by Ann Marsters
Three Survivors of the Titanic--the only three in Illinois--watched a screening yesterday of "A Night to Remember," an enormously exciting drama of the sinking of that magnificent liner on its maiden voyage 27 years ago.
They are Mrs. Carl Peterson, now 73, her daughter, Mrs. Elnora Shuman [sic], and her son, Harold Johnson.
Only Mrs. Peterson and Harold recall the disaster for Elnora was only a year-and-a-half at the time. Harold was five--and he says he remembers clearly getting into the lifeboat and being picked up the Carpathia in the bitter chill before dawn. But he doesn't remember being afraid.
As far as Mrs. Peterson knows, the picrture is remarkably accurate, although there was a lot going on that she could not see. Her son explained:
"We were traveling third class--and we were kept shut off from the upper decks as long as possible while the crew tried to save the first class passengers. It was first class all the way," he aded, with some bitterness.
The screenplay does not attempt to gloss over that fact, nor any of the appalling errors of judgment that brought about the increased the catastrophe. There were 2,207 persons aboard; the capacity of the lifeboats was little more that half that number. At the final count, only 705 were saved.
Watching the picture, one feels a sense of complete horror at the unutterable folly, the incredible stupidity that contributed to the great loss of life.
The Titanic's radio had picked up several ice warnings. Why . . . you keep asking yourself . . . were they ignored? A mortal wound, 300 feet long, was left in the ship's side by its meeting with an iceberg. And even while the seapoured in from below decks, all aboard might have been saved by a cargo ship, The Californian, that stood by, only 10 miles away.
The Californian had had sense enough to stop to await daylight before maneuvering through the ice field ahead.
Members of the crew saw the lights of the Titanic. They saw her stop, and thought she, too, stopped for safety's sake. They did not pick up her SOS; the radio operator was off duty; the captain snoozed in his bunk. They saw her distress rockets explode again and again in the night sky. The captain was informed of the rockets. He asked:
"Now why would the Titanic be firing rockets? Probably some company signal."
And he went back to sleep.
Meanwhile , the liner Carpathia had picked up the appeal for help and was heading for the scene. But she was 58 miles away...
"A Night to Remember" has made a nervous wreck of me--and I hope it does the same for you. It opens tomorrow at Todd's Cinestage where it probably will do well. It is an extraordinary film, beautifully made by the Rank Organization.
Chicago American, Wednesday, February 25, 1959, p. 29, c. 5: