In the 1997 movie did that crewman really shoot himelf


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Rachel Dawson

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In the 1997 movie, you know when Jack's third class friend was shot, and then that officer who shot him apparently "felt bad" and so he shot himself. Did something like that really happen? That's so sad!
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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Rachel, you've hit on what was probably the most controvesial scene in the Cameron movie. Researchers have been debating its veracity ever since, and if you go into the archives here at ET you'll find quite a bit of discussion about it. The officer shown as having turned a gun on himself and others is First Officer William Murdoch.

There are some accounts, of varying reliability, that suggest an officer might have comitted suicide in the Titanic's final moments. While one or two give the researcher pause for thought (see Rheims), most claims about an officer killing himself are of dubious reliability as they come from individuals claiming to have witnessed an event they were in no position to see. However, as there are accounts of shootings on the boat deck, they can't be dismissed out of hand either. I suggest you check out the following site by Bill Wormstedt which brings together the available material:

http://home.att.net/ ~wormstedt/titanic/s hots/shots.htm

Neither Murdoch nor any of his fellow officers were named as the man in question by anyone in the right place at the right time who would have known with any certainty who the officer was. The allegation that Murdoch shot himself was specifically refuted by fellow officer Charles Lightoller, who testified both privately and publicly at the British Inquiry that he saw Murdoch working at the collapsible A right up until the end. His word is not conclusive and some doubt his truthfullness, but no one has yet produced a reliable eyewitness who can name Murdoch. I recently also came across a statement from Rostron to the press, issued in order to deny claims that Smith had shot himself. Rostron claimed to have interviewed the Titanic's crew and was convinced that the Captain - who was named in some of the earliest rumours - did not kill himself.

As for Cameron's depiction of this scene - I know of several visitors to the set who advised him against including it, and one adviser (no, not Don Lynch, although I understand they discussed it) who strongly suggested that it not be included. Cameron's response as reported to me was that he wished to depict this extremely controversial moment as he did because he thought 'it would look cool'.
 

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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dear Rachel as i am scottish i dont belive any wounds or deaths came from Murdoch nor Wilde or capt Smith.no officer did any sort of murder but a couple of warning shots i would say were fired.William Murdoch was a hero like all the other crew.i think its an insult to scottish people having one of our heros displayed as a fraud.
 

Don Tweed

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May 5, 2002
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Call it artistic liscence to have Cameron show Murdoch commiting suicide, and it is a very moving scene in the movie.

The only gunshots I know of that were fired, were fired by Lowe.

The majority of the passengers did not know who these officers were lowering the boats and barking commands.
I agree with you James, they were all heros who did thier duty and went down like gentlemen.

All talk on gunshots and killing is pure conjecture, and I truly believe we will never know the exact truth on the matter.

Just my opinion, Don
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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All talk on gunshots and killing is pure conjecture, and I truly believe we will never know the exact truth on the matter.

I'm afraid it's not 'pure conjecture' (although there is a good deal of conjecture mixed in there) - there are accounts of shootings taking place prior to the ship going down, as sources such as those on Bill's site indicate. These accounts are of varying believability, but cannot be dismissed as 'pure conjecture'.

I have to disagree that the scene depicting Murdoch shooting himself was at all moving - it struck me as rather a rather glib, cheap cinematic moment, bringing an 'appropriate' end to Murdoch as he had the misfortune to command the ship when it struck the iceberg. It's a facile form of closure. Murdoch is shown as killing himself in remorse after shooting a man who was not attempting to rush the boats, but rather was the victim of being shoved into the line of fire - if the shooting did take place, there is no account suggesting a man was killed in such an accidental way. So much for Cameron's boast that if there's no Jack and Rose, 'it's accurate'.

