According to the grandson of Finnish survivor Anna Turja, the 1953 Titanic was the first movie that grannie had ever seen. When interviewed by reporters after the viewing, she is alleged to have asked "If they were close enough to film it, why didn't they help?". Was that a stupid question? Not really. No more so than the reactions of much earlier first-time filmgoers who dived for cover when bandits opened fire or a train hove towards them onscreen.
Looking at these in retrospect they don't really appear to be stupid questions at all. Identifying the type of gull seen in a movie can give some insight as to where the movie was made. Asking about helicopters from some young person not aware the helicopters were not invented yet in 1912 can be quite understandable. Airplanes were around by then but of course had extremely limited ranges. And Anna Turja's question is also not unreasonable when you think about the fact that the film showed some scenes of the ship steaming across the Atlantic at night. She just may have thought that those scenes were taken from a camera on board some nearby ship in 1912 that was indeed close enough to help.
I typically believe that are no stupid questions. You can be sure that if someone prefaces a question with, "I think this may be a stupid question, but ...," then you can be almost certain the question is not at all a stupid one, but one that many others feel like asking but are afraid because they tend to feel that they may be the only one who does not know.
Anna Turja was referring specifically to scenes of the ship sinking, which she had assumed to be newsreel footage edited into the film. But that doesn't weaken the point that both you and I have made, Sam - that not all questions are as stupid as they seem. Anna had no previous experience of the world of 'Hollywood magic', so it's understandable that in her eyes any scene that she could not envisage being enacted on a theatre stage had to be real. But she learned from this new experience, and thereafter remained sceptical of any image captured by a lens. In 1969 she was never entirely convinced that the moon landings she saw on TV were real - she wasn't ready to be fooled again!
As a teacher, I've heard many of what might be termed 'stupid' questions, though in the classroom I'd never have referred to them as such. For me, an 'odd question' was not one which stemmed from ignorance or inexperience (as in Anna's case), but rather one which didn't really need to be asked, in the light of what the questioner already knew. The questions that I find most annoying on ET are those which often appear in the Reader's Comments section, and which refer to a biography page which (however brief) they have clearly not bothered to read!
>somebody on a newsgroup asked why helicopters were not sent to the rescue.
Somebody two years OLDER than I am ( I was born in 1966) asked that question, in my presence, while watching Titanic on video. Jumping back a few years, I was watching Hindenburg with a co-worker who, when told that the footage was real, asked "They had film then?"
Stupidest question of all- on a first (and last) date I used (for comic effect, I may add) the old Bronx phrase "I've survived two World Wars and the Great Depression- I can get through this" and was greeted with a skeptical "You've survived TWO World Wars?" implying that I seemed old enough to have survived ONE World War and, of course, the Great Depression, but TWO was obviously an exaggeration on my part. I was 29 at the time.
Jim: I grew up in The Bronx (1944-1965) and never quite heard it put exactly that way. Anyway, as far as your date was concerned, did you have a portrait somewhere that was similar the detritus of Dorian Gray?
Woodlawn. E 235th Street. 1966-1992. The saying was current circa 1970-1980, but the ranks of those who used it, (usually in connection with one of those Gothic horror stories- involving neighbors falling down elevator shafts, being run over by the Webster Ave bus, etc- that were trademarks of that neighborhood) thinned out after 1975 and by the time I left the Bronx for good it was only occasioanally used by people with a certain sense of humor...
>did you have a portrait somewhere that was similar the detritus of Dorian Gray?
No, I was just a wizened hoary 29, apparently. My age, at the time, perfectly matched the IQ of my dinner companion so it was a perfect fit.
>Interesting how Lindbergh can pop up on a message board dealing with the Titanic!
Isn't it! I could very well have said "You could have walked down Gun Hill Road, crossed Metro-North, then turned right on Webster and walked up the 11 blocks to the 233rd Street entrance of Woodlawn Cemetery. Then, a quick left, a quick right, up to the top of the hill, and you'd be perched right atop Archibald Gracie!" but it seemed a bit stilted so I went for the easier neighborhood landmark. However, to keep it Titanic oriented: "You could have walked down Gun Hill Road, walked eleven blocks north on Webster, entered Woodlawn Cemetery and had a wide array of General Slocum, Titanic, Lusitania and Morro Castle victims and survivors to seek out, and perhaps even have taken note of the Hauptmann residence at E222nd and Needham as you walked!"
Always a wiseacre in the crowd! Actually, it's a strange thing for me, an aircraft and submarine hater, to be interested in Lindbergh. I guess it's hero worship from a day gone by. (As far as I have been able to find out, he never traveled on a White Star Liner.) Still, I'd never thought about the shared connection that Woodlawn has with the above named shipwrecks. Especially in New York, history is everywhere.
Sorry- your orignal one line post lacked subtext so I hardly knew how to respond. But, yes, Woodlawn, Mount Vernon (not a part of the Bronx but close by) Pelham, Norwood and the Grand Concourse corridor were home to many second class survivors and victims of the Titanic and the Lusitania, and a large number of the Morro Castle passengers came from the Concourse and its cross streets, so the area is a great source, via old time residents and the Bronx Home News, for not-overused accounts. Regarding Hauptmann: my great grandmother, German, was a patron of the bake shop cum luncheonette at which Anna Hauptmann worked (I think it was on Gun Hill Road, in fact) and based her whole assumption of his innocence on the fact that he had a nice wife. The facts that he was an illegal alien who had fled Germany after being caught pulling off "second story jobs," and not only was caught with ransom bills on his person (courtesy of a diligent Bronx gas station attendant) but with the balance stashed in his garage, were somehow of secondary importance to the 'nice wife' factor. Such was the flavor of life in the Bronx in the 1930s....
Gee, I don't know how to follow that slice of life in New York. As far as I can tell, the only Titanic connection that we had in Springfield, Missouri was a journalist named Carlos Hurd from the very nearby town of Willard -- he was working for one of the St. Louis newspapers and was travelling on board the Carpathia; the scoop of a lifetime!
The whole Lindbergh/Hauptmann story has fascinated me for years, although I'm not convinced that Hauptmann was much more than a secondary player in the whole story. But, that's a thread for some other message board (and it wouldn't surprise me to have one pointed out to me now that I've posted this!).
To get back to the topic, the original dumb question was reported by Senator Smith. Relatives of the ship's company were asking if some people had survived in the ship's 'watertight' compartments and whether they could be rescued.
That's why Smith asked some apparently dumb questions himself. He wanted to put on record the impossibility of such a scenario.
Agreed, not a stupid at all. But to many it must have have brought on more than just a few laughs when he asked that of 5/O Lowe and Lowe responded "Ice, I suppose, sir." But Sen. Smith was really trying to confirm what Boxhall had mentioned some time before, that they are composed not only of ice but of rock and earth and other substances that were picked up before breaking off from the glacier. Capt. Moore of the Mount Temple also talked about that too.