What were survivors impressions of Cameron's Titanic

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Juntaro Sampei (Juntaro)

Where can I see survivors impressions of Cameron's Titanic? Or someone who have any information about it, please tell me.
Thank you.

Dear Juntaro,

The only survivor who saw the James Cameron movie was Eleanor Johnson Shuman. Unfortunately, Mrs. Shuman passed away shortly after the film's release. Eleanor saw the movie at least four times and enjoyed it very much. Of course, certain scenes in the movie effected her emotions. Although she was only 18 months old when the Titanic sank (with no memory of the actual sinking), the impact of what she and her family experienced was chilling.

To my knowledge, none of the other five living survivors have seen the movie. Millvina Dean told me just last week that she still hasn't seen it, and prefers not to. I don't know about Mr. Navratil, Mrs. Dainton, Miss Asplund or Mrs. VanTongerloo but I would tend to doubt it given their current ages and the emotional impact that movie would have on some of them. With the exception of Mrs. VanTongerloo who is living in a nursing home and is almost legally blind, the other four survivors lost their fathers and other members of their family in the sinking.

Many survivors in years previous have declined to see any movies concerning the Titanic disaster. Marjorie Newell Robb refused to view any depiction of the Titanic's sinking, and found it most difficult to even open a book connected with it. Mary Lines Wellman, when invited to see the 1958 premiere of "A NIGHT TO REMEMBER", sent her regrets to the film's producer. "I went through it once, and that was enough for me," she wrote.

I hope this will be of some help.


Michael Findlay

Juntaro Sampei (Juntaro)

Dear Michael

Thanks so much for your polite answer. I'm sorry I have few words to say appreciation to you, because I'm not good at English.
I have an unofficial Titanic Japanese Page. Your information is of much help to my site.


I found Eleanor Johnson Shuman's death sadly ironic, considering that she passed on at the height of that crazy-as-Captain Finlander "Titanic mania" wave.
I APPLAUD Milvina Dean for not seeing the '97 film.
Not only is she respecting her own feelings about the hell she escaped, but she also did not bow to all that dangdable HYPE that wooed so many others into seeing the film (and regurgitating the hype instead of drawing their own conclusions?)

Richard K.
I remember reading a small profile People magazine wrote on Mr. Navratil just after he died recently. It mentioned him having a strong reaction to Cameron's Titanic. Not necessarily a negative one but just that he moved him somehow.

I believe the only two survivors who saw Cameron's movie were Michel Navratil and Eleanor Johnson Shuman. Unfortunately, both of them have passed away.

Of the four remaining survivors, Millvina told me that she still hasn't seen the film - at least not in its entirety. I don't know for sure about the other three ladies but I doubt it.

Eleanor Shuman saw the movie premiere in Chicago along with James Cameron and got to meet him. Actually, Eleanor saw the movie three or four times and cried each time she saw it. Michel held off on viewing the film until recently and he did so in the privacy of his home - not the theater as the PEOPLE magazine reported. He was quite moved by the film, and his daughter Elisabeth told me that he had tears in his eyes after the whole family watched it. His chief impression was the scene where Fifth Officer Lowe returned to the scene of the wreck to rescue the dying swimmers. Daughter Elisabeth related that her father whispered that he hoped his father didn't suffer that long and agonizing death in the icy waters. He also enjoyed the scenes where it showed the Titanic jetting through the Atlantic with the swimming dolphins. Michel always commented that he frequently remembered looking over the side of the ship with his father and watching the waves break away from the ship.

Hope this helps....

Mike Findlay
It is highly ironic that the one survivor who may have had alot to say about it was Eva Hart but unfortunately, Ms. Hart died on feb 15, 1996 just as "Titanic" began production.

Now I have read that Eva Hart was the ONLY Titanic survivor living (at that time) who could still give highly detailed accounts of the sinking. Unfortunately, I do not have the article or book that I saw that in in front of me.

