Who fired the gun on the Boat deck except Lowe

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John Rutherford

Member
I must say Murdoch's suicide in the film Titanic came as a complete surprise to me, nothing I'd read up to then even hinted at such a episode.

I wonder here Cameron find such compelling and hard testimony that he thought fit to ( controversially ) include it in the film ?
 
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John Knight

Member
"I must say Murdoch's suicide in the film Titanic came as a complete surprise to me, nothing I'd read up to then even hinted at such a episode.

I wonder here Cameron find such compelling and hard testimony that he thought fit to ( controversially ) include it in the film ?"

Yet another case, I believe, of 'include it anyway, because it's exciting'. Yet another thing that caused great upset to the 'accused's' family.
In this case, unless I am mistaken, an apology was eventually made to the affected family.
I would rather things like that, which can seriously harm reputations and hurt families, never be included in films until they can be verified beyond doubt.
Writing about such like events in books is, I believe, ok, but only as long as it is made quite clear that it is all speculation.
Regards.
 
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Mark Baber

Staff member
Moderator
Member
Bill's site is required reading on the subject
Bill and Tad Fitch have also written an article that appears in the current Commutator, entitled "Did an Officer Commit Suicide on Titanic?" It's a great read.
 
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Tad G. Fitch

Member
Hi John, how are you? I think that historically speaking, James Cameron had the right to include the scene in question in the movie, since there were a number of people who claimed that an officer fired on passengers and then shot himself, similar to how it is portrayed in the movie.

What I would consider far more controversial is the choice of the officer's identity in both Cameron's movie and the CBS mini-series from earlier in 1997, since it is far from certain that First Officer Murdoch was the one who did it, if anyone did. Perhaps he should have filmed it in such a way as to portray the event, but somehow leave the identity of the officer ambiguous. I'm not sure how that could have been done, but it would have been far less controversial.

One thing to keep in mind however, is that James Cameron drew his opinion from his interpretation of the evidence, he did not make it up himself. Certainly, Murdoch was mentioned in many press rumors as the one who shot himself, which is probably why they chose to portray him as doing it in the movie. Certainly, a case could be made that Murdoch did shoot himself, but one has to bear in mind that no first-hand accounts positively identify him, or any particular officer, as the officer who shot himself, at least not with any degree of certainty. Indeed, most who claim to have witnessed the event do not even mention a name, as they probably wouldn't have been able to recognize which officer was which, and even if they could, with the crowds on deck and poor lighting, could easily have mistaken who it was. An example of this is how Harry Senior and Hugh Woolner positively identify Murdoch as having fired warning shots in the air at Collapsible C, while Jack Thayer was convinced it was Purser McElroy, and Hurst thought it was the Chief Officer.

Further complicating matters is the fact that there were survivors who fervently denied that a suicide took place, and there were additional rumors identifying everyone from Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, Chief Engineer Bell, all the way down to Major b*** as the person who committed suicide. My own personal thoughts are that the evidence suggests that an incident took place, but that it is much more difficult to say who might have been involved. I have my opinion about who the two most likely candidates might be, but they are just that, opinions. Nothing is for certain or can be taken for granted when looking at this subject.
Kind regards,
Tad

PS: Mark, thanks for mentioning Bill and my article, and for your kind words. As Mark mentioned, our article touches on this very topic. Hope everyone in the states has a nice holiday!
 
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Carla Velterop

Member
Hi Tad,

Could you send me the article via email, please? I don't have access to the Commutator. Thanks in advance
Happy


Carla
 
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John Knight

Member
Hi Tad,
I'm fine thank you and hope you are too.

I am still of the opinion that a scene of anyone shooting themselves should not be included. I guess if it was done so that nobody was positively identified, then that would have been a bit better. But still pointless and, from a film point of view, boring.
Your post actually backs up my feelings:

"...but one has to bear in mind that no first-hand accounts positively identify him, or any particular officer, as the officer who shot himself, at least not with any degree of certainty. Indeed, most who claim to have witnessed the event do not even mention a name, as they probably wouldn't have been able to recognize which officer was which, and even if they could, with the crowds on deck and poor lighting, could easily have mistaken who it was. An example of this is how Harry Senior and Hugh Woolner positively identify Murdoch as having fired warning shots in the air at Collapsible C, while Jack Thayer was convinced it was Purser McElroy, and Hurst thought it was the Chief Officer."

