Monday, October 3, 2011


Many films were made about the tragic event, but--inasmuch as Director James Cameron made his after the ship was located under water--his is probably the most accurate. He’d seen the latest documentary aired on television and “tried to get it right.” Not that he totally succeeded. I’ve watched my DVD of the film many times, and this is my own opinion of whether or not he was successful.

First, he admits he exaggerated some things for the purpose of telling a gripping, “must-see” movie. As I mentioned earlier, he showed locked gates, whereas testimony denies there were any.

Second, he admits that, after the bow broke away from the stern, the angle of the ship changed and was not as steep as before. So his scenes of the stern at a 45-degree angle--and passengers sliding and falling down the steep incline--were done to heighten the moviegoer’s feeling of desperation, and not because it was true. Passengers in the lifeboats who watched the actual sinking and were interviewed during the two inquiries that followed, told a different story.

After the film came out, some critics complained that--when the iceberg appeared and the First Officer called, “Hard A-Starboard”--the steersman turned the wheel the wrong way. However, as was explained in my earlier post, that wasn’t true. Cameron got that right.

At about the same time, however, Cameron shows Rose and Jack on the deck, talking and kissing, and she is wearing a short-sleeved party dress. Moments before, he showed Fleet and Lee in the crow’s nest, shivering in their heavy coats and caps, but Rose is gaily walking about outside when the temperature had dropped to below freezing.

Not everyone who sees the film will be as concerned as I was about the fact that all the women on board the ship were wearing bright red lipstick. Did no one tell Cameron or the makeup department that simply wasn’t done in 1912? I wrote a memoir of my husband’s aunt, set in 1913-14 (THE GREEN BOUGH), and while I was interviewing her, she assured me that “nice” women did not wear “lip-rouge,” as they called it then. Only actresses on the stage (and they were considered a lower class) wore it.

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve watched two other black-and-white films set on the Titanic, one with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb, released in 1953. The filmakers thinking the ship went down in one piece is an understandable mistake, but showing Clifton Webb buying a ticket from a person in third class because the ship was full is inexcusable. There were many empty cabins and the wealthy man could certainly have found one in first class.

The other, a British film starring Kenneth More as Second Officer Charles Lightoller, was titled A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and was more accurate in spite of some minor errors due to the ship not having been found at that time, as well as some cinematic “license.”

It’s been my pleasure to provide information about Titanic that you might not have known, and I hope you will read and enjoy COLD APRIL.


  1. TITANIC made more than a BILLION DOLLARS!!! James Cameron wasn't making a real-life documentary, he was telling a story based on a real-life event. Filmmakers go for the emotion of a story, that's what brings the audience in. I doubt most audience members nitpicked about the red lipstick and minor details. They cared about Rose and her story.

  2. Dear Anonymous: Sorry to be so long responding, but I was appearing in a musical which closed Sunday night. You're right about Cameron's intent, but - when a story touches on an actual event - readers like to see the author do his/her research and get the details right. I stopped reading one author's books because she was so wrong about what airline pilots say in the cockpit when they're about to crash. (Hint: they don't say "Mom.") A little research would have solved it. Thanks for posting.

  3. Hi Phyllis,

    I thought I'd do some reseach on blogs by going to yours. You certainly did your research for Cold April.I'm going to see if I can get started and if so I can post some excerpts from Southern Star (the back cover blurb) and Moonlit Desire (although I don't know if that will remain the title).

    I love your web site and blog. I haven't the faintest idea how you got pictures of your book covers on it! Wish me luck!!!!



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