Out of curiousity, how can you justify the overwhelming broad claim that the crew were 'all heroes' who did their duty and 'went down like gentlemen'. How do you know? Do you know how each man met his end? Can you say with confidence that, to a man, they made a conscious choice? How can we understand an historic event if we reduce the infinite complexity of human emotion and reaction to a strident assertion that 'they were all heroes'. I'm not trying to be dogmatic about this, but I'm afraid every this goes against the grain of everything I've ever learned about not only historic methodology, but also about humanity itself. These were individuals - not cardboard cut out stereotypes...stiff upper lip, do your duty, go down with the ship. I believe they acted with the whole range of which human beings are capable...from astonishing heroism to cowardice, and every shade of gray in between.
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Hit the nail on the head, I think, Inger.

Reports of gunshots are too numerous to be ignored and so are the reports of un-gentlemanly conduct of certain members of the crew. Yes, I agree that although no named person actually shot and killed another I do believe shots were fired. Did not Lightoller himself admit in later years that he DID fire a warning shot? And didn't he swear on oath at the Inquiry that he in fact did NOT fire shots at all? While the majority of the crew behaved magnificently on the night of the disaster, I would have to say, even just by the law of averages, that others certainly did not.

Just my thoughts.

Cheers,

Boz
 

Don Tweed

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May 5, 2002
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Thanks Eric!

Hello Inger,
I will try to address this the best I can. You are correct in saying it is not "pure conjecture".
I have read the accounts of persons claiming this and that about gunshots, my main statement on the subject should have been simply that we will never know, one way or the other. The debate may go on, but I see no definitive answer in our future.

On Murdoch, I saw the scene different in my mind.
I saw 3 reasons for taking his own life.
1- The accidental shooting of Tommy.
2- He was at the helm of Titanic when she struck the berg.
And 3- He initially took the money from Cal, though it was just stuffed in his pocket.
When watching the movie these are the reasons that pop into my head for his decision to take his own life and the movie seems to step up a gear right after that scene.

As for the crew being all heros, I guess I should have been more exacting in my statement.
In answering James' post I was refering to the officers only and should have stated so. With such a large crew I am sure every facet of emotion and personal decision came into play that night, self sacrifice, cowardice, etc. as you have stated.
But, what about the officers? Do you know of any officer who did not do his duty that night?

I really appreciate your opinion Inger and critique. I am learning so much more from all of you and feel humbled by your wealth of info. My nettiqutte is improving every day.
My lesson today, never present an opinion as the final word on the subject!!!

Take care, and thanks again!!, -Don
 

Inger Sheil

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Don, I think two of those three points you nominate in relation to the Murdoch suicide scene are among those that make it so risible! Murdoch is shown both taking bribes (it's ambiguous, but this is certainly the impression many walked away with), and accidently shooting a passenger. All this is heaped on poor Murdoch's head - hence the blowing out of his brains. All for the rationale that - as Cameron told one advisor who recommended *not* including the scene - it would 'look cool'. How much more cheap, glib and facile can you get than to depict an historic figure killing himself because it looked 'cool'.

Now...were all the officers 'heroes'? A much more difficult question, and one which illustrates why I have developed a personal objection to the term. It depends on how broad your definition is - is doing one's duty enough to qualify a man as a 'hero'? How do we compare Moody and Pitman, for example? Moody turned down an opportunity to leave in a lifeboat (and even, if Scarrott is to be believed, what could be said to constitute an order) and stayed with the ship to the end, struggling to save lives and losing his own in the process. Pitman assisted loading the lifeboats, obeyed an order to leave in command of one, did what he could for the people under his charge, and, while he initially intended to return to attempt to rescue survivors, finally listened to those in the boats who pressured him not to return. Do his actions constitute heroism, or are they simply those of a man doing his duty under difficult circumstances? I'm not criticising Pitman here, I stress. I've seen arguments that he was a 'coward' for not returning for survivors - I disagree. This is a man who would go on to provide sterling service in two World Wars. However, do we then go to the other end of the spectrum and declare he was a hero?

