What the filmmakers got right


Mar 3, 1998
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I've read through many a thread here devoted to mistakes, bloopers, etc., found by the in-house experts in the various Titanic films. Since we currently have another Titanic project in production, I would be interested to know what people here appreciate most about Titanic productions from the past. Where, in your opinion, were the filmmmakers (MacQuitty, Cameron, Brackett, Reiber, etc.) spot on? What impressed you most favourably?

Parks
 

Beth Barber

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Jun 7, 2001
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I will comment on Camerons 1997 Titanic since that one is still reasonably fresh in my mind.

I loved the sets and costumes. The attention to detail was awesome.

I loved the way Cameron brought the ship and people to life. Even going as far as to try to match actors with the real people of Titanic as far as looks. In my opinion he did a very good job of that.

Also the way he brought the reality of Titanic in a movie that was made for entertainment (fictional love story of J & R) - the scene after the ship went under and there were hundreds of people floating in the water - trying to survive. That scene really hit home with me.

This film ran the gamut of emotions with me. Laughter, tears, anger, sadness and hope.

This movie, in my opinion, brought the story of Titanic to lots of people who never really knew much about Titanic and caused such an interest in the truths and stories of the real Titanic. Myself Included.

- Beth
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Parks, I would throw in with Beth as well and add a few comments of my own. What Cameron got right was the violence of the event, the horror of those who lived through it and the emotional impact on those who survived it.

Me thinks that was the whole idea to begin with.
 

Inger Sheil

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Feb 9, 1999
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MacQuitty seems to have got James Moody fairly well - both his understated heroism and physically (other perhaps than hight). Cameron got one crewman just about right - Henry Wilde.

I agree with Michael that Cameron got the physical violence of the breakup well (aside from slamming down hulls and other bits and bobs). The water crashing through staterooms and public areas with what Cameron described as 'the Armageddon of elegance' captures the awesome horror of the death of a great ship.
 
Jun 26, 2002
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I think what the film makers got right was the attempt in the first place. That anyone has the guts to go through with takeing on that kind of task. We all know how judgemental the viewing public can be, and they still try to give us history. I know that they don't always get it right, but I appreciate any attempt that they do make.
Melinda
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

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I like what ANTR did with the antiquity of the period, not just on Titanic. The train ride by 'Lights' (and the soap conversation) the Irish couple leaving their home to go to America and the aristocrats leaving their estate added more background to those on Titanic.

Also ANTR was just as much about the Californian Incident and the Carpathia's rescure. It told a complete story.

I loved Cameron's segues, from the close-up of young Rose's eye to old Rose's eye. Also the current rustical ship fading into the 'new' ship in several scenes. None was more effective than the last fade where old Rose dies and is taken back to the ship from current to old and is reunited with those who had died.
Without a doubt Cameron's star of the movie was Titanic. She may never have looked better! As Beth noted the attention to detail was amazing. Every scene of Titanic, exterior or interior, was like seeing a lost work of art for the first time.

Tim B
 

Dave Gittins

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Mar 16, 2000
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The 1953 Titanic is generally not worth discussing for its technical aspects. It's just plain wrong about just about everything.

The queer thing is, it got two things right that the rest get wrong. It gives the correct number of survivors (712) and it correctly shows how socket signals were fired. It also contains a quotation from a quite obscure document (whose name I've forgotten). It's the line about having 'sand for supper'. Just a few lonely little petunias in an onion patch.
 

Nigel Bryant

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Jan 14, 2001
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Hi,

I will add my two cents here. Good topic Parks. Cameron got many things right in the film. I was very impressed with his Titanic set that they created. Who can actually claim that they got all the public rooms furnished in accurate styles? From the glass dome of the GSC to the beautiful leaded glass windows in the Reception and Dining Saloons, to the wooden carved balustrades on the stairs and surrounding foyer panelling.

Even down to the carved arms rests on the chairs on the Dining Saloon chairs to the painting in the Smoking Room and the cane chairs in the Veranda and Palm Courts. The list goes on.

The design of the rooms, layouts are spot on to the real Titanic, in older films some of the rooms are changed beyond recognition contrary to what archive photographs show. Seeing previous examples of movies before hand regarding sets, I fully appreciate the time spent on getting a accurate set.

The exterior version looks like Titanic itself and what is more impressive thing is that it was virtually full sized. Details were excellent, from the crane manufacture plates to the Welin davits (who can boost that they had the same davit to lower the lifeboats on any other previous set). The models were great, and throughout Cameron's film it is the first time Titanic has come alive in moving colour in her hey day since 1912.

This now leads on CG effects. Never would I thought to see aerial shots over the ship and the sheer destruction and horror of what would of happened that night.

The thing they also got right was the dedication to the project, it just shows that if you are so passionate about something against all odds it shows if you set your mind you can achieve anything. And boy, Cameron and his team gave us a fine example of this.

