Yes, yes, yes….I know it’s the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. I would have known that without all of the televised fanfare and the re-release of James Cameron’s movie in 3D. You know how I would have known that? Because I read! Because I studied in history class! Because my life isn’t so shallow that I only believe things shown to me on Twitter or Facebook as so many people over the past week have shown in their posts that they didn’t know the movie “Titanic” (1997) was based on an actual historical event!
And I make sure to put the year 1997 behind the title of the movie because, yes, there is more than one movie named “Titanic.” In 1943 the Third Reich attempted to make a propaganda film espousing the positive reasons to invade Britain by using the Titanic disaster as the backstory. “Titanic” (1943) showed Bruce Ismay, owner of the White Star Line, as an evil capitalist and all of the British as greedy while a lone German crew member who seemed to know that something bad was going to happen tried to warn everyone but was ignored. This German officer was later the hero of the movie — even though “Titanic” (1943) never played in Germany until the 1950s. It was deemed too controversial because of the passengers in Second and Third Class areas trying to scramble for safety and being locked-out or denied passage was too reminiscent of the Holocaust. With Germany beginning to lose the war, no one in the Third Reich wanted anyone to recognize similar goings-on happening in Germany and other occupied areas where concentration camps were in operation. A lot of that type of footage was removed before the movie ever played in Germany.
But “Titanic” (1943) wasn’t completely lost to history. There were many scenes of the ship and people running to the lifeboats that came from “Titanic” (1943) and were used in “A Night to Remember” (1958). “A Night to Remember” was considered one of the most accurate depictions of the sinking of the Titanic because a lot of the information used to write the movie came from interviews with survivors in the book by the same name. It was the most accurate at that time because it did not show the Titanic breaking apart because no one had ever confirmed it and there were different memories of what exactly happened that night.
Not until Robert Ballard discovered the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor in 1985 was it confirmed that the ship had broken apart before it sank. After his discovery, more movies were made. “Titanica” (1995), narrated by Leonard Nimoy, was shown in IMAX theatres. “Titanic” (1996), a two-part miniseries, was made for television and got a lot of facts wrong but somehow still pulled out an Emmy win.
Finally in 1997 the world was “graced” (and I use that term sarcastically here) with James Cameron’s version which was fictional but based on historical fact and recent discovery. Even now he has said that there are parts he got wrong but he’s not going back to fix them all because “when would you know where to stop?” And Celine Dion’s song and chest-thumping visage on every awards show and commercial hawking “authentic Titanic reproductions” became embedded in everyone’s subconscious. And I do apologize to all of my readers who are now tortured with it running through their heads at the moment — I feel your pain ’cause it’s stuck in mine, too.
By the way, those “authentic Titanic reproductions” were usually of the blue diamond necklace Rose (not a real person on the RMS Titanic) wore while in the nude being sketched by Jack (another non-real person on the RMS Titanic). The necklace never existed. Actually, there is historical reference to a blue sapphire necklace similar to the one depicted in the movie, but it would have only been an inspiration for the one in the movie. And, sadly, I’ve been seeing more and more replicas of the necklace, the gemstone, etc. being advertised late at night in “honor” of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.
The latest incantation of the story is “Titanic” (2012) and is a four-part television drama based on the sinking. As if we needed another re-telling of the story.
And movies weren’t the only things created about the RMS Titanic! Even if you don’t count all of the books and memoirs written or related by survivors and their relatives, along with historical accounts and fictional dramatizations, there’s still tons of stuff out there! In 1997 there was a Broadway musical about the sinking — and it WON five Tony Awards!!
So, now that you’ve had your history lesson for today, can we please stop all the hoopla?
Don’t get me wrong, though. It was an important event in history. Seafaring changed forever after the RMS Titanic sank and the International Ice Patrol was created from this disaster. Also, there now has to be 24-hour monitoring of communications channels, something that had the Marconi operators on the Californian not gone to bed, they would have received the Titanic’s distress signal and been able to render assistance. And there are many who spent the last moments of their lives doing their jobs in the belly of the ship in order to keep it level and keep the lights on in order to help others escape, even though they knew they would be no way out for them.
Yes, remember and honor the memories of those who perished, etc., etc., etc. But now that the official time and date of the sinking 100 years ago has passed, can I please stop being bashed about the head with shows, movies, posts, and documentaries about it all? Just for a little while??