I understand she released her memoirs before she passed away...it's sad, I do not believe there is anyone left, please correct me if I am wrong.

Rolf Vonk

Hi William,

I know that there are several TV-interviews with miss Eva Hart (I have one myself). In those interviews she makes very clear statements about the sinking. I think they are reliable as miss Hart was allready a rather old child during the sinking. The now living survivors were just babies if I'm correct. I don't believe that they can give reliable rememberings about the sinking.

Personally, I doubt Miss Hart's account of her father helping the officers fill the boats (I heard the recording on the Discovery channels "Deep Inside the Titanic").

She claims her father helped out because he knew of the sea and things but I feel that she was, understandably, painting her father in a rose tinted way.

Because of that statement on her part, I also feel that her assertion that her mother had a premonition was also a piece of information which was made up.

Miss Hart led a remarkable, admirable life after the disaster, and many of her observations about the sinking are important (the breaking up, for instance), but I still feel that she added her family story to the myth of the disaster and that some of her remarks about her mother and father are untrue.



If we extend the topic to descendents of Titanic passengers/crew, I can relate that, though Lucy Duff Gordon's grandson refused to see the film, her great-nephew, Andrew Duff Gordon, did and he told me he thought the story was too long and drawn-out.

However he added that the sinking shots were more graphic than he expected and that he was very moved by them, remembering what his father had once told him about what "Uncle Coco," as the family called Sir Cosmo, had always said when asked what the scene was really like: "I can never describe that to you." Cosmo would say,"It is too horrible to talk about."

Andrew said after seeing the realistic final scenes of the ship in the movie that he understood well what his great-uncle must have meant.


I see no reason to doubt Eva Hart's story about her mother's premonition. She always claimed that and maintained it through the years, hardly changing a word each time she retold the story. The strangeness of her mother being in bed all day, out of worry, and awake at night standing guard, as it were, made a definite impression on little Eva, as it would any child of that age, or anyone of any age, I'd imagine. I can't think that is a fabrication.

As to whether her father helped to load women and children into the boats, I also don't see that as a far-fetched story even if it is probably true that she did not actually know for sure that he helped. It stands to reason though that many of the men left on deck helped the crew to get the women away in the boats. Even if Mr. Hart didn't help, it doesn't make him any less of a hero, and I think maybe that is really the only point she was wanting to make: that her father was a hero. A little girl losing her father to the sea wants to see him as a hero. And he was, wasn't he?

To all,

The only two known survivors who saw the Cameron movie were Eleanor Johnson Shuman and Michel Navratil. At the time of the film's release in December, 1997, six survivors were still alive.

Louise Laroche died one month after the film's release and her failing health prevented her from seeing the movie. Eleanor Johnson Shuman was an invited guest of James Cameron to see the premiere in Chicago, Illinois. Eleanor viewed the film there, and later saw it twice at her local movie theatre. She was deeply moved by the film, and commented that she cried through most of it. Sadly, Eleanor died three months after the film's release.

Michel Navratil saw the film about a year ago in the privacy of his residence in France. He was very moved by the film, and his daughter said that he was haunted by the memory of how his father must have died a agonizing death. Michel applauded the film's realistic special effects and enjoyed seeing the ship "in full color." He noted that little reference was made to the second-class passengers. Michel died three months ago in France.

Of the four remaining survivors, I know that Millvina Dean still hasn't seen the film in its entirety but has viewed many of the scenes that were featured on television and in books. I do not think that Lillian Asplund or Barbara West Dainton have seen the movie at all, and Mrs. VanTongerloo's family in Michigan maintain that she has not seen it either and has no desire to.

On a separate topic regarding Eva Hart, I must caution that Miss Hart's story changed over time. Many present day researchers believe that Eva's mother's premonition was "enhanced" by the passage of time. Eva claimed that her mother slept during the day - fearful that the tragedy she envisioned would occur in the night and she wanted to be fully awake. Trouble is Esther Hart was awake on Sunday, April 14, 1912, and was busy writing a letter about the day's events. Esther Hart described nothing of her premonition and generally seemed to be enjoying the trip.

