Historical Inaccuracies to historical characters in the last two Titanic films


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Ben Holme

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"the popularity of a film is not and should not be a determination of how good a film should be..."

Not a "determination" perhaps, but certainly a very strong *indication*. Ask yourself how many "popular" films are considered poor. You'll find these films are usually popular for a reason.

Aside from the love story - admittedly central from the plot - you should find that Titanic '97 is easily comparable to ANTR in terms of historical accuracy.

Ben
 

Jeremy Lee

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"Historical accuracy" - Cameron was very particular about the sets and wanted to replicate them as close as possible. Especially the rooms, it looked very realistic.
 
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>>You'll find these films are usually popular for a reason.<<

Yep...they're entertaining. That's really about all an audience asks for.
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Granting that the scripting and acting in Cameron's Titanic may not have been the cat's meow for everyone, there are a lot of flicks out there which are far worse by leaps and bounds. But don't take my word for it. Try asking how many people saw and enjoyed Orgazmo!!!! I don't think you'll find many takers for that one, but I could be wrong.
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Jerry Nuovo

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But Ben when you say that "Aside from the love story-admittedly central from the plot-you should find that Titanic '97 is easily comparable to ANTR in terms of historical accuracy" I have to disagree about just a few of the non Jack and Rose scenes in that movie.Such as First Officer Murdoch shooting down and killing two steerage passengers before turning the gun on himself.I am not convinced that this really happened.Also the scene which had Quartermaster Hitchens and Molly Brown in the lifeboat.We do know that in the actual event Molly Brown does actually take over the lifeboat from Hitchens but in the film Hitchens angrily tells Molly Brown "You just shut that hole in your face" and she just sits there and does nothing.In the film A Night to Remember First Officer Murdoch is not depicted as a trigger happy goon and Molly Brown does take over control of the lifeboat from Hitchens.On a cruise I took on the QE2,I did ask one of the QE2's officers what he thought of Cameron's Titanic.He told me that he saw the film with his wife and that in his opinion he thinks that the film is complete rubbish and agrees with me that ANTR is a better Titanic film. Sincerely,Jerry Nuovo
 
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I seem to have inadvertently fuelled this debate, not that it matters if people are enjoying it. When making his film, James Cameron considered all the imponderables surrounding the sinking and decided on including some which added to the dramatic impact of his story - like the Murdoch shooting/suicide theory. Cameron didn't dream this up - it had been discussed for ages. He just decided to use it for dramatic reasons. I think he did a great deal of research, and was meticulous about those things he could be certain of - clothes, style, ship dimensions, some survivors' testimonies etc. I also think he drew very heavily indeed on ANTR, in fact to the point where I think he should have aknowledged it in the credits.

When I responded to Bob, saying that I wasn't sure he was right in supposing that people could separate fact from fiction, I was trying to point out that the obviously fictitious element - Jack and Rose - in an odd way endorsed the historical elements; Smith, Lowe, Murdoch, Lightoller, Molly Brown, Isamy urging Captain Smtih onwards etc.
That's because people trust film directors who dramatize historical events. Like Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, Braveheart, U-whatever the-number-was etc.
My students did exactly this, but they shouldn't have. They should have understood that films are fiction based on fact and supposition, and been prepared to try to separate the two. But they don't. I don't particularly castigate Cameron for including imponderables in his film. The only thing I really object to, as some people on this board will know, is that he passed his own dreadful drawings off as Jack's 'exquisite work' ..... but I seem fairly alone in finding this just about the limit!
 

Ben Holme

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Hi Jerry

You wrote: Such as First Officer Murdoch shooting down and killing two steerage passengers before turning the gun on himself.I am not convinced that this really happened.

Nor am I, by any means. Nor am I "convinced" that Captain Smith went down with the ship trapped in his wheelhouse. However, contentious portrayals do not equate to historical inaccuracies. If the true facts of an historical event have never been determined, the director should have the flexibility to use his/her own interpretations. It is only inaccurate if we know for certain that an event is depicted erroneously, or if we're certain that it didn't happen. Controversial - yes, inaccurate - no.

We do know that in the actual event Molly Brown does actually take over the lifeboat from Hitchens but in the film Hitchens angrily tells Molly Brown "You just shut that hole in your face" and she just sits there and does nothing.

No historical inaccuracy here either, I'm afraid. From the moment boat #6 was lowered to well after the ship had gone down, Hitchens was still very much in command. It was not until the Carpathia hove in sight that Molly Brown rebelled against Hitchens' orders. If he had been forced to surrender his command at an earlier stage, boat #6 would undoubtedly have returned to the wreck site to pick up survivors. See the accounts of Peuchen, Candee, and Mrs. Brown herself.

In the film A Night to Remember...Molly Brown does take over control of the lifeboat from Hitchens.

Yeah but that accent! Ouch. If Molly had any been similar to her ANTR portrayal, there may very well have been "one less" in that boat by morning!

I did ask one of the QE2's officers what he thought of Cameron's Titanic...he thinks that the film is complete rubbish.

Which proves what, exactly? Nautical prowess does not make someone an expert film critic. His opinion is no more or less valid than anyone else's.
 

Ben Holme

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Michael -- can't say I've seen of heard of Orgazmo. You've aroused my curiosity, tho (probably for the very wrong reasons!).
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For what it's worth, I understand that Margaret Brown's "rebellion" against Hichens was filmed by Cameron but the scene was one of the many casualties of the overall trimming of the film's length mandated by studio representatives.

Is it possible to discuss what one likes or dislikes about any of the Titanic films without having to resort to derision? I see terms like "rubbish" and "dreadful" as being both subjective and devisive in nature and discouraging of polite debate.

