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sharon rutman

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Of all the historical characters in the various Titanic flicks, it's a real shame that W. M. Murdoch comes across so poorly. In Cameron's Titanic he's racing helter-skelter across the bridge, frantically issuing orders to avoid the collision with the iceberg. He then mutters "Come on, come on, turn, turn," as if that will magically stave off the impending crash. Of course, later on things go from bad to worse--he's seen as numbly accepting money from Cal so that arrogant fool can buy his way to safety. (Thankfully Murdoch later on throws the cash back in Cal's face--your money can't save you anymore than it can save me.). Unfortunately, Cameron's Titanic revived the old rumor of Murdoch committing suicide after he shoots an unarmed passenger.

In A Night to Remember and I think Titanic 53 Murdoch is seen frozen in place, not reacting at all as the inevitable collision just happens without his doing anything to stop it.

Murdoch doesn't even get a break in the musical version of Titanic where he's seen as weak and indecisive. In Act I, he's seen as doubting his own abilities to command his own vessel as being master of a ship entails so many responsibilities. Murdoch doesn't seem to think he's up to the challenge and is seen as too afraid to take that chance. To add insult to injury, in Act II, Murdoch is seen in a sort of catatonic trance as, at first, he doesn't respond at all after Titanic collides with the iceberg.

This is grossly unfair I think. No one wants to give Murdoch, a cool and competent sailor, the benefit of the doubt.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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It's even worse in the 1996 flick...(of the moronic rape scene shame)...where Murdoch is portrayed as an incompetant nitwit who is being chewed out by the captain in front of somebody.

It does quite a disservice to a man who was likely one of the top shiphandlers on the North Atlantic run and who wasn't afraid to take decisive action in a pinch.
 
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sharon rutman

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Oh I forgot about that and now I see for good reason!

It's time to stop all this unfair Murdoch bashing for good. He did the best he could under circumstances none of us could ever possibly imagine. Playing "woulda/coulda/shoulda does his memory a great disservice.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Oh I forgot about that and now I see for good reason! <<

I never did, and mostly because I was trained with the notion that any butt chewings, if deserved, are something to be done privately and not in front of others. Especially for an officer since any showing of a lack of confidence could seriously undermine an officer's authority.

Aside from that, there's absolutely no evidence that Captain Smith did that with anyone after the accident. He might have wanted to, but when you have a ship sinking under your feet, your attention is focused on more important matters.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Overlooked in this discussion is the tribute to Murdoch in both "Ghosts of the Abyss" and "Last Mysteries of the Titanic." I was the on-set advisor for the re-enactment scenes involving Murdoch in GotA and a participant in the discussions with Cameron over the forensic meaning of the No.1 davit for LMoT. The evidence, both historical and forensic, speaks to Murdoch's dedication to duty and I believe that was conveyed in both films.

Parks
 
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sharon rutman

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Murdoch wouldn't have been employed by the White Star Line much less appointed to the Titanic if he had been the weakling depicted on stage and screen. Just check out this bit of dialogue from Titanic The Musical:

Murdoch: The master of a ship carries a heavy responsibility, Captain.

Capt. Smith: Every single minute Mr. Murdoch.

Murdoch: I'm not certain I'm up to it sir.

Yikes! Besides it was very hard for ambitious officers like Murdoch to climb up the greasy pole with old dinosaurs like EJ Smith hanging around. And if anyone was out of the loop the night of April 14, 1912, it was the revered EJ Smith. Smith simply vanished into the woodwork after giving orders to his officers.

See how ugly and unfair depictions of Murdoch usually are?
 
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sharon rutman

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Ok I defer to you Samuel. You tell me what Smith did during the sinking. I really don't know at all. Smith once told a reporter that his career had been so uneventful that he didn't really rate a story.

