Lights Out


Jul 9, 2002
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I personally feel that Cameron's depiction of Lightoller was horrendous and a smudge on an otherwise fine film. Anyone agree? I mean come on, he is shown the entire film as being scarred, sweaty and stupid. In real life?? Scared and sweaty maybe but stupid?!?! it just really gets under my skin when Andrews is telling him that the boats are leaving half empty and quivering Lights acts all incompetant. For the senior most surviving officer, a man who we KNOW did many great and brave things that night and others, his portrail was a disgrace to his memory. Just an opinion.
 

Pat Winship

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May 8, 2001
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That's the usual reaction from people who know anything about Lightoller. Sweaty is correct-- he was doing hard work, lifting women and children into the boats, and he discarded his overcoat on a cold night. Scared, "not damn likely" to use his own words. He was ordered into a boat by Chief Wilde, but chose to stay on board the Titanic. He honestly had more physical courage than most of us would know what to do with-- and I think he believed he could survive even if he stayed.

Why James Cameron didn't like him? Well, perhaps he thought McQuitty had idealized him too much in A Night To Remember. Perhaps Mc.Cameron holds the opinion that his only loading women and children cost lives, and that his not filling some boats to capacity did also.

That's partly why I've always tried to make his autobiography available. It shows the Cameron version of Lightoller up for what it is-- a lie.
 
Jan 2, 2006
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I didn't get that from watching the film at all. I have the collector's DVD addition with historical commentary by Don Lynch and Ken Marchall. They believe that Lord over heroized Lightoller in a Night To Remember and that Cameron's version was more realistic.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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I agree strongly with your observations, Pat. I don't think any 'over heroization' of Lightoller came so much in Lord's book A Night to Remember but rather in McQuitty's movie adaptation of the same work. McQuitty needed a central figure - an individual through whom the viewer could access the story - and the result is the somewhat larger-than-life Lightoller we see on screen.

Cameron's Lightoller, however, swings much too far the other way. He exudes an air of over-taut nerves even before the collision, and afterwards his quavering voice, flaring nostrils and wide eyes give a sense of a highly strung man on the verge of cracking.

Where is the historic evidence for this? No survivor account, that I'm aware of, depicts him as being overwrought or very nearly so - quite the contrary.

Contrary to the Lightoller we see in Cameron's movie, survivor accounts of how Lightoller conducted himself during the sinking stress positive impressions. Gracie, for example - who was assisting him right at the end and who had the opportunity to witness his conduct on Collapsible B and was thus in a near-unique position to observe the 2nd Officer - could not speak highly enough of how Lightoller handled himself.

As we've discussed before, Pat, this is in keeping with accounts we've seen regarding Lightoller both before and after he journeyed on the Titanic. The outstanding element in these comments by those who knew him well was both a personal and professional regard.

McQuitty's version is overidealised - witness the contrast between how Murdoch is shown loading a lifeboat and how Lightoller struggles against hoardes (not to mention the occasional appropriation of actions for him that more properly belong to other characters!). But Cameron's version is at least as much - and, in my view, probably a good deal more - distorted.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Inger, can you imagine JC's Lightoller attempting to "direct traffic" from atop Collapsible B?? That bloke was in need of a heavy duty stress pill -- or maybe just a good, stiff drink!

My personal reaction to the scene where Tom Andrews dresses down Lightoller for not filling the boats is that Cameron needed to establish they weren't being sent away fully loaded. Certainly, that's true, but not necessarily for the reason Lights gives as justification. If I remember, some of the last boats were sent away just as unfilled as those early ones, so obviously, Andrews' rebuke didn't work.

Regarding ANTR, I believe you're dead on about the audience needing some kind of focal character. What with 2200+ people on board and no really big stars in the rest of the cast, they needed someone strong to hang onto - even if it meant building up Lightoller's character at the expense of the others. Historically inaccurate, but good film sense. And consider that in 1958 there were far fewer Titanic-literate moviegoers than there are today.

What I miss most about Lightoller in all his film portrayals is his magnificent VOICE. If that man had studied singing instead of going to sea, he would have been thrilling the opera world, no doubt about it. Kenneth More comes closest in that regard, but even he falls short.

Roy
 

Pat Winship

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One thing that is absolutely certain about Lightoller as a person is that he could keep his head in a crisis. He had a lot of experience, from the wreck of the Holt Hill when he was sixteen, through the Yukon, the notorious "One Gun Salute" when things went wrong... Portraying him as being on the verge of panic is not only unjust, it's dead wrong.

And yes, he did have a wonderful voice! :)

Pat W
 
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sharon rutman

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Look, Cameron went out of his way to make all British characters look really, really bad. I was appalled at how Lightoller was depicted--edgy and nervous, especially when he threatened a group of passangers that he would shoot them down like dogs. That's a far cry from the calm, cool and collected Kenneth More of A Night To Remember.

