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In April 1912, wealthy American ex-patriot Julia Sturgess leaves Cherbourg, France, with her children, seventeen-year-old Annette and young Norman, to board the luxurious ocean liner R.M.S. Titanic on its maiden voyage from England to New York City. Already aboard the ship are a large number of promininent American socialites and English aristocrats, as well as a sizeable crew and many steerage passengers. At the boat dock in Cherbourg, Julia's husband, Richard Ward Sturgess, a well-known sophisticate, convinces the Uzcadums, Basque immigrants headed for America, to sell him Mr. Uzcadum's ticket. Meanwhile, as Annette boards the Titanic , she catches the eye of American college student Gifford Rogers, but rejects his advances and later complains to Julia about their unpreposing table in the grand dining room. Much to Julia's surprise and the delight of the children, they are joined by Richard, who, when the children are sent off on errands, accuses Julia of kidnapping Annette and Norman. Julia proclaims that she is taking the children to America to rescue them from Richard's snobbishness and provide them with a life as normal American children instead of European wanderers. Richard protests, asserting that Julia will ruin their lives and force Annette to marry "some rural bumpkin." Although the couple are polite in front of the children, in private, Richard declares that he should have known better than to attempt to civilize a girl who bought her hats from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. The following morning, Giff approaches Julia, who takes an instant liking to the affable young man and promises to speak to Annette on his behalf. Julia then returns to her cabin, where Richard informs the children that instead of attending a family reunion, as Julia had told them, she intends to keep them in America. Annette, who shares her father's snobbishness and prejudices, is horrified and tells Julia that her home is in France. That evening, Richard allows Norman to purchase his first pair of long pants, while Annette attempts to make amends to Julia for her temper tantrum. Richard sends the children on to the dining room, then confronts Julia, who asserts that she has given up hope of transforming Annette but refuses to let go of Norman. Richard states that he will never allow her to have custody of Norman, and, in desperation, Julia reveals that Richard is not Norman's father. After dinner, while Annette is reluctantly dancing with Giff, Julia reveals to Richard that Norman is the product of a romantic encounter she had with a kind stranger after Richard had humiliated her at a party. Crushed, Richard replies that he never wants to see Norman again, then begins a game of bridge with Maude and their friends. The next morning, 2d Officer Lightoller, concerned about an iceberg sighting reported by another ship, asks Capt. E. J. Smith about the Titanic 's increased speed, but Smith gently dismisses his query. In the bar, Norman asks Richard to accompany him to a shuffleboard tournament, but Richard rebuffs the boy and keeps playing bridge. On deck, Annette apologizes to Giff for abandoning him on the dance floor the previous evening and confesses that she is unfamiliar with the latest American dance craze. Giff teaches her and after she leaves, happily tosses his hat into the water, on which bobs large chunks of ice. In the evening, Richard rudely ignores Julia's plea that he spend time with Norman, while Lightoller grows nervous upon receiving another report about an iceberg sighting. Smith decides not to alter course, however, as the sea is calm and he does not anticipate approaching any icebergs until the morning, when they will be easily visible. Below deck, Annette has spent a happy evening singing with Giff and his friends, and allows him to kiss her. At 11:36 p.m., when two sailors in the crow's nest spot an iceberg, the alarm is sounded, and the ship is steered hard to starboard. Although it seems, at first, that the ship will pass safely by the iceberg, it rips open the Titanic 's side under the water line, and Smith and Lightoller race to the bridge. As water pours in below decks, the watertight doors are closed, trapping numerous sailors. Smith orders his officers to begin preparing the lifeboats, and confides in Richard, who has come to investigate the noise, that there will not be enough room in the lifeboats for everyone. Richard assumes a bemused air as he goes to Julia's cabin and helps her and the children don their lifejackets and go on deck. While Richard then gets Mrs. Uzcadum and her children, another passenger informs Julia that only the women and children will be saved, and she realizes that Richard was putting on an act to keep them calm. After she watches Richard guide the Uzcadums to safety, she apologizes for considering him useless, and Richard admits that up to now, he has been. The couple pledge their eternal devotion, and Richard and Giff then watch as Julia, Annette and Norman board a lifeboat. As the boat is lowered, however, it stops at another deck and Norman gives up his seat for an elderly woman. Norman then searches for Richard, while Giff cuts another boat free and falls into the water. Smith asks the band to play, to comfort the remaining passengers, and Norman locates Richard. Although he is distraught that Norman will die, Richard proclaims how proud he is of his son and tells him that he loves him. Giff, who has been rescued, rows one of the lifeboats, and the survivors listen in silence as their doomed relatives and friends sing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" while the Titanic sinks.