Anyhow I'm sticking to how Murdoch has been so maligned in films and in the stage production of Titanic the Musical.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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quote:

You tell me what Smith did during the sinking. I really don't know at all.
Sharon, that is exactly my point. None of us were there, so I don't think it is right to say that he just vanished into the woodwork. We have a few insights from the testimonies of several survivors, enough to know that he certainly did not vanish during those 2 hours and 40 minutes. We know he was personally involved with getting several of boats loaded and also involved in a personal inspection of the ship down below before he ordered the boats loaded. Do we have a minute by minute account of all his actions? No. But how he was portrayed in films and on stage is mostly made up by the imagination of the script writers, just like Murdoch.​
 
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Well I'm glad Ernie that at least Murdock was portrayed in a good light in ANTR. I just know him form the Book ANTR but from what Walter Lord wrote of him he seemed a kind and hard working man with a sense of humor.
 
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I don't believe Mr. Murdoch lost his nerve. I also have no problem believing he made mistakes. Even if he did not make a mistake in this case, he may have thought he had been responsible for the sinking and for the deaths of so many; and, after he had got the last boat away on his side of the ship, he may have taken his own life. He may, he may not. Who knows? None of us. He wasn't less of a man or a hero if he had. He certainly did his full duty in launching the boats and he certainly did not save himself.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Agreed, Ernie, Pinewood served the Captain pretty well. ANTR was in the mould of all those British (and Hollywood) War pictures in which people were very often shown quietly getting on with their jobs in the face of adversity. But nowadays, when honour and duty are less fashionable, the screenwriters look for more dramatic possibilities. Neurotic is better. Psychotic is best.
 
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Stupidity too Bob. Some of the new movies have the Officers acting like idiots. I mean is it the actors or what. Don't script writers study their subject matter any more or do they just not care.
 
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sharon rutman

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Even in films which tried to be a bit more evenhanded like A Night to Remember, Murdoch still had that "deer in the headlights" expression. All he could do was simply watch in abject horror as the berg loomed closer and closer. You'd never think from the movies that men like Murdoch had ever seen an iceberg or responded to an emergency situation before.
 
May 27, 2007
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True Sharon-

But I think that's the Scriptwriter trying to get through to the audience the danger of the situation. I think Cameron my have over done it a bit but it works. Remember they got to tell people who have no interest in Titanic what going on when the <font color="808080">ship hits the <font color="ffffff">Ice berg.
 
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sharon rutman

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Unfortunately movies are usually written for the general public who just wants to wants to be entertained for a couple of hours. The non-Titanic audience will take what they see at face value as the truth and that's that. The average movie-goer just wants to see what the fuss is all about and, sadly, they've come away with the impression that Titanic's officers were totally incompetent and did nothing to stop the fatal accident.
 
Mar 3, 1998
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The following excerpts were taken from Ghosts of the Abyss, the IMAX film produced by Walden Media and James Cameron for Walt Disney Pictures:

Bill Paxton voice-over during a re-enactment of those last few seconds before impact: "Try to imagine what it must have been like to be on the bridge that night. First Officer William Murdoch's on duty. Quartermaster Hichens at the wheel. That split-second decision that Murdoch had to make...he can go left or he can go right. ["Murdoch" is shown taking decisive action] Murdoch is suddenly staring at an iceberg, right down the barrel. Murdoch knows how many passengers are on board, how few lifeboats there are, what great danger the ship is in."

James Cameron voice-over during a re-enactment of the loading of Collapsible C: "Working on the other side of the ship, here's Murdoch, getting the boats in the water as quick as he can, shoving men and women and children...First Class, Third Class, he didn't care. Almost two-thirds of everyone who survived have Murdoch to thank for."

Bill Paxton voice-over during a re-enactment of the lowering of Collapsible A to the Boat Deck and preparation for launch: "At the very end, Murdoch was trying to get Collapsible A off the roof while the ship was sinking out from under him. They cranked the davits back in and dragged the collapsible over the side but by then, it was too late. [Focus on the No.1 davit on the wreck today] The No.1 davit remains in that cranked-in position...an unspoken monument to Murdoch's dedication and heroism."

Parks
 

Dan Cherry

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Mar 3, 2000
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Parks,
excellent reference points reflecting the efforts on James Cameron's part and your participation in giving Murdoch credit that is apparently sorely needed.
Dan
 

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