Unfortunately, when casting any flick you have to take what you can get and like it. Just check out Lawrence of Arabia--Peter O'Toole was over six feet tall and the real TE Lawrence was only about 5' 6" tall.

Also, was it my imagination or did young Rose have a thing for Thomas Andrews? Just before she leaves Andrews to his fate staring at the painting she throws herself at him. It's just one of those things that makes you go hmmmmm.
 

Ernie Luck

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Nov 24, 2004
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"Also, was it my imagination or did young Rose have a thing for Thomas Andrews? Just before she leaves Andrews to his fate staring at the painting she throws herself at him. It's just one of those things that makes you go hmmmmm."

Well he had just given her his lifebelt, Sharon. I reckon you might have given him a kiss? hmmm perhaps not.
 

Steve Olguin

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Mar 31, 2005
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>>Look, Cameron went out of his way to make all British characters look really, really bad. <<

Sharon, where is all your evidence to prove that he had to go out of his way at all to make them look bad. Reading their testomony, they make themselves look bad - and look like liars.
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Sharon!

>>Unfortunately, when casting any flick you have to take what you can get and like it. Just check out Lawrence of Arabia--Peter O'Toole was over six feet tall and the real TE Lawrence was only about 5' 6" tall.

O'Toole had a pretty good stage career going before Lean tapped him for TE Lawrence. Lean wanted a brilliant actor who wasn't well-known to film audiences. I'd say he got what he wanted.

In terms of O'Toole's stature, there were a number of attempts in LOA to shoot him from angles that made him appear small, but they weren't consistent. Not nearly as effective as Peter Jackson's work with his "hobbits" - and even that's not perfect.

What really drew me to O'Toole's Lawrence were his eyes. Even realizing it was done partly with makeup, the resemblance is chilling. Actually, isn't that bust we see at Lawrence's funeral at St. Paul's of the real bloke? If so, it was daring of Lean to include it.

Three-quarters of LOA is pure fiction anyway.

Roy
 

Jerry Nuovo

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Steve,I agree with Sharon that in Cameron's Titanic all the Titanic's deck officers other than 5th Officer Harold Lowe are depicted in a negative way.Remember that 1st Officer William Murdoch is depicted as a trigger happy goon shooting down 2 steerage passengers before turning the gun on himself when there is no evidence that Officer Murdoch did this and while it is true that 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller is wrongly depicted as the big hero in the film A Night to Remember,I really don't think that Cameron's Titanic did a fair depiction of Officer Lightoller either.Remember that in Cameron's film Officer Lightoller is depicted as a nervous,incompetent idiot and I don't that is fair to the history of this man or even to the Titanic herself.
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

Inger, can you imagine JC's Lightoller attempting to "direct traffic" from atop Collapsible B?? That bloke was in need of a heavy duty stress pill -- or maybe just a good, stiff drink!
Absolutely, Roy - I kept thinking the poor chap needed a sedative...even before the collision!

The scene with Andrews and Lightoller over the boat capacity I found problematical from an historical perspective, but understandable from a dramatic perspective. Cameron - for very obvious reasons - needed to make explicit the fact that boats were being sent away underloaded. The easiest way was to insert a piece of fictional dialogue - even if there is no evidence that such a discussion ever took place.
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Sharon, where is all your evidence to prove that he had to go out of his way at all to make them look bad. Reading their testomony, they make themselves look bad - and look like liars.
I don't know if Cameron deliberately chose to portray the English officers in a more negative light, while presenting the Welsh-born and Scotish officers more positively, but this is the end effect - although, to be fair, Wilde comes across very well in his very limited role (one of my favourite depictions of an historic figure in the movie).

I do strongly disagree that their testimony 'makes them look bad' and 'like liars' - those brush strokes are far too broad. There are moments when they admit mistakes (e.g. Pitman not returning), or when their testimony reveals that they have made errors of judgement, but very few witnesses involved in a complex and controversial series of events, when subjected to lenghty and sometimes hostile cross-examination (in spite of the fact, as Senator Smith pointed out, that it wasn't a trial), who would find that their actions stood up as perfect. I don't think they look 'bad' - I think they emerge as human figures, in a desperate situation, who did the best that they could with the time, knowledge and skills given to them, and who for the most part acquitted themselves well.

Then, of course, we have the men who didn't survive to depict themselves as anything. Moody never lived to lie, tell the truth, illuminate his own actions as gloriously heroic or despicably cowardly - he just died. In Cameron's movie he is reduced to a figure who acts as a roadblock during the collision scenes - getting in the way with his fictional cup of tea - before, eventually, fading out altogether. We don't see the real man who, as the historic evidence suggests, worked until the last of the lifeboats was launched, refused a chance to leave in charge of a boat, quietly and diligently loaded passengers, and then died while still trying to save lives.​
 
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sharon rutman

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Well, Murdoch was from Scotland and Cameron painted him as a guilt-ridden fool who turns the gun on himself after killing two people in cold blood. In fact I later heard that Cameron had to apologize to Murdoch's hometown where he is revered as a hero of the disaster for this inaccurate portrayl. The rumor of Murdoch's suicide could never be proven since the body was not recovered.

