What do Titanic Historians think of the Hype?

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On the C2T message board someone suggested having a Titanic conference with historians and movie people. Merits of the idea aside, it made me wonder what the people who have been studying Titanic for years and years think of all this hype?

Suddenly Titanic mania is everywhere. I mean if White Star had a Titanic replica ready to sail today I'd dare say the whole thing would be booked, Millionaire Suite to the last steerage room.

-- crystal smithwick (csmithwick@hst.com), January 27, 1998


I wouldn't sail on that ship! I haven't wanted to go on an ocean liner since I first saw "A Night to Remember" on TV around 1962 and my mother kept saying "Doesn't Kenneth More look marvelous in that cable knit sweater?" I think trips like that are doomed, which is why George Tulloch couldn't get that piece of hull off the ocean floor...also, look at the trouble they had with the Broadway show and the movie. Cripes, there are a lot of pissed-off ghosts out there.

-- Bonney Prince (hauptman@sover.net), January 27, 1998.

I have to agree with that one! I do not think I would want to tempt fate either! When Tulloch was trying to raise the piece of the ship, I said to my wife "somebody is going to get killed trying to do this and it will claim another life". Well that did not happen but I truly believe that ship was doomed from the start and it is not to be disturbed. As for the historians, I would think that they would be absolutely astounded by the historical accuracy that James Cameron instilled in this film. I believe, beyond the story of Jack and Rose, that this film will become the new standard in the telling of the story of Titanic for generations to come. I think it is great that so many young people have peaked their interest, very quickly, in such a fascinating historic event. I'll bet that if you asked some of these same people about the Titanic a year ago, they would look at you like you had two heads. That's not a knock on the younger generation, it's a compliment! Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), January 27, 1998.

To be honest I don't think I would be able to resist taking that trip, But I would pack an inflatable boat and a mobile phone!

-- Lianne (liannegraham@one.net.au), January 28, 1998.

I read some interview where a historian commented on how historiacally accurate it wasn't. Whatever. Any way, the guy's only complaint was that on the real ship, 1st and 3rd class passengers would not have been able to mingle like jack and Rose did. The wouldn't be able to simply unlock that gate on the deck whenever they pleased. I don't care! it's still a great movie!

-- natalie (mlen@erols.com), January 28, 1998.

I just watched a couple of days ago "Movies, in time" (or something to that effect) on the History Channel, and there were two gentlemen being interviewed by the host. One gentlemen was a Titanic historian I believe, and he said only good things about the movie. He said something to the effect, that James Cameron's movie is as close to the truth as we probably will ever get. So at least some historians are okay with it.


-- Caron (bianchi@iserv.net), January 29, 1998.

White Star doesn't exist anymore... they had too many accidents so their name was tarnished. That and their director (J. Bruce Ismay) became a recluse very soon after he went back to England after the sinking. Anyway, White Star was picked up by the Cunard Line, which is in operation today. Harland and Wolff have the building papers for the original Titanic, but it would cost so much today that nobody would ever want to make it. Then again, after the success of James Camerons' Titanic they probably should. Hell, I'd want to go on the trip but I agree with the person who said they'd take a life raft with 'em. I think that, and maybe a wet suit as well! Ha! =)

-- Dave Phillips (Sonitus@USA.net), January 29, 1998.

Well, now that there are plans to rebuild the Titanic, who's up for the trip? The maiden voyage is gonna be expensive but the prices will come down after that, and I wouldn't wanna go on the maiden voyage anyway! So hands up.

-- Lianne (liannegraham@one.net.au), April 07, 1998.

I read an article on the New York Daily News website a few weeks ago about the dean of Titanic historians, Walter Lord. He's seen the film **three** times. I can't think of a better endorsement than that.


-- Kip Henry (kip-henry@ouhsc.edu), April 07, 1998.

Hello Kip! Three times? That's great! Did they say what his opinion was? I would guess that him seeing it three times would be a pretty good endorsement by the master!

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), April 07, 1998.

If you'd like to read the article, it's at http://search.mostnewyork.com/most/Archive/98_03/030898/news/50616.hta.


-- Mary Lynne Nielsen (m.nielsen@ieee.org), April 08, 1998.

