45. #45
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    I won't be too hard on the special effects. It looks a bit cheesy now but back when the film was made, it was cutting edge stuff.

    But the story? Forget it!

    The book....not surprisingly...was a LOT better and at least Clive Cussler was brutally honest when he said "My books have no literary value!"

  46. #46
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    Clive Cussler is living proof that you don't have to be Charles Dickens to make it in the literary world. Cussler is still churning them out!

    Cheers,
    Adam.

  47. #47
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    Adam:

    I will have to concede that I am in agreement with you on the Catherine Zeta-Jones version is at least in a tie with Webb-Stanwyck version for the worst "Titanic" movie ever made.

    From George C. Scott's performance you get the impression that the real Captain of the Titanic was none other than General George S. Patton, Jr.

    Correction: I believe this was in another movie :
    And then there's that transmitter hidden in the book used for contacting the submarine. I don't believe they really had minaturized transistor radios in 1912 ? Also the sound of the code being sent. (Modern day radio sound rather than spark sound). Maybe I'm too much of a technical geek critic. LOL.
    Last edited by Robert T. Paige; 29th August 2013 at 04:54 AM. Reason: TYpo errors

  48. #48
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    Hi Robert,

    Not at all, surely it's not that difficult to be historically accurate!

    The Zeta-Jones film might have been better if it had been produced in its own right, but it was hugely overshadowed by the James Cameron blockbuster the following year.

    Also, maybe I just got a bad version but I distinctly remember the quality of the film itself in both the 1996 mini-series and the film S.O.S. Titanic being extremely poor.

    Cheers,
    Adam.

  49. #49
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    >>Clive Cussler is living proof that you don't have to be Charles Dickens to make it in the literary world. Cussler is still churning them out!<<

    Yep. I see a new title from that guy at the local Barnes and Noble every six months or so. or at least it sometimes looks that way.

  50. #50
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    Michael:

    Yes, he is a novel producing machine. Tell you who is good, by the way....Matthew Reilly. Maybe i'm biased because he's a fellow Aussie but check him out if you get the chance and enjoy a great action novel.

    Cheers,
    Adam.

 

 

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