Black and white opening scenes : LUSENET : TitanicShack : One Thread

Was the opening segment (black and white) actual movie footage taken in 1912?

-- Betty J. Compton (, January 25, 1998



The surviving black-and-white film of Titanic is in pretty poor shape.

If you look, you'll see a silent camera operator and a blonde girl in a hat later in the movie (in colour, when Titanic is leaving Southampton).

The camera operator is not (as far as I know) James Cameron, but is a pretty close (intentional?) match.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, January 25, 1998.

I've gone into the pile of books, newspapers and magazines that will eventually become my "Titanic" archives, and gotten out the book "James Cameron's Titanic". On page 58, it says that documentary film director Ed Marsh used vintage hand-cranked cameras and authentic period techniques to film the 90-percent scale set.

I suspect that the very first shot of Titanic docked at the pier is a digital composite, with film grain and sepia tones added to match the rest of the footage.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (, January 26, 1998.

I believe that most of the photographs that you see in documentaries and the like such as the one of Titanic leaving the dock and the crowds of people waving are actually films of the Olympic and are news real footage. The two ships were so similar that the makers of these films felt that no one would know the difference.

-- Peter Nivling (, January 25, 1998.

Whoops, that should say "newsreel"!

-- Peter Nivling (, January 25, 1998.

According to the book "James Cameron's Titanic," the black & white footage was shot on the exterior Titanic set with a vintage hand-cranked movie camera.


-- Kip Henry (, January 26, 1998.

The first answer is correct-if you watch carefully, you'll notice a little blond girl in a straw hat in the opening black and white sequence and she is shown again, almost identically in the leaving Southampton scene.

-- wendy white (, January 28, 1998.

Just as a point of historical interest, a photographer, William Harbeck, did stand on the docks in 1912 with a hand-crank camera to film the departure of the Titanic. Even if the film is in pretty poor shape, I daresay with today's computer technology it could probably be cleaned up. Ted Turner was able to colorize (bleah!) those B&W classics!

-- Bonney Prince (, February 01, 1998.

It couldnt be Olympic because the olympic's first class promonade (?) was open, and the titanics was closed in, but if you look at very early pictures of the titanic, the promonade was originally open, but they changed it to closed in with windows because passengers of the olympic complained of the water spray from the bow.

-- Jared (, April 26, 2003.

Although Seattle kinematographer William H. Harbeck did film some of the Titanic's pre-sailing activities from the Southampton dock, he filmed the actual departure of the ship from its port side. He was spotted there (along with his traveling companion, Henriette Yvois) during the Titanic's near-collision with the New York by another passenger, Lawrence Beesley, who wrote about the incident in his book, The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic. Harbeck carried 5 motion picture cameras with him on that voyage, and 110,000 feet of mostly unexposed film. It all ended up five days later on the bottom of the Atlantic.

Coincidentally, James Cameron wrote a short scene for his film involving two Harbeck- and Yvois-inspired characters. But he never got around to shooting it.


-- Roy Kristiansen (, December 19, 2003.

If you look at the image with the hand cranked camera and the Titanic in the same shot you'll see the crank is on the left side of the camera. There were no cameras with the crank on the left. The image has been flopped and is of the 'set' Titanic. They used the one set for starboard and port by reversing the lettering and flopping the film left to right.

-- Sam Dodge (, June 14, 2004.

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