It is impossible to say whether Esther Hart told Eva about the premonition years afterward, which Eva later related time and time again, or whether Eva herself exaggerated the tale to make it more dramatic. Eva claimed back in the 1970s and early 1980s that the Titanic sank intact 'right before my eyes.' In 1985, and afterward, Eva claimed that she saw the Titanic break in two 'right before my eyes'. Of course, the Titanic had been located in 1985, and Eva changed her story to match new evidence.

It is impossible to determine just how much Eva actually remembered of the Titanic. She clearly remembered many aspects of the voyage and sinking, but many feel that her memories were enhanced and "improved" by her mother, fellow survivors, the passage of time, and the influence of movies and books over the years.

Mike Findlay

I totally agree that Eva Harts father was a hero, and that Miss Hart was completely justified in her admiration for her father.

However, from the account in her autobiography, and the account in the television documentary I heard, she claimed, in essence, that her father went above and beyond the heroic stoicism that so many other male passengers could be credited for.

She claimed that because he knew of the sea (questionable)he helped the officers to load the boats, or at the very least, her boat.

I feel a bit uneasy about statng these opinions because I realise there are two Eva Harts that most of us are familiar with. The first is the old lady recalling events from several decades before, the second is the happy seven year old child we see in the photographs.

I think that her story changed with the passage of several decades, a completely understandable reaction.

While not trying to open a can of worms,it would have been interesting, in retrospect, to have heard Mrs Hart and Miss Hart's version of accounts on the Carpathia.

I wonder how many of the Titanics other passengers told the real story (or not)



It is interesting that only now after her death are some people openly challenging the validity of Eva Hart's story.

Did anyone question her about the inconsistencies of her claims while she was able to explain? It seems to me that certain researchers who are now trying to poke holes in her account ought to have been on their mettle and questioned her more pointedly on the issues that seem incompatible.

I suppose they, like so many others, were too busy grinning dumbly beside her in photos and getting her to autograph everything in sight to worry over trying to set the record straight by doing a really in-depth interview.

Poor lady. I think she might have explained the reason for the inconsistency between her's and her mother's story, if someone had thought to bring it up to her.

I don't care for the habit of some biographers who smile in their subjects' faces and hang on their every word and then question their claims later. If there is a question at hand that the subject can answer (or choose not to as the case may be), I think an historian has an obligation to ask it, however controversial.

As it is now, in the case of Miss Hart, unless someone somewhere took it on themselves to get her explanation for the conflicting stories, we are left with an unkind suspicion lurking over her version of events.

I hope some responsible writer did get her take on the situation; if not, it is shoddy work on the part of those who had the chance but are now crying wolf.

What are your thoughts on this, Mike?

It is impossible to determine just how much Eva actually remembered of the Titanic. She clearly remembered many aspects of the voyage and sinking, but many feel that her memories were enhanced and "improved" by her mother, fellow survivors, the passage of time, and the influence of movies and books over the years.
Good evening Mike (not to be confused with stadart)....Stupid me goes and shoots my mouth off impressed with the way Eva could rattle off accounts of the sinking and me, not realizing that she was only 7 years old when The Titanic sank, I feel like a boob but I guess that is why we are here to help each other...thanks Mike for knocking me back a few points....


Your post came a minute after mine and I agree wholeheartedly with it.

I wasn't in a position, nor did I have the inclination before she died five years ago, to interview Miss Hart but I think you have raised a pertinent point.

The dewy eyed sentiment associated with so many interviews with Titanic survivors (Walter Lord being the original and chief culprit in my opinion) has sometimes clouded peoples judgement as to what really happened on the night.

For example, although I can't explain how he survived, I firmly dispute Charles Joughins story.

And there is the crux. I can't explain it because everyone just accepted it and said "Well done old chap."