I believe that there are some instances in which doing one's duty rises to the heights of heroism. In James Moody's case, there is little question in my mind that he transcended what could reasonably be expected of him as part of his job. He was a bona fide hero.
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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This opens an entirely new discussion. How do we weigh ones duty compared to one being a hero. It was Pitmans job to do as he was told by superiors. In the same light, Lightoller was told to get into a boat by Wilde, he refused and Smith sent Boxhall (don't quote me on that chain of events because I could have it wrong) but Lightoller stayed to help save passengers, so by definitation Lightoller was insubordinate but the result was he saved more lifes.

So I think what is being debated is what is considered above and beyond the call of duty. Did Wilde, Lightoller or anyone else act above and beyond what was expected of them in those circumstances??

Erik
 
Oct 28, 2000
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Let me throw a bombshell into the argument.

Those who suggest Murdoch may have committed suicide base their arguments on his theoretical remorse for being in command at the time of the accident.

There is ample evidence in the testimonies that he would not have felt such total and personal remorse. I am working on a paper regarding those events surrounding the accident. Murdoch's suicide is not under consideration, but my research certainly shows he should not have felt deep enough personal guilt to have shot himself.

My plan is to present this paper to the Great Lakes Titanic Society meeting on June 29th of this year. I am hoping to give logical reasons why Titanic and an iceberg found themselsves "in extremis" that night. The answer appears to be as simple as human nature and as complex as the human mind.

-- David G. Brown
 

Inger Sheil

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There is ample evidence in the testimonies that he would not have felt such total and personal remorse. I am working on a paper regarding those events surrounding the accident. Murdoch's suicide is not under consideration, but my research certainly shows he should not have felt deep enough personal guilt to have shot himself.

If you're going where I think you're going, David, then Susanne Stormer is travelling to the same place - she expounded on this in her talk at the BTS convention this year, and will be expanding on it in her new book (due to be published later this year).
 
Mar 3, 1998
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As one who has argued on the subject of Murdoch's supposed guilt, let me say that it's been my experience that people expect to hear that Murdoch felt remorse for his actions at the helm. As a result, I have given up trying to convince people otherwise.

Parks
 

Don Tweed

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I have heard Walter Lord say he thinks it might have been Chief Officer Wilde who shot himself.
I did not hear him elaborate on the subject and wonder what the basis of his thinking might be.

Anyone know?
Respectfully, Don
 

Inger Sheil

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Process of elimination more than anything else, Don. Lord's main rationale in The Night Lives On for ruling out Murdoch is that he's spoken to people who knew the first officer and who felt that he wasn't 'the type' (a very dangerous assumption to make about suicide). He thought Moody didn't have the authority to give the command 'every man for himself' as there were senior officers present, and there were other accounts as to Smith's end. He stated his view that it might have been Wilde more strongly in a doco, but essentially it's no stronger a case than it is for the other candidates.

Parks, I know what you're saying. As I've argued elsewhere, it's very difficult for us to conduct post-mortem psychological profiling when the subject has been dead for 90 years and there's insufficient material to base these profiles on - speculation is all very well, but when it's based too little data it can lead us very far astray indeed. It's only recently, for example, that material has surfaced that gives us any sort of insight into Wilde's emotional state following the death of his wife - most of what has been discussed to date about his reactions has been conjectural.
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 26, 2000
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Minor question of sorts. When people hear that there were witnesses that saw an officer shoot himself, why do they always assume it was a White Star Lines officer?

Just a little food for thought there.

Best regards all around,
Cook
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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Inger, what do you think of the story that Wilde shot himself, that it was reported in a Liverpool paper and Wilde's wife's wealthy family had it hushed up? Ever sighted the paper?

I must say I thoroughly agree with your warning about speculation without data. Some people write about the Titanic characters as if they were privy to their thoughts, though they don't know them any better than they know the local postman.
 
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Reece Ewington

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>i totaly agree with u but plz admit that the movie was the best movie in >the world for its acuresy. not the merdock killing him self part because i >think he was launching collapsible a when he deid or thats were he was last >seen. from reece ewington 17 m melbourne australia
 

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