Some stories never die
April 14 was Titanic Remembrance Day. Today no one is left of the 706 passengers and crew who survived, and few are alive to remember the 1,522* who died. But the name Titanic lives on with all the mystery and myth surrounding that fateful night in 1912 when the “unsinkable” ship plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Living on the silver screen
My own fascination with the ship began in 1953 when I saw Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb (and a cast of other memorable actors and actresses) in the black and white film directed by Jean Negulesco. Today mention a movie about the ill-fated ship, and one immediately thinks of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. It wasn’t my favorite.
In 1958, a British film, A Night to Remember, based on Walter Lord’s book by the same name, hit the screen. Later I also enjoyed S.O.S. Titanic, a 1979 made-for-television movie starring David Janssen as John Jacob Astor, the middle-aged millionaire returning to America with his much-younger pregnant bride. She survived--he didn’t.
But what you might not know is that there have been over 40 movies and other films about the Titanic and in many different languages. Three were made in the very year of the tragedy, one being released only 29 days later! (It is now lost.)
Five years before Dr. Robert Ballard and his expeditionary crew found the ship on September 1, 1985, another movie, Raise the Titanic fueled the imagination of many Titanic buffs (like me!) that the great ship might actually once again see the light of day. Unfortunately, it broke into several pieces during the actual sinking, so the premise proved to be faulty.
Subsequent expeditions by Dr. Ballard and other counties gave rise to the controversy about whether or not to bring up artifacts for display or whether the site should be considered sacred like a cemetery. The display side won, and restoration of items retrieved has been on going.
Remembrances of things lost
The Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri, has relieved me of rather pricey ticket money twice, but I considered it money well spent. Inside the museum is the recreated “grand staircase” and many permanent exhibits such as Madeline Astor’s life jacket. Other exhibits come and go. I couldn’t wait to see bandleader Wallace Hartley’s violin! This year, through June 11, costumes from the 1997 award-winning movie will be on display.
History and hype
You could fill dozens of bookcases with volumes about the Titanic, both fiction and non-fiction. (Some, of course, are better than others.) One thing is sure--one will make you want to sample another and another and another…
The Titanic is gone, and the people who sailed on her are long-dead, but her story will live on forever. The questions of exactly why she sank and why more people weren’t saved will never be completely answered. Her fate is a mystery--and mysteries continue to intrigue people for generations.