Obviously Miss Hart knew more about the night than any of us, and she may well have been telling the truth as she remembered through the eyes of a young girl.

No one wants to hurt anyones feelings, especially an old lady presenting her case, but some gentle cross examination would have been so helpful.



You are very right. I've never met a Titanic survivor or been to any convention but my interest is deep enough that, if I had had such opportunities or connections some years ago, and I knew of the inconsistencies in Eva Hart's story (which I learned here only just now), I would have hoped that if I got a chance to schedule an interview, I'd have asked her the questions that mattered and not just have let the little dear recite the same old stuff. And I'm sure she'd have welcomed a fresh new question.

You make some very good points.

Hi Randy,

First of all, please let me say that my response concerning Eva Hart's account was not an attack on her credibility. I merely wanted to point out that Eva's story, like many survivors, "changed" over time. Eva is not alone in this regard. Survivor Marshall Drew's account differs greatly from the memories of his aunt who also gave interviews through the years. Edwina Troutt MacKenzie spent much time innocently confusing researchers with remembering the number of the lifeboat she escaped in. She always claimed boat #13, evidence shows that she was probably in boat #16, yet her friend Don Lynch pushed aside all this data and placed her in boat D. Frank Aks has at least ten different variations as to how he left the Titanic - each version more dramatic than the next. This is not a criticism of these fine men and women - all of whom I had the pleasure of knowing personally. For some, the passage of time had taken some of the sting out of that night, while others were so consumed by the impact it made upon their lives that they were given to add more "drama" to their experiences.

You stated that only now after her death that some people are openly challenging the validity of Eva's story. Not at all. First of all, since you never met Eva Hart, I am sure those who have can tell you that she was not a type of individual to be confronted. She was polite and gracious but could be critical and stubborn to the fullest extent. Several researchers, including Don Lynch, questioned her about her mother's premonition. There were so many contradictions and inconsistencies with Eva's version and Esther Hart's own account that it seemed doubtful if it were even true. Don personally did not believe the premonition story, and while Don and Eva were close friends, Don did not publish one word of the Hart premonition in his book at his decision. In fact, the only reference to Eva that he made was from Esther Hart's own account - describing how young Eva joined in the Sunday service hymn sing.

Eva was very definite minded, but it became apparent that many of her Titanic tales just didn't match up. She declared in the early 1980s that she watched the Titanic sink intact and did not believe the reports of her breaking in two. When the wreck was discovered in 1985, Eva quickly changed her story and boldly stated, "I know the ship broke in two because I saw it - first one end stuck up out the water, then the back half - it was dreadful but I will never forget that terrible scene. I can almost see it now."

So, in answer to your questions, yes, several researchers did question her about the inconsistencies in her claims but they were quickly admonished. Eva did not like to be questioned or contradicted and she quickly put you in your place if she felt you were out of line.

Furthermore, I don't think "that many others were too busy grinning dumbly beside her in photos and getting her to autograph everything in sight etc." did no more than give Eva respect in her beliefs. Speaking for myself, if Eva believed what she said, fine with me. I certainly did not want to be reprimanded, so those of us who knew better just let her speak.

In response to "I think she might have explained the reason for the inconsistency etc," I beg to differ. Eva never would have done this since she was given many an opportunity and never obliged to several respected authors.

Your comment "I don't care for the habit of some biographers who smile in their subjects' faces and hang on their every word and then question their claims later...", well, I look at it that some of us had respect for Eva and knew that she was going to believe what she wanted to believe regardless of what anyone said. It would have been extremely rude to publicly engage in a debate over the truth to her Titanic memories while she was still alive.

Finally, I must point out that this is certainly not a criticism of Eva Hart. I knew her well, and respected her dearly. I just wanted to point out that there are "large" discrepancies in both Eva's account and that of her mother. Who do you believe? The Harts are not alone in his situation - hundreds of survivors have given conflicting versions of their experiences that night. Now that Eva is gone, it is the hope that both versions of her family's experiences can now be debated and discussed - something Eva never would have tolerated or allowed in her presence. That's why it is being done now, Randy.