When I made this post back in January, I was just kidding about a replica. I never dreamed that not one but two companies would be vying for the "honor." I'm actually quite horrified by the whole idea. It seems rather a flightly venture. In a related thread, they've been talking about who'd go.

I'll be interested to see which of these companies follows through on these plans. Personally, I like the museum/hotel/conference center idea. I would actually visit that. I agree with Cameron that it's better not to tempt the fates and never have Titanic leave shore.

-- crystal smithwick (crystal@9v.com), April 08, 1998.

Crystal, those companies must have read your post on this site and gotten inspired! The more I think about it, the more I realize it is indeed "tempting fate," especially when they call the new ones "unsinkable." My guess is that many, many precautions will be taken (i.e. aside from lifeboats for all, a few smaller ships with capacity for all of Titanic's passengers will sail nearby).

-- Bob Gregorio (donthave@sorry.net), April 09, 1998.

I had trouble accessing the above-mentioned URL, so to save others some time, after a little effort I pasted the text below. Thanks for the mention, Kip and Mary Lynne. Very interesting.


Step aside, Leonardo DiCaprio  the original mister Titanic is back on top. Forty-three years after he wrote the thrilling  and still definitive  account of the loss of the most famous boat since the ark, Titanic chronicler Walter Lord is back on the best-seller list.

"A Night to Remember," the slim, action-packed 1955 book that spawned an entire subculture of Titanic buffs, has resurfaced with a splash, hitting No. 2 on the paperback list last week as it rode a wave of new interest fueled by James Cameron's blockbuster movie.

"It's really quite remarkable," Lord says, adding playfully, "Why didn't they believe me sooner?"

He's 80 years old now, and bitter that Parkinson's disease has robbed him of the ability to write. But he still lights up like a small boy when he contemplates the epic story that first gripped him  and gripped him for life  when he was 9.

This huge liner, her lights ablaze, slipping beneath the waves with 1,500 people aboard and no way to get them off. It's such a dramatic, romantic story," he says, his eyes gleaming.

In July 1926, Lord's mother took him aboard the Olympic, the Titanic's sister ship, and he first fell under the siren spell of the sea.

A few years later, "marooned" in his aunt's house on a rainy day, he picked up a long-forgotten book by a Titanic survivor  and became hooked on the tale of the luxurious "unsinkable" ship foundering with many of the era's biggest celebrities aboard.

"That became my bible," he says. "The only thing that's more exciting than a ship that's afloat is a ship that's sinking."

The April 14, 1912, Titanic disaster remained a constant interest. Throughout high school, Princeton and Yale Law School, he wrote papers on the ship and haunted libraries looking for more information.

After serving in intelligence during World War II, the Baltimore native moved to Manhattan and wrote ads for Aqua Velva aftershave, Ford trucks and Ballantine beer.

At a used bookstore on Sixth Ave., he stumbled across the 1864 diary of a British officer who joined the Confederacy. A Civil War buff, Lord snapped the book up for $2, annotated it and published it as "The Freemantle Diary." It went through six printings.

"My career was launched," he says. A war buddy, book editor Howard Cady, encouraged Lord to follow up with a book about the Titanic.

Lord spent six months talking to the 63 survivors he located.

"It was a big part of their lives, but no one else muchcared," he says.

During a single day of research, he spent the morning at the stuffy Union League Club with a dignified old gentleman from first class, visited a retired stewardess at her fifth-floor Bronx walkup, then took the subway to Queens and spent the afternoon with asteerage passenger, who was then a graying suburban housewife.

"None of these people had ever met, or ever would,yet they shared the same supreme experience in their lives," he wrote a few years later.

"A Night to Remember" was an instant hit, due in part to its vivid minute-by-minute account. And Lord struck an enduring chord by framing the sinking as the pivotal moment between the last gasp of Edwardian chivalry, complacency and confidence,and the modern age of anxiety.

Remarkably, it has never been out of print.

Though he has written a half-dozen other history books, "A Night to Remember" remains his legacy. Even his doorman calls him Mister Titanic.

