Wreck of the Titanic Alfred Hitchcock connection

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tom blackburn

Jul 1, 2004
I recently came across a titanic book (Wreck of the Titanic) by Marshall which came from David O. Selznick "Selznick International Pictures - Research Department". Included is a picture of the United States Line S.S. Leviathan.
Both are stamped "Selznick International Pictures - Research Department" 1938
In doing some research, I found that Selznick hired Alfred Hitchcock in 1938 to come over to the US and direct a picture about the Titanic. Plan was to use the S.S. Leviathan modified to look like the Titanic and then sink here.
I have documentation indicating Hitchcock may have used this book among other things to start working on a story line and script prior to the film being scraped due to high costs and other picture commitments (Gone With the Wind).
Anyone have any more details about this??
Jul 12, 2005
The files from Selznick International are in the Harry Ransom Library on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. I went through these files in 1991 and the reason for the Leviathan's photo in the book is that's the ship that DOS planned to use (and perhaps sink) for the movie. Alfred Hitchcock was wise enough to register the name "Titanic" with the Screen Writer's Guild, and so did Howard Hughes, who had planned to make his own Titanic movie. I have been through the memos and they are very interesting. There's one from Selznick to an assistant saying that he couldn't concentrate on the Titanic movie with Hitchcock until he finished "my Civil War picture" which of course is Gone With The Wind! The Titanic movie never was made, so DOS had Hitch direct "Rebecca". There is a very fascinating memo from Daryll Zanuck of Fox to DOS, wishing DOS and his wife Jennifer Jones a happy holidays and then asking DOS to sell the rights to the name "Titanic" so Zanuck can name his new picture "Titanic" rather than "Nearer My God to Thee" which was the working title. The memo states that Howard Hughes and Alfred Hitchcock had both signed their rights to the name "Titanic" to Fox for a nominal amount of money, and how DOS was holding out for more money than he had paid for the rights to the Baldwin book "RMS Titanic." Apparantly, DOS sold his rights to the name "Titanic" to Fox before the movie was released in April, 1953. There was a detailed story of this movie in a back issue of the Journal of the Ransom Library. You might contact the library in Austin, TX to see if you could get a copy of this article. Also, you can get copies of all the files for a nominal amount. Robert H. Gibbons

Dave Gittins

Mar 16, 2000
The other thread mentions attempts to stop Hitchcock's Titanic being made.

This is documented in Board of Trade files. What happened was that British shipping interests and the Board of Trade got wind of the coming movie from film industry magazines in mid 1938. Work on the film was supposed to begin early in 1939.

There was a good deal of discussion about what could be done to prevent the film being made. At the very least, British interests wanted some kind of reassuring comments to be included, pointing out that marine safety had improved since 1912.

It was said that US shipping interests had managed to prevent the making of a film about the burning of Morro Castle. Of course, the British had no power over the makers of an American movie. The US ambassador was asked to use his influence. Somebody remarked that Hitchcock was English and would not damage British interests.

Whether all this backroom action had any effect is doubtful. There may have been quiet, unrecorded conversations in the proverbial smoke-filled room. These things are not shouted from the housetops.

For whatever reason, the film was scrapped and Hitchcock began his American career with Rebecca.
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