If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask.



I am glad to know that some writers did try and get an explanation from Eva Hart as to the conflict between her story and her mother's but I am disappointed that information was not supplied to those of us who, largely removed from goings-on in Titanic circles, know only Eva's side through countless TV interviews.

While challenging Miss Hart's story too directly might have proved a tricky situation, I do feel some balance could have been struck by allowing time to her mother's account, so that now it wouldn't look as though people were picking on her.

I am no expert on Titanic in general, but I am fairly well-read on the subject, certainly more so than the average person, and I repeat that I have never heard or read until yesterday, right here on good-ole ET, that there was any question as to the authenticity of Eva Hart's story. Perhaps I just am not quite up on things. Have I missed an article in the THS journal? Has TI published anything at all about this matter?

If not, I stand by what I have said that, though some may think it only a good-mannered gesture that the topic was not brought up publicly during Miss Hart's life, for me it is still shoddy work that a balanced portrayal was not aired before now, when she is dead and can't defend herself.

To my thinking, the dishonesty that some feel was Miss Hart's (and I'm not sure they are at all wrong to doubt her), is also theirs for not bringing the truth out, regardless of fears of inciting an old lady's tantrums.

That she was an imposing person, I have no doubt, but that is no excuse for a writer not pursuing the truth. A writer with a journalistic backbone instead of clap-trap sentiment would have long before now gotten to the bottom of the issue and presented the story, not as an assault on Miss Hart, of course, but just as an effort to tell the whole truth.

It could have been accomplished, Mike, with grace and a minimim of grief for Miss Hart.

I believe that every respect is owed to the survivors and I am glad they have received that but the feeling has too often resolved itself into a ridiculous reverence. The case of Eva Hart will always from now on stand testament to that.


I do heartily agree with your statements and I'm sure many attempts were made to present the facts concerning Eva's and her mother's accounts of the sinking.

However, one VERY important point that I neglected to mention was that Esther Hart's account did not surface until very close to Eva's death in 1996. The letter that Esther Hart wrote aboard the Titanic - describing the voyage, her feelings etc. was not in the public domain. A few of us had seen the letter back in the 1980s and early 1990s, and that's when the suspicion arose - separate from Eva's completely different version of the ship's sinking and her breaking in two. This is why Don Lynch decided against using anything Eva told in later years in his book. In fact, he believed Esther Hart and cited from her letter.

Esther Hart speaks nothing of a premonition, and generally describes a pleasant voyage. Eva said her mother slept during the day - ever dreadful and fearful that some type of trouble would transpire at night. Esther Hart contradicts her daughter's statements simply by being the author of this letter that was written on Sunday afternoon, April 14th, 1912 - when Esther Hart should "have been asleep."

Personally, many of us believe that if Esther Hart experienced any "dread" aboard the Titanic, it probably swirled around the fact that Mrs. Hart was leaving home for the first time, and was enroute to a strange land with her husband and daughter. She was probably homesick, a bit seasick, and possibly attentive to the fact that she had no idea what would happen in Canada. She was not a young woman heading to the New World full of excitement - but rather an older lady who had known nothing but life in England. She did not want to go to Canada and begged her husband not to go. Some have suggested that "the premonition" Esther Hart allegedly has could have been fabricated to prevent her husband from going ahead with the family's travel plans. Esther Hart never claimed she had a premonition - all of this comes from Eva.

I agree that it would have been the correct thing for a historian/researcher to present all the evidence but everyone was mindful of Eva's personality and didn't want to offend her. Everyone liked Eva and such a declaration to contradict her would have had unpleasant results.


I'm sure most everyone will be satisfied with your explanation and it certainly is adequate for me. Interviewing is a daunting thing and believe me I know this.

I respect other researchers' choice of approach even if I don't agree with them. We each handle our work differently.

Thanks for your informative posts.

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