It was made before any serious research had been done into the sinking - even pre- Walter Lord. If they had went to find a book, all they would have found was the 1912 'rush' books - things cobbled together from the wilder newspaper articles of the time.
In all probability, the people making the movie had little interest in the 'historical' side of things. They got a few basic facts, and built a fiction around it. This kind of thing is done all the time.
I agree that the 1996 TV mini series was the worst. The 1953 Barbara Stanwyck-Clifton Webb film was not accurate in its details but did a good job conveying the tragedy, heroism and loss involved. I saw it on TV as a youngster when I was a Titanic newbie and it really impressed me! I think it's still a good story. And...where else can you learn how to do the "Navajo Rag" from a handsome tennis player from Purdue?! ;-)
SOS Titanic, the three hour version, had a lot to offer. I never met a Titanic movie I didn't like. The casting was right on the money for Ismay and most of the main characters. I will say David Jansen was a poor candidate for Astor -beard and all.Very wooden and unconvincing. Too bad the 2-hour version chopped out some of the best deck scenes including the great sequence when Madeleine was doing a little shopping from the vendors allowed to show their wares. The price on that Irish lace bed jacket was pretty steep! The only bit which did not quite ring true was the Susan St. James and Beesely pairing. The look into steerage was the first time we got a bigger picture of how it might have been in any detail. The scenes with Martin and the steerage girl were so poignant and believable. The Turkish bath scene was also very convincing with the boys gazing wistfully at the Countess of Rothes. When I think of the times, and lack of special effects technology, the matte work for SOS was superb as was the sinking sequence. There was a lot to like about the sets and costumes too. I'm not sure I quite bought Cloris Leachman's treatment of Molly Brown, but most of the legendary figures we wanted to see made an appearance, without having to make up a lot of fictional people and story lines. In praise of this attempt, I would also add it was such a thrill to see the Titanic in color for the first time-for other than ANTR what else was there? My least favorite if I had to pick one would be Raise the Titanic. But for the magnificent score, breath-taking sequence of the ship rising from the deep, and haunting scenes of her interiors and arrival in New York, there was very little to be commended, and huge historical errors, horrendous casting and acting.
I don't know that *any* actress can ever do justice to Margaret Tobin Brown. The people who best understand her aren't the people writing the scripts. That's why one tends to see the mythic caraciture as opposed to the reality.