Countess in Cameron's movie

Sep 1, 2004
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When I watched the film last time, in english, I was little bit surprise with the movie Countess' behaviour, because she is portrayed there like a narrow "lady".
Did you noticed her expression, when Jack kisses her hand in the first class dining saloon? Or the tea scenes when Margaret Brown arrives or when they are chatting about Rose's wedding? And the way how she asks a steward what's going on?
I know that in that movie are lot of mistakes, but how was she really like? A narrow edwardian lady or a strong and brave woman, who took a tiller of lifeboat No. 8?

Thank you
Regards Vitezslav
 
May 12, 2005
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Noelle Rothes was a religious, fairly conservative woman, though she was independent in her own way. She was devoted to her family and to charities, and was quite hands-on in her work — no standing on the sidelines for her. She was also chatty and pleasant from all accounts. Her grandson recalled her as a "loving person" with a good sense of humor, yet admitted she could be brusque when challenged. So, like the rest of us, she wasn’t perfect. I don’t think she was a snob but she was a woman of her class and generation, and some of those attributes aren’t in keeping with our own more democratic views. So I’m not sure how far-off the mark Cameron’s countess was, except that the insincerity I picked up on (i.e., smiling while saying unkind things) wasn’t what I found to be a part of the real woman’s personality.
 
May 1, 2004
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It's an interesting thought. Were Edwardian ladies narrow minded - or do we assume they were? If Edwardian ladies were so, does that preclude them from being strong, brave and willing and able to take charge?

I think we know, or heard of, at least one brave, charming, take charge lady in our time who, unashamed, shows a prejudice against something we are strongly for.

Agatha Christie was a young woman when Titanic sank, so she knew Edwardian women. She described her Miss Marple as a lady whom no crime could shock because she had a Victorian mind. The Victorians had seen evil and horror and taken it in stride, according to Christie. Miss Marple gently put people into their places in society and expected people to behave politely and with due deference - she was no democrat - but I never got the impression she was a snob, or that she would've been shocked by Jack's presence in first class. She also wasn't strange to me.

I grew up knowing ladies like her: charitable, intelligent women who had some gently spoken but firm prejudices. And most were prejudiced against rude people. They disapproved of treating minorities as inferiors, for instance. Immigrants or newcomers to the community were 'not like us, naturally'; but that's 'not their fault'. The crime in those ladies' eyes was if 'one of us' were less than polite and neighbourly.

So I think the 'Edwardian lady' a fine person, and that what narrow-mindedness she showed was kinder spirited, or at least more polite and oblique.
 
May 12, 2005
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Marilyn, you’ve put it perfectly. It was a matter of manners and charity that distinguished the Edwardian lady; her prejudices were "built-in" but she treated people with caring concern. Love Agatha Christie, by the way, especially her Miss Marple!
 
Sep 1, 2004
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I have already heard that she was strong and a "loving person" and I was shocked when I've seen her expresion when Jack kisses her hand in the first class dining saloon! I've never noticed it before and I was little surprised about it. And also the other scenes. When I watch the film in czech, it is not so tragic, but when I hear it in english, it hurts my ears and disturbs me! I think she was other than in the movie.

And after I read Discretions and Indiscretins, I think that neither Lucy DUff-Gordon is there not well portrayed. And "Molly" Brown as well. Her notice about Titanic and screaming people there "you can not see this every day" (or something in that way) is terrible, I hate this - when somebody tries to do a movie more dramatical to have more people in a cinema (this or "We are prepared to go down like gentlemen. But we would like a brandy!")
 
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João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
For all that I've been hearing, I'm quite sure Noelle wasn't a snob, if so, she would be more egocentric and not so worried with charities and parties to obtain funds for her charity work and social events. But well, I wouldn't be surprised if she really said "Look, there comes that vulgar woman,the Brown". I'm sure she had a strong conservative Edwardian personality, but she was certainly a progressist woman, like Randy once said me. She was that kind of women that followed the rules and maintained the traditions and social restrictions but, in the same way, she had solid ideas and a view of the future and I may believe she was open to new mentalities and life styles and realities.

Regards, João
 

Brian Ahern

Member
Dec 19, 2002
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I always noticed her look when Jack kisses her hand, and got a kick out of it. I don't think it seemed snobbish - I think she just looked slightly taken aback for a moment, because what Jack does is unusual.

I've also always felt that she seems polite to the steward in the scene after the collision. She thanks him when he asks if he can do anything for her.

And Rose does describe Ruth's companions as being "gracious and curious" about Jack when meeting him on the deck.

The thing that's always struck me as more unrealistic is the scene of the Countess gossiping somewhat maliciously with Ruth in the lounge.
 
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João Carlos Pereira Martins

Guest
Hi Brian!

Well, you are absolutely right about Rose's opinions. As I understood she said that ONLY her mother didn't like Jack and we can see the Countess smiling when she's telling a bit of the failed suicide attempt.

Gossiping maliciously? Don't think so. When they are in the lounge they are just talking about clothes and fashion, a normal behavior for a high society lady like Noelle.

Regards, João
 
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Doni McLerran

Guest
I would have liked to have seen her actively portrayed as the chatty lady in the lifeboat who was asked to take the tiller, doing what she could to help keep up morale in such a terrible hour.
 
Mar 20, 2007
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I agree, Doni! I love the famous description of Noelle Rothes 'having a lot to say' in Lifeboat No. 8. Sadly for us, James Cameron succumbed to the all-too-obvious temptation to cast her as just another narrow-minded first-class snob. As we all know, this interpretation of her character is not supported by the facts. Randy Bryan Bigham's wonderful article really helped to bring the courageous countess to vivid and sympathetic life.

In the Edwardian Era it was possible to find kind and generous individuals in every walk of life. It was equally possible to find shallow, cruel and cold-hearted people too. Human nature never changes! Nevertheless, we tend to imagine that the rich and titled are somehow different - behaviour which wouldn't raise an eyebrow if we encountered it in 'one of the masses' seems surprising in a marquess or an earl. This attitude can apply equally to their good as well as their bad characteristics. In this respect, I suppose that the aristocracy labour under a greater burden of expectation than the rest of us. This is why the conduct of Noelle Rothes shines forth so brightly in the dark story of the 'Titanic' and why (however unfairly) Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon is so reviled.

Of course, the countess may well have entertained patrician attitudes or prejudices which would seem unpalatable to us now. 1912 was not 2007 and it would be wrong to impose our own values upon her. But I see no reason to believe that Noelle was anything other than a good wife, a loving mother, a gracious hostess and a fair-minded mistress to those in her employ.