"Further complicating matters is the fact that there were survivors who fervently denied that a suicide took place, and there were additional rumors identifying everyone from Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, Chief Engineer Bell, all the way down to Major b*** as the person who committed suicide."

To include such a scene to my way of thinking is wrong and, worst of all, it upset members of Murdoch's family. It did nothing to help with finding the truth.
Regards.
 
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Tad G. Fitch

Member
Hello John, how are you?

You wrote:
"To include such a scene to my way of thinking is wrong and, worst of all, it upset members of Murdoch's family."

You're certainly entitled to your opinion about whether or not you feel it was right to include the scene in the movie. Opinion about this varies, and it was definitely controversial as can be seen if you do a search of old threads on the topic in this forum and elsewhere.

You wrote:
"It did nothing to help with finding the truth."

This is really not the job or reason a movie such as Titanic gets made. I am sure that you already are, but I would be extremely careful before trusting or learning history from *any* movie, no matter how large-budget, well-produced, and well-researched it is. Some movies are more historically accurate than others (indeed, some are brilliant), but I do not believe I have ever seen a movie on a historical topic that is sufficient to take the place of research and digging for facts yourself. To be cynical, some might say the same about a lot of books that have been published, although that medium is much more conducive to documenting sources and pointing out what is speculation and what is not than is possible in a motion picture.

Hope that you have a great start to the week.
Take care,
Tad
 
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Tad G. Fitch

Member
Hi Carla, how are you? Unfortunately, I do not have an electronic version of the article as it appears in The Commutator which I could send to you via e-mail. If you don't have access to The Commutator, I would highly recommend joining the Titanic Historical Society. Membership is not too expensive, and there are always some great and original pieces of research that are published every issue. The website for the THS and information on joining is at the following link:

http://www.titanichistoricalsociety.org/

If you check out Bill Wormstedt's website, the page "Shots in the Dark" reflects some of the information that has been discussed here. Bill and I have continued to conduct research since the last time the website was updated, and that is reflected in the article which appears in the latest Commutator. If you join the THS now, you still get all four issues for the current year, no matter which point during the year you join. We will be adding to Bill's webpage on this topic as new information is found as well. Another option would be that you can purchase the individual issue of The Commutator from the THS at their website, and can do so without being a member I believe. Hope this helps, and that you have a great day tomorrow.
All my best,
Tad
 
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Carla Velterop

Member
Hi Tad,

I'm great thanks
Happy
And you?

I'm not so sure I can join the THS just yet - [edited to remove information due to privacy reasons - JDT]
Sad


I'll see if I can beg my parents, though '-)

Carla
 
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Tad G. Fitch

Member
Hi Carla,
If your parents let you, you can join at any age. If not, maybe you can talk them into getting the latest issue for you. As I said, you don't need to be a member to do so. Good luck!
Tad
 
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Carla Velterop

Member
Thank you, Tad! Do you think that I could get it in Hong Kong? Or should I wait until I've moved back to England in late August?

Carla
 
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Marilyn Lena Penner

Member
Hello Tad, John and all others,

I don't know, but I think the idea of Mr. Murdoch committing suicide in the movie was the literary idea of responsibility, guilt and expiation. Mr. Murdoch was the senior officer on the bridge. He was responsible for the safety of the ship and passengers. He didn't (probably couldn't) avoid the collision. People would die because he did not avoid the collision, so he must (as a character in a story) be shown to feel guilt and to die. Also, in the movie, was he not the man who accepted and then threw away Cal's bribe?

For the family of the real Mr. Murdoch, that was insulting. No one knows who the suicide was - and whether in was Mr. Murdoch or not, Mr. M. did his full duty before he died. He got all the boats on his side filled and launched. If he thought the collapsables could not be launched, that was based on good judgement and can't be faulted.

But as Tad said, finding the truth was not the purpose of the movie Titanic. Its purpose was to tell a love story - and fiction has certain conventions that the author either plays with or flouts. Life given or taken to pay for the deaths of other is one convention.
 
Inger Sheil

Inger Sheil

Member
Quote possibly those dramatic conventions are what motivated the depiction, Marilyn. I've spoken to people who advised Cameron on the film, and they tried to persuade him not to use it. I've also heard of other advisers who likewise argued against it. One told a colleague of mine that Cameron said he was going to use it because 'it would look cool.'

It's worth noting that Cameron in his subsequent depictions of Murdoch in his doco-movies has made amends, and - avoiding the 'suicide' question - has almost gone out of his way to pay tribute to Murdoch.
 
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