Cast & Crew
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.
Guy Standing Jr.
Hellen Van Tuyl
Ronald F. Hagerthy
Robin Sanders Clark
Commodore Sir Gordon Illingworth R.d., R.n.r. (retired)
Arthur L. Kirbach
Best Story and Screenplay
Best Story and Screenplay
Best Story and Screenplay
Best Art Direction
Some of the familiar historical figures "on deck" for this version include Captain E.J. Smith, John Jacob Astor and his bride Madeleine (played by Frances Bergen, wife of the ventriloquist and mother to Candice), First Officer Murdoch, Benjamin Guggenheim, and the elderly Strauss couple (one of the owners of Macy's) lovingly going down with the ship together. But they all take a back seat to the high-melodrama shenanigans of the fictional Sturges family. Mrs. Sturges, aka American-born Julia, is played by Barbara Stanwyck, the best reason to watch the movie after, of course, the excitement of the sinking itself, rendered with fairly convincing special effects. She's on board with her two children, older daughter Annette and adolescent Norman, to escape her unhappy marriage to Brit Clifton Webb. Not so coincidentally, hubbie has also booked passage in order to connive custody of their offspring, never realizing that Norman is actually the product of an extramarital affair Julia had years before. All this domestic tension, naturally, is almost (but not quite) forgotten in the great disaster to follow.
One true historical fixture in all other tellings of this legendary tale, Denver socialite-philanthropist Margaret "Molly" Brown, appears prominently in this film but under the name Maude Young, now the possessor of a Montana lead mining fortune as opposed to the real-life Brown's Colorado-based silver mining interests. Why the change was made is a mystery, since Brown (who went by "Maggie" and not "Molly") was always proud of her connection to the Titanic and the heroism she reportedly displayed during the sinking. She died in 1932, so perhaps it was a dispute over rights with her surviving family members. In any case, Thelma Ritter, the supreme character actress of the time, gives her all as the salty Maude.
The film was originally titled "Nearer My God to Thee" after the hymn that some survivors claimed was the last song played by the ship's band as it sunk. Others have strongly disputed this, and historians generally insist that passengers most likely were not standing stoically on deck singing along to the hymn as the ship went under, as this movie depicts. The hymn was sung by doomed crew and passengers of the SS Valencia as it sank off the Canadian coast in 1906, perhaps giving rise to its prominence in the legend of the more famous 1912 sinking shown here. Producers felt using the song name as the title might lead people to think the picture had a religious theme. For a short time the alternative title "Passenger List" was considered until more sensible heads finally prevailed.
Stanwyck was paid $75,000 for eight weeks work on this movie. The actress received favorable reviews for her performance, particularly the intensely real emotions she dredged up for the shipwreck sequence, but she later claimed that was less a matter of acting skills than her personal reaction to the realism of the setting. "The night we were making the scene of the dying ship in the outdoor tank at Twentieth [Century Fox], it was bitter cold," she told Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper. "I was 47 feet up in the air in a lifeboat swinging on the davits. The water below was agitated into a heaving, rolling mass and it was thick with other lifeboats full of women and children. I looked down and thought: If one of these ropes snaps now, it's good-by for you. Then I looked up in the faces lined along the rail--those left behind to die with the ship. I thought of the men and women who had been through this thing in our time. We were re-creating an actual tragedy and I burst into tears. I shook with great racking sobs and couldn't stop."
Stanwyck was known for championing young players in her movies, most famously her support of William Holden, which prevented his firing from the title role in Golden Boy (1939). On Titanic, she befriended Robert Wagner, who played the romantic interest of Audrey Dalton as Stanwyck's daughter. Wagner was only 22 at the time and fairly new to pictures. "Barbara was very helpful," he said years later. "She's a sensitive lady beneath that kind of sharp front. She changed my whole approach to my work--made me want to learn the business completely. She really started me thinking. It means a great deal when someone takes that kind of time with a newcomer." Although rumors of a romance between the young actor and the twice-divorced 45-year-old star made the gossip circuit, a love relationship was not likely, and it made Wagner furious. "It's all nonsense," he protested. "This silly gossip has certainly hurt my chance for a real friendship with a fine woman and a great actress." Wagner's assessment of the damage notwithstanding, the two remained good friends.
Commodore Sir Gordon Illingworth, ex-captain of the Queen Elizabeth ocean liner, was employed as technical adviser. Despite the film's many historical inaccuracies, Illingworth saw to it that nautical details kept close to the truth.
At the end of filming, Negulesco, an accomplished visual artist, presented the cast with drawings he had made of them.