In summary,

Great Set
Great CG effects
Great dedication and lots more

Best,

Nigel
 
Mar 28, 2002
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Cameron's Titanic - the scene of the hundreds of people thrashing in the water. One survivor - I think either Frank Aks or Marshall Drew - said he would be sitting in his apartment in Detroit and everytime the crowd cheered at the nearby baseball stadium, it would remind him of the people dying in the water. I like the fact that Cameron seemed to have listened to first hand accounts of the survivors and tried to recreate the horror of the event.

A Night To Remember - the baker Charles Joughin, getting ratted. A real character. And Honor Blacman's face when her husband gently ordered her to do what he said. Says a lot about a woman's place in 1912. The film had many priceless moments of people interaction, for example the scene between Molly Brown and an unidentified male passenger - he doesn't know how to react to Molly recounting her tales and remarks "how dreadfully dull for you". I guess it marks the then differences between American and British society.

SOS Titanic - not a lot. Couldn't even get the caption right on the day it sank. I suppose they did portray the role of the bellboys and buglers, often forgotten in other films, and how they were regarded by other members of the crew, particularly the scene where Lawrence Beesley asked the bellboy if he wanted a game of quoits (or whatever it was).

1953 Titanic - Clifton Webb's character buying the identity of the Spanish emigrant in order to get on board at the last minute. As we know, there were quite a few aliases and false names amongst the passengers of all classes.

Cheers,

Boz
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Nigel,

You mentioned something above that brought to mind a common misperception, and that regards the size of Cameron's re-creation of the ship. I have seen it reported in many places that the ship was built to 90% of the original size. That would seem to indicate that the ship was slightly smaller in scale.

In order to get the real truth behind this, I asked the man himself. Cameron told me that in order to fit the ship stage in the tank at Fox Studios Baja, he had to remove small sections -- slices of cross-section, if you will -- from the hull at 15-foot intervals (they weren't removed physically, but calculated when building the stage). Because of this, some props did have to have their true size altered, most notably the lifeboats and the funnels. The lifeboats had to be shortened slightly in order to fit the correct number on the foreshortened deck. I forget what Cameron said he had to do with the funnels to make them look in proportion. The sections of the ship constructed, though, were full scale and true in all dimensions.

You also mention the accuracy of the Welin davits. Even though they were built by the original company to the original plans, the arms of the modern davits are much thicker in construction than their earlier counterparts for safety considerations. Even so, they moved quite a bit under load and looked extremely fragile as we lowered a boat during shooting this past February (it occurred to me the other day that I have the unique experience of having lowered one of Titanic's lifeboats as one of the line handlers and that I should write my observations down). Otherwise, though, they looked and operated like the originals. Too bad that they are rusting on the backlot in Rosarito, many now inoperable.

Personally speaking, I find something good to take away from each Titanic movie. In the matter of the Marconi Room, ANTR had original apparatus, but the room itself bore no resemblence to Titanic's. Cameron's 1997 movie was based on Olympic's Marconi Room (pre-Titanic configuration). In re-building the Marconi Room for "Ghosts of the Abyss," I used the Father Browne double-exposure photograph and the footage from the 2001 expedition as references. However, neither source provides all the details needed to fully re-create the actual room. Therefore, I looked elsewhere...most notably, to other marine wireless stations of the period. There were some details from ANTR, however, that I found to be quite useful and historically accurate, so I included them as part historical, part homage to the earlier film.

Parks
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Cameron got so much right and the whole film is so seamless and gorgeous that those things which were wrong are trivial indeed. What Rose says to Andrews about the ship, is true of the movie: it's "a marvel."

The scene mentioned earlier of the people in the water is very affecting for me as well. I will never forget the audience's reaction opening night. The loudest collective sigh of shock I've ever heard in a moviehouse was let out as the camera panned back to show that horrific scene. I think more than any other shot in any other film about Titanic, that one captures best the enormity of the disaster.

And if I'm not mistaken, it was Frankie Goldsmith who likened the sound of cheering baseball fans to that of people dying in the water after Titanic went down. I've remembered that because I've always felt the same way. I get a sick shiver whenever I hear crowds like that at a distance. I also think of Titanic when I'm in a crush of people. It makes me nervous and I always associate the feeling with that night.

ANTR is fantastic in its echoing so well the gist if not the letter of Lord's book. It truly is, for me at least, like the book coming alive. It never disappoints and it never fails to move me.
 

Nigel Bryant

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Thank you for the clarification Parks, it was appreciated. Must have been quite hard work with those davits. On all grounds the film was absolutely brilliant, I watch it 24/7 and there far more things to list on what he got right. I don't mean to distract from the thread but I saw your photo on your profile. Is that the Marconi display set at Foxploration? It seems different to the earlier exhibit, which was on the Cunard-White Star forum; did you rearrange some items, with the new information and your analysis of the Marconi suite on Titanic?