For my part, I like the 1953 Titanic, ANTR, and the 1997 Titanic for various reasons. Each has something that appeals to me. I also find fault with each of those films, but I don't see any need to have them compete against one another for my approval. After all, they're just entertainment, and if I were to get too serious about any one of them...well then, I've just negated their ability to entertain. But, that's just how I see things.

Parks
 

Jerry Nuovo

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Hi Ben,This particular QE2 Officer did not tell me the reason why he thinks Cameron's Titanic is rubbish.Maybe he did not like the depiction of First Officer Murdoch as a trigger-happy goon and or even of the depiction of Titanic's other officers.You say that "Nautical prowess does not make someone an expert film critic".And as a navigation officer of a ocean liner he does have the right to critisize a film that does have in it the depiction of the first and last voyage of probably what is the most famous ship of all time which is the Titanic.Famous because of the result of a collision with an iceberg she sank in the cold North Atlantic with the tragic loss of over 1,500 lives.It is this sad tragedy that makes the Titanic famous. Sincerely,Jerry Nuovo
 
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>>Michael -- can't say I've seen of heard of Orgazmo. You've aroused my curiosity, tho (probably for the very wrong reasons!). <<

A particularly bad soft-core porno film that was cruddy even by the standards of the industry which cares very little about acting ability. I caught about five minutes of this and watched it that long only because I couldn't believe anyone could make a flick that overwhelmingly bad without committing seppuku to wash away the shame.

Yes...it was that bad!!!

Beyond that, you don't want to know. Stick with Titanic. You'll be happier. Trust me!
 
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Fred Pelka

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I'm joining this discussion rather late, but thought I'd add my two cents anyway.

It seems to me one way to attempt to determine the probability or improbability of a character's actions is by his or her past behavior. This can work, I think, for fiction as well as non-fiction. And so, (and here I have to acknowledge that I'm obviously much less informed about this controversy than probably anyone else posting here), I wonder if anyone has done a forensic or psychological profile of Murdoch. Specifically, are there documented instances of him being either violent, or suicidally depressed, before the incident in question? Had he ever had to respond to a similar crisis before, and if so, what was his response? For instance, wasn't there an incident on an earlier ship, where Murdoch, through his quick thinking and willingness to override a superior officer, actually saved or helped to save the ship? How well documented is this story? Are there ANY credible reports on his demeanor, honesty, and competence (or lack thereof) on prior voyages? In short: is there anything in the documented evidence prior to his service on the Titanic that might indicate that Murdoch above all other officers might be the man in question? It seems to me that this might be a fruitful avenue of investigation -- not that it would settle the controversy, but it might provide evidence supporting one side over the other.

If you want to check out an example of the sort of "forensic" history that I'm talking about, I would recommend Gerald Posner's chapters on Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby in "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK" (Random House, 1993). An even better example is Stephen B. Oates' chapter on Edwin M. Stanton in "Abraham Lincoln: the Man Behind the Myth" (Meridian, 1985). Oates runs down the biography of Stanton, and the documentation relating to his relationship with Lincoln, as a way to debunk the absurd allegation that Stanton was a part of the assassination conspiracy.

Finally, a couple of quotes for your consideration:

"The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice." -- Mark Twain.

"History is nothing but a pack of tricks that we play upon the dead." -- Voltaire.

Best wishes to all,

Fred Pelka
 
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Fred
Try the Murdoch's Mistake thread, which is live at the moment. You may, or may not, find it illuminating....
 
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Fred Pelka

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Hi again:

Monica, do you mean "Rumors about W.M. Murdoch ("shot himself") and some more," last posted 8 - 2 - 04?

Thanks again,

Fred
 
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Fred,
just read your profile. If you're a researcher and writer, take a deep deep breath before plunging into Murdoch's Mistake!
Monica
 
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Fred Pelka

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Hi Monica,

I followed your suggestion, and read through "Murdoch's Mistake." I can see what you meant by "take a deep deep breath..." Most of the discussion went way over my head, particularly technical details of ship engine design and the pros and cons of various maneuvers. Also, at times it seemed to me that the tone of the discussion was -- how shall I put this? -- a mite testy? Anyway, I certainly now know a great deal more about The Arabic incident, and also where to go if I want to learn more. A great resource, these discussions.

I don't know if I'll post on that thread, however, since I don't believe I have anything to contribute to that particular discussion. I was intrigued by this thread here because of the question some of the posters seemed to be raising, that of the responsibility of a writer to be true to the memory of a historical, actual person, even in a work of fiction. This question doesn't seem to be at play on the "Murdoch's Mistake" thread, so I don't know if it's appropriate for me to raise it in that context. Still, I appreciate the heads-up about it being there.

Query: When you say that particular thread is "live at the moment" do you mean to say that this thread here is somehow discontinued? I mean, when I now post this, will it go out to the other posters on this thread, as seems to be usually the case, or is there a time limit after which this and other threads go dormant? I suppose I should ask this question on the general info thread....but I figure while I've got your attention on this one....hope you don't mind.

Thanks again,

Fred
 

George Behe

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Hi, Fred!

>For instance, wasn't there an incident on an >earlier ship, where Murdoch, through his quick >thinking and willingness to override a superior >officer, actually saved or helped to save the ship? >How well documented is this story?

As you've seen from the other thread, the Arabic story was told to two different authors by a single individual many years after the supposed occurrence took place. Since there has never been independent corroboration of the tale (and since human memories of past events have a disturbing tendency to change as the decades go by), it's unlikely that we'll ever know for certain how accurate the story really is.

All my best,

George
 
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