The surviving crew weren't necessarily liars--these people were all strangers to the ship and one another so it's too easy to get confusing, conflicting evidence of that fateful night.
 

Inger Sheil

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Other than the scenes involving the suicide - and the ambiguous depiction of the money being accepted/rejected - I thought Cameron's portrayal of Murdoch came across as quite sympathetic. Not only is he shown making a supreme effort to avoid the collision (to the denigration of Moody's character, if anything), he is also energetic and dedicated in getting lifeboats away. We also catch a glimpse of a human side in his slight smile when he sees Jack and Rose kiss - a rare break in the usual dour depiction of crew. My impressions were shared by a member of the Murdoch family with whom I discussed this, who - while understandably angered at the suicide scene - felt that otherwise the depiction was the best to date.

Even though I object to the suicide scene, I don't think it made Murdoch look like a 'fool'. Instead, it evokes feelings in me of deep sorrow that the man should have been placed in that position by circumstance and feel such a powerful burden of guilt and desperation.
 
Nov 26, 2005
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I never thought of JC's Titanic making Lights look like an idiot or incapable, just overwhelmed...more so than I believe the real guy was. I wasn't there that night, so I really don't know. Honestly, I think the casting for the Lights role could have been a bit better, IMO.
As far as Murdoch, I didn't take the suicide scene negatively toward the real person at all. Just a possibility shown on screen. If you look at what's going on, (him being in command at the time of impact, knowing all these people are dying, having just SHOT 2 people), all that's pretty hard to take in, not to mention the fact you're about to die a not-so-great death. So, to me, him shooting himself isn't all that cowardly..as some might take it. But this is IMO. The man did the best he could then when he could do no more and knew what was coming, he ended it quickly. Can't say I wouldn't do the same thing, or at least consider it.

I think the worst Officer treatment in JC's film went to Lightoller. Maybe, as said above, he (Cameron) was trying to counter-balance ANTR's larger-than-life Lightoller. Who knows? It's a movie!
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sharon rutman

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I wish everyone would stop saying "it's only a movie"-- movies pack quite a wallop and for better or worse certain images stay with us a long time after the credits have stopped rolling or the awards have been handed out. Cameron's negative images of Titanic's officers, especially Captain Smith and Lightoller still persist. Cameron chose to do quite a number on the British in general--greedy, publicity - crazed Bruce Ismay goading a reluctant Captain Smith into setting a record crossing for Titanic's Maiden Voyage. How about Hitchens completely jumping off the deep end as he shrieks at Molly Brown to "shut that hole in her face.' Some of this still makes me shudder.
 
Jul 12, 2003
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Sharon, why does it bother you that people say "it is only a movie"...it is only a movie...a fictional love story using a non-fictional event as the setting...but still a movie. What happened to the ship in 1912 and the people on board was indeed horrific and it will always remain one of histories most tragic events...just 9-11 or Katrina will.

Regarding Murdoch "killing two people in cold blood" as Sharon puts it, I don't agree. The crowd got out of hand and the gun went off. I don't think Murdoch wanted or intended to use the gun to harm anyone. When it did go off, to me, I saw nothing but pain on his face. I think remorse got the best of him.

Oh, and thank you Inger, for sharing what you learned about Murdoch from his family.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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G'day Deborah!

There were other members of the Murdoch family who chose not to see the movie (his nephew told me he had no intention of viewing it) - I can understand why. There were also family members descended from or otherwise related to other officers who were troubled by the movie or found depictions of their relatives objectionable - members of the Lightoller, Moody and Boxhall families spring to mind. On the other hand, while he didn't agree that the depiction of his father was quite the man he knew, Lowe's son thought Ioan Gruffud did an admirable job in the role.

I've never used the phrase 'only a movie', but I agree with Deborah we don't need to lose perspective over this. In other threads, I have argued strongly for what I believe are the movie's strengths and weaknesses (and have discussed at great length the depiction of the deck officers). I don't feel I have to like - or agree with - every aspect of the flick to still enjoy the parts that I felt worked. At the same time, nothing will ever make me pleased with, for example, how Moody was depicted, and I've made that point.

If we were to ask 50 Titanic researchers to make their own movies, I think it's safe to say we'd wind up with 50 very different interpretations, and people would be disputing some of the elements in these interpretations just as strenuously!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>I wish everyone would stop saying "it's only a movie"-- <<

Why? That's exactly what it is.

I don't have a problem discussing it's positives and negetives on occasion...just about every flick has them...but it hardly qualifies as one of The Great Issues Of The Day. Love it or hate it as you wish, but don't lose sleep over it.
 

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