All the best,

Nigel
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Nigel,

The new photo was taken two weeks ago when we were shooting additional photography for "Ghosts." The entire Marconi stage in Rosarito was diassembled and shipped up to Burbank for the day, along with other select props (the original Honour&Glory clock panel also came from Mexico, while the ship's wheel/binnacle/telemotor and one telegraph came from Cameron's office at Lightstorm). I was allowed to reassemble/rearrange the Marconi stage to my liking. It's as close to matching the Father Browne photo as I could make it with the available props and time in which I had to work on it (which was not enough...we were on a tight schedule). The earlier photo was taken at Foxploration before "Ghosts." You'll only see a close-up of my hand at the telegraph key in the movie (as in ANTR, Cameron wanted Titanic's real distress call in Morse), but for lighting considerations I had to get into full wardrobe. I didn't have to shave, though, like I did in February when my face could be seen as an AB.

A change to what I said earlier. I stated above that Cameron told me that sections were taken out of the hull at 15-foot intervals. Ken Marschall tells me that they weren't taken out specifically at each 15-foot mark, but rather at natural breaks in the superstructure -- between windows, deckhouses, etc. -- about every 15 feet or so. Therefore, each window is of correct dimension. The idea was to spread the reductions evenly along the length of the deck so that the reduction in length would not be readily apparent. But they moved a cut section a few feet if it looked like it would distort a window or deckhouse.

Why did they do this? First and foremost, to fit the ship stage in the tank. But you also have to remember the context. At that time, the studio was actively fighting Cameron in his quest to build the ship full scale. They absolutely refused to build the tank larger to accommodate a full-size Titanic. The final stage was a compromise, but even that wouldn't have become reality if Cameron hadn't stubbornly stuck by his convictions. He lost some battles but won the war, but victory was never assured until a profit began to be realised. If the movie had flopped, all the studio execs put off by Cameron's hardheadedness would have taken their pound of flesh from him.

Hollywood is a strange place. You would think that after the success of Cameron's "Titanic," that Cameron would have free rein with another Titanic project. Not so...the axiom "What have you done for me lately?" rules supreme in La-La Land. Everything Cameron is attempting with his latest project is straining budget. The financial backers just won't cough up the money needed to do everything right. Maybe that's the norm for the movie business...I don't know. But to this Alice peeking through the Looking Glass, it's extremely frustrating. I can imagine that the frustration would be tenfold more for Cameron, but I don't know for sure. I can tell you one thing, though...if anyone can get the most bang for the buck, it's Cameron. In my experience, he has shot more scenes in one day of filming than could be reasonably expected to be shot in an entire week. He does this by keeping things moving and not allowing himself (or the crew) to be bogged down by distractions. Having seen him work, I would say that I admire him most for that, even though at times I was one of his distractions.

Parks
 

Nigel Bryant

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Jan 14, 2001
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Thank you Parks for the information and for your detailed reponses. It has been a priveldge to hear them from a person who has worked in Ghosts of Abyss and has heard background information on Cameron's Titanic movie and is willing to share them to the Titanic community. It helps me and others to understand the role of movie/documetary making so much more eaiser and gives us an insight on the type of tensions and stress that is in the movie making bussiness, especailly on historical dramas.

Good on ya Parks.

Best,

Nigel
 
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Brian Tourville

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Amen . Thank you Parks!

In case I can't get thru - :

Parks , for the soundtrack of TITANIC - did they sample the actual Steam Sirens / Whistles / Horn
raised from the wreck ? If not - how accurate in tonality are these ?

As the British Library - Sound File Division do not have these - I would like to pursue this Digital Recording of the actual devices to Digital. Any advise / direction would be welcome.
 
May 3, 2005
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Boz-

>>1953 Titanic - Clifton Webb's character buying the identity of the Spanish emigrant in order to get on board at the last minute. As we know, there were quite a few aliases and false names amongst the passengers of all classes.<<

Just a little nitpick on the above. According to at least some accounts, Titanic was far from being "booked solid" and "Richard Ward Sturges" (the Clifton Webb character)would not have had to bribe the Basque Immigrants to get passage...Quite a few of the notables, including even J.P. Morgan himself , had cancelled at the last moment.

There would have been at least several First Class Cabins available, as well those in the other classes.

Cheers,
Robert
 
Feb 24, 2004
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Hi, Robert!

2200 on board? - 2/3 booked? Yeah, there were quite a lot of empties. And some of those weren't even finished yet (Mrs. Shelley's affidavit).

Roy
 
May 3, 2005
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Hi Roy ! -

Richard probably wouldn't have had any trouble even getting a cabin near Julia and the kids....with his money ? No Problem ! :)

Robert
 

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