Breakup hinted at


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Dec 29, 2006
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I do not recall any rooms "collapsing" in A Night to Remember, although when Thomas Andrews was contemplating the fireplace prior to the final plunge there were some load creaking sounds. I assumed that these were supposed to be the bulkheads starting to collapse - which is not the same thing as rooms collapsing or the ship breaking-up. A Night to Remember depicts the Titanic sinking by the bow in one piece, which is how the event was described by the eye-witnesses who were consulted during the making of the film.
 
There is a shot where pillars splinter as the ceiling of a room gives way. It may be the first-class dining saloon.= set.

I'm aware that the stern slides beneath the waves in one piece. I've seen the film many, many times. But, watching it again recently, the destruction of that room made me think that the break-up was hinted at, even if not shown from the exterior.
 
Dec 29, 2006
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I think that must be the "Thomas Andrews" scene, or at least a scene which came shortly after it. I don't think, when A Night to Remember was released, that anyone would have imagined the ship breaking up, and indeed, in the 1950s, most maritime experts would simply have laughed at the idea.

When A Night to Remember was made, there were plenty of people around who had first-hand experience of steamships sinking in the North Atlantic — probably even some of the actors in the film (did Kenneth More ever witness the loss of a ship during his World War II naval service?) I am sure that the sinking, as depicted in the film, was as realistic as it could possibly have been, based on the evidence available at that time. In any case, Lawrence Beesley, who was “a special advisor” during the making of the film, was quite adamant that the Titanic did not break-up on the surface. Beesley, a physicist, who would have known what he was talking about, said that:

“As we gazed awe-struck, she tilted slowly up, revolving apparently about a centre of gravity just astern of amidships, until she attained a vertically upright position, and there she remained — motionless …. No phenomenon like that pictured in some American and English newspapers occurred - that of the ship breaking in two, and the two ends being raised above the surface. I saw these drawings in preparation on board the Carpathia and said at the time that they bore no resemblance to what actually happened”.

Beesley did, however, refer to the appalling noises which came from within the ship, which he attributed to the boilers and “machinery coming loose from their bolts and bearings and falling through the compartments, smashing everything in their way”. Based on Beesley’s first-hand evidence, the film-makers would clearly have imagined fearful scenes of destruction as bulkheads were smashed down by boilers and other loose fittings. In 1959, they would not have wanted to show such destruction on cinema screens, in part because it would have brought back too many memories of recent losses at sea. The impending destruction was therefore merely suggested - and this is surely what was by the splintering columns depicted in the film?
 

Paul Lee

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But Lord had sufficient letters from survivors who did say that the ship had broken at the surface!
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Paul, isn't there a line in The Night Lives On relating to this specific issue in which Lord points to the dangers of relying too heavily on "experts - they're not always right"?

Roy
 

Paul Lee

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Believe me, comparing what Lord wrote and what was written in the letters to him, there is a significant gulf. My faith in Lord and his book(s) have plumetted.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Well, Paul, one thing that's been worrying me, and it might be applied to Lord, is a trend I've seen to "shoehorn" information into a preconceived, set-in-concrete conclusion. If what someone (Joughin?) told you doesn't agree with your particular mindset (that's the generic "you," BTW), then that person must certainly have been "mistaken." It's a convenient dodge, guaranteed to keep the status quo intact. I'd be hard-pressed to number the times I've had to go back and completely revise my thinking after having been hit with an unanticipated contradiction.
 
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>>But Lord had sufficient letters from survivors who did say that the ship had broken at the surface!<<

Unfortunately, he also had the reports of two official inquiries which stated flat out that the break up didn't happen. Given the weight that such a thing carried, he would have looked pretty foolish asserting otherwise with nothing to back it up other then testimony and statements which were disbelieved. Any vindication by way of the wreck being discovered was a good quarter of a century away in the future at the time he wrote ANTR.
 
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