Producer: Charles Brackett
Director: Jean Negulesco
Screenplay: Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch, Richard L. Breen
Cinematography: Joseph MacDonald
Editing: Louis R. Loeffler
Art Direction: Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler
Original Music: Sol Kaplan
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Julia Sturges), Clifton Webb (Richard Sturges), Robert Wagner (Gifford Rogers), Audrey Dalton (Annette Sturges), Thelma Ritter (Maude Young), Brian Aherne (Capt. E.J. Smith).
by Rob Nixon
Where I come from this is either a revival meeting or a crap game."- Maude Young
"We may be having sand for supper."- Sturges
Oh Richard, where did we miss out on each other? I beg your pardon, Sir. I put you down as a useless man, someone to lead a cotillion.- Julia Sturges
After all, it was my major talent.- Richard Sturges
I'm sorry, sorry about everything.- Julia Sturges
We have no time to catalog our regrets. All we can do is pretend 20 years didn't happen. It's June again. You were walking under some Elm trees in a white muslin dress, the loveliest creature I ever laid eyes on. That summer, when I asked you to marry me, I pledged my eternal devotion. I would take it as a very great favor Julia, if you would accept a restatement of that pledge.- Richard Sturges
Hey, you can't come up here. This is reserved for first class only.- Earl Meeker
Really. I'll do my best to behave properly.- Richard Sturges
I've seen that look before. He's a runaway.- Maude Young
From what, some woman?- Earl Meeker
No, he's running too fast for that.- Maude
Don't go in there, sir. The starboard boiler's gone and the port one's about to go.- Crewman
Are there men in there?- Rev. Headley
A few, pinned under the rig. For God's sake mister, don't go in there.- Crewman
For God's sake, I am going in there.- Rev. Headley
The working title of this film was Nearer My God to Thee. According to a September 1952 Los Angeles Times news item, Twentieth Century-Fox used the working title because of initial problems registering the title Titanic. A modern source reports that Passenger List was another working title. The opening credits of the picture include the following written prologue: "All navigational details of this film-conversations, incidents and general data-are taken verbatim from the published reports of inquiries held in 1912 by the Congress of the United States and the British Board of Trade." At the end of the film, over a shot of the lifeboats, offscreen narrator Michael Rennie states: "Thus, on April the 15th, 1912, at 0220 hours, as the passengers and crew sang a Welsh hymn, R.M.S. Titantic passed from the British Registry."
The film's story is based on the sinking of the White Star line's R.M.S. Titanic, which, on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City, struck an iceberg near Newfoundland. The incident took place shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912 and the vessel sank within three hours. Considered "unsinkable," the Titantic was one of the largest and the most luxurious ocean liners of its time. Although the characters of the "Sturgess" family are fictional, many of the characters in the film are based on real people, including Mr. and Mrs. John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim and Mr. and Mrs. Isidor Straus. The character of "Maude Young" is based on the wealthy, outspoken American Molly Brown, who was one of the estimated 705 survivors. Over 1,500 people, including the majority of the crew and steerage passengers, died. Modern critics often site the inadequate number of lifeboats, and the fact that some of the lifeboats were only partially filled, as reasons for the tremendous loss of life. The surviving passengers and crew were eventually rescued by the Carpathia, and investigations into the tragedy resulted in stricter enforcements of general maritime safety measures. The incident was one of the major news stories of the 20th century. The wreckage of the Titanic was found in 1985 by Dr. Robert Ballard and his crew. Numerous artifacts have been recovered by divers and tourists continue to visit the site.
According to a July 1938 New York Times article, independent producer David O. Selznick was interested in making a picture about the sinking of the Titanic, to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock. That film was never produced, however. In 1944, Hollywood Reporter noted that Seymour Nebenzal was to be producing a film based on the subject, with the original story to be written by Rowland Leigh. That production was also never realized. September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news items announced that Terry Moore was being considered for a role in Titanic, and that Margaret O'Brien was the "top candidate" for the part of "Annette Sturgess." A December 5, 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Joyce Newhart, George Boyce and Duke Seba in the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. A modern source adds Joan Hayes and Bert Stevens to the cast. Audrey Dalton was borrowed from Paramount for the production. According to the film's pressbook, technical advisor Commodore Sir Gordon Illingworth had served as the captain of the Queen Mary. The film contains a medley of college songs, for Amherst, Cornell and others, sung by "Giff" and his friends.
In May 1953, Life reported that several survivors of the tragedy attended an April preview of the film in New York and found it "depressingly realistic when the ship hit the iceberg and went down." As noted in the Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest review, the picture's world premiere was held at the Norfolk Navy Base in Virginia on April 11, 1953, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy Relief Ball. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction (b&w) and won an Academy Award for Best Writing (Story and Screenplay). Titanic marked the screen debuts of Frances Bergen, the wife of comedian Edgar Bergen, and Melinda Markey, the daughter of actress Joan Bennett and producer Gene Markey.
Among the many films depicting the sinking of the Titanic are the 1912 short Saved from the Titanic, directed by Etienne Arnaud and starring Dorothy Gibson; the 1929 German-British-French co-production Atlantic, directed by E. A. Dupont and starring Franklin Dyall and Madeleine Carroll; the 1996 made-for-television movie Titanic, directed by Robert Lieberman and starring Peter Gallagher and Catherine Zeta-Jones; and the 1997 Paramount and Twentieth Century-Fox release Titanic, directed by James Cameron and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Walter Lord's bestselling book about the Titanic served as the basis for both a 1956 television movie, which was directed by George Roy Hill, and a 1958 British picture directed by Roy Baker and starring Kenneth More and Honor Blackman. Both of the works based on Lord's book were entitled A Night to Remember.
The disaster also inspired numerous sub-plot points in films, novels and television programs since 1912, including The Unsinkable Molly Brown, No Greater Love and The Chambermaid on the Titanic. It also has been the subject of several television documentaries, as well as the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Titanic (New York, 23 April 1997), directed by Richard Jones, with book by Peter Stone and music and lyrics by Maury Yeston.