A bachelor, Lord lives alone in a cozy, cheeryapartment on E. 68th St. that doubles as a Titanic museum.

In an aquarium, a large, wonderfully detailed model of the ship  complete with little people crowding the listing decks  pauses forever halfway through its final plunge.

A painting depicts the liner steaming past the Statue of Liberty on its triumphant arrival in New York  the day that never came.

A display table contains the silver whistle blown by Second Officer Charles Lightoller to summon arriving rescuers as he balanced on an overturned and sinking lifeboat, each new wave causing more of the air trapped underneath the craft to escape.

He has a second-class menu (curried chicken, coconut sandwiches), a first-class passenger list and one of the medals given by feisty Denver heiress Molly Brown to each of the surviving crewmen.

A frame contains the fading news ticker tape that came into the New York Times newsroom announcing the first electrifying bulletin.

In a glass case sits a fairly ugly stuffed pig, which suddenly becomes an object of great romance when Lord explains it once belonged to first-class passenger Edith Russell, who entertained children in her lifeboat with it.

"It was her lucky pig and, she wouldn't leave without it, so a steward  gallant to the end  went back to her cabin to get it for her," Lord recounts.

His most prized possession is the satin evening slippers Russell wore off the ship, willed to him with the pig when she died in 1975. Just looking at the tiny, perfect stitches of their embroidered roses conjures up the refinement of the Gilded Age.

Lord says he's pleased by the world's rediscovery of what he calls "one of the greatest stories ever told."

He has seen the movie three times and calls the special effects and careful attention to detail "simply marvelous." But he found the fictional teenage romance "a little unnecessary.

"I guess an author always sides with his own material," he says.

-- Bob Gregorio (rgregorio@ibm.net), April 09, 1998.

Concerning the demise of the White Star Line. After the first world war both Cunard and White Star were suffering economically. At the behast of the British government and financial backing. The two companies merged. Becoming the Cunard-White Star Lines Ltd. The merger had nothing to due with accidents or tarnished name. The company continued to operate under dual house flags. Until Cunard sold its final holdings in White Star in the late 60's and sold all of White Star's Assests. Cunard upon merger assumed control of the trust fund that maintains the 3 cememtary plots of the unclaimed Titanic victims in Halifax, NS Canada. The trust is still in operation today. And on every April 15th ALL cunard ships fly the house flag of the White Star Line. A footnote in May of 1998 Cunard was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines. The end of an era has come to pass.

-- RL-Memeber Titanic Historical Soceity (Adak3@riconnect.com), January 22, 1999.

I saw both Don Lynch and Ken Marschall at the Cosmic Fury Cameron retrospective, and managed to get a couple photos of them; I'll post the snapshots when I get the roll of film developed and scanned.

I managed to talk with Don Lynch for a few minutes; I recognized him, and he mentioned that I "had that look" of having recognizing him. One of the residual skills of being involved and interviewed for the film.

-- Thomas M. Terashima (titanicshack@yahoo.com), February 12, 1999.

Two obvious errors are present in the Cameron movie's sequence showing the Titanic sinking; the first was necessary to make the movie- 1)the boat deck was too brightly illuminated, whereas survivors stated the water could barely be seen from the decks, and faces were barely recognizable on that deck due to darkness, and 2) the cover over the cargo hatch in the forward well deck ballooned out due to pressure from the flooding hold beneath and eventually blew completely off- this cover is shown intact throughout the sequence.

-- William Myers (stellaM806@AOL.com), July 15, 1999.

Absolutely, lighting, in not only Cameron's film but the earlier ones as well were not a good indicator of the conditions that night but were necessary for the filming. It's one of the points that come up regarding the suspected suicide of William Murdoch and "eyewitness accounts" concerning that. Was there enough light available to actually see this happen and to identify exactly who this person was or if the actual event really happened or was an interpretation of noise rather than sight. I personally do not believe the Murdoch suicide story as there really is no reason for that to happen. Over the years, there has been increasing stories of gunshots fired and I think some of that is mistaken. The people of Murdoch's home town in Scotland have, to this day, denied that he killed himself as that, simply, wasn't his style. I tend to agree.

Regards, Peter

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), July 18, 1999.

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