Titanic (1953 film)

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film poster
Directed by Jean Negulesco
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Charles Brackett
Richard L. Breen
Walter Reisch
Starring Clifton Webb
Barbara Stanwyck
Robert Wagner
Audrey Dalton
Harper Carter
Thelma Ritter
Brian Aherne
Richard Basehart
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Editing by Louis R. Loeffler
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) April 16, 1953 (1953-04-16)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.805 million[1]
Gross revenue $2.25 million[2]

Titanic is a 1953 American drama film directed by Jean Negulesco. Its plot is centered around an estranged couple sailing on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, which took place in April 1912.


Mrs. Julia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck), who is at the time estranged from her husband Richard (Clifton Webb), is traveling in First Class on the RMS Titanic. Determined to remove her children from her husband Richard's "high society" world in Europe, Julia secretly takes their two children, seventeen-year-old Annette (Audrey Dalton) and ten-year-old Norman (Harper Carter), on the Titanic and plans to raise them in her hometown of Mackinac, Michigan. However, after he learns of her plans, Richard buys a steerage ticket aboard the vessel in hopes of intercepting them and taking the children back to Europe. Richard and Julia have a heated confrontation about the ultimate custody of their children.

Other passengers include a wealthy woman of working class origins based on Molly Brown, Maude Young (Thelma Ritter); a social-climbing snob, Earl Meeker (Allyn Joslyn); a twenty-year-old Purdue tennis player, Gifford Rogers (Robert Wagner); who falls in love with Annette Sturgess; and a priest who has been suspended for alcoholism, George S. Headley (Richard Basehart).

Julia realizes that Annette is old enough to make her own decisions, and therefore may choose to return to Europe with her father, but insists on maintaining custody of Norman. This angers Richard and later, prior to dining at the captain's table, he aggressively confronts Julia. She then reveals to him that Norman is not his biological child, but rather the result of a one-night stand she had after leaving a party where she was being belittled in the days before Richard had 'made [her] over into [his] image.' He agrees to relinquish custody of Norman (but promises to take care of him and Julia financially), being cold and distant to him from this point on until the ship strikes the iceberg. Julia and Norman are awaken by the crash and Annette tells them that the ship has hit an iceberg. Richard tells his family to dress warmly, but properly and then they head outside.

Richard and Julia have a tearful reconciliation on the boat deck as he is putting Julia and the children in famous Lifeboat #6. Later, Norman gives up his seat in the full lifeboat so that a woman can be accommodated and goes looking for his father. They reunite as the Titanic is in her final moments. Richard tells a passing steward that Norman is his 'son' and then tells the boy that he has been proud of him every day of his life and that he feels 'tall as a mountain' standing by the boy's side. Then they join the rest of the passengers and crew in singing the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee" before the ship's boilers explode several times and the ship sinks. Richard and Norman both die in the process, along with the other passengers who died in the sinking. The Titanic rises high in the air, explodes one last time and finally sinks.

Giff Rogers falls into the ocean while trying to free a stuck lifeboat fall and is rescued by the passengers in Lifeboat #7. He survives.

Meeker disguises himself as a woman and gains admittance to a lifeboat. He also survives, although Young recognizes him and calls him out in front of the other people in the lifeboat.

George Headley pulls himself together as the ship is sinking and goes below to rescue (or provide last rites for) crewmen who have been trapped in the engine room, Headley's decision leads to this final exchange between the priest and a crewman who has reached the deck:

Fleeing crewman: "For God's sake man, don't go in there!"

Headley: For God's sake, I am going in there!"


Historical Inaccuracies

  • The RMS Titanic was just over half full for her maiden voyage, so Richard would not have had any trouble purchasing a First Class ticket at the last minute.
  • The ice warning first received was not delivered to the bridge.
  • Captain Smith was in his cabin when the ship hit the iceberg.
  • There was no shuffleboard on the Titanic.
  • The ship did not have an alarm.
  • The ship's interior is very inaccurately depicted.
  • The boilers on board did not explode, as they do several times in the film.
  • None of the passengers and crew sang "Nearer My God to Thee" during the ship's final moments. It was believed that the band possibly played the song as the passengers and crew were panicking. "Nearer My God to Thee" has an American setting (which is used in the film) and a British setting, which sound entirely different from each other. It is not certain which, if any, version was actually played on the ship.
  • In reality, the Titanic collided with the iceberg at 11:40 PM. In the film, it collides at 11:36 PM.
  • The Titanic's crewmembers did not wear British Naval Uniforms.
  • There were no horns in the band.
  • The cabin of John Jacob Astor IV was not A56, but Parlour Suite C62-64.
  • An ensign is seen on the stern's flagstaff as it goes under, even though it was only flown during the daylight.
  • Julia Sturges' family is supposedly from Mackinac, Michigan. It should be pronounced "Mak-i-naw", not "Mak-i-nak." Richard may have pronounced it incorrectly as a form of ridicule.
  • None of the First or Second Class Children died in the sinking apart from three-year-old Lorraine Hudson in First Class, who died with her parents as they searched for her baby brother, who had been removed from the ship by his nurse.
  • The ship did not have a tailor shop.
  • Under no circumstances would women have been allowed in the smoking room prior to the First World War.
  • The costumes are wildly inaccurate to 1912. Many costumes are more the mode of the early 1930's than the early 1910's.
  • A man as conservative and formal as Richard Sturgess would never have worn a dinner jacket (black tie and short jacket) but would have worn the more traditional evening dress (white tie and tailcoat), but, as noted in the film, Richard boarded the ship without formal attire. Initially, he had to borrow some clothes from his friend, John Jacob Astor. The tailor shop may not have been able to make white tie and tails on such short notice. Wearing a dinner jacket may have been a "sacrifice" that Richard was required to make under the circumstances.
  • Giff Rodgers would not have been allowed in the dining room without proper evening attire (tuxedo or white tie and tails).
  • The Titanic never listed to port.
  • It is unlikely that a Roman Catholic priest would have been suspended or otherwise publicly embarrassed for mere alcoholism. Far worse conduct by priests has been resolved internally without public disclosure. Further, since Catholic priests are incardinated to a specific bishop of a particular diocese who normally has full authority over the priests serving under him, it would not have been necessary for the priest to travel to Rome for the disciplinary proceedings.
  • All of the major first passengers, the Astors, the Strausses, the Widners, etc. actually traveled with private maids and valets. Since Richard Sturges is shown as a close personal friend of John and Madeline Astor, his wealth would had necessitated his family having personal servants, too. Julia and the children do not have them and Julia is shown unpacking trunks and picking up clothes from Norman's stateroom. Something she would never have done.
  • The staterooms occupied by the Sturges family, A 52-54, were not of the caliber occupied by someone of their social station. The B and C deck suites would have been more appropriate. Also, their stateroom is shown with portholes. There were no portholes on A deck.
  • A Deck only had 37 passenger cabins, therefore there could not have been rooms numbered as high A52-54, etc.


According to the film aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, Titanic holds an 88% "Fresh" rating, based on 8 reviews.[3]

Variety Magazine reviewed the film positively stating, "but by the time the initial 45 or 50 minutes are out of the way, the impending disaster begins to take a firm grip on the imagination and builds a compelling expectancy."[4]

Awards and nominations

Titanic won the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction.[5] The film was also nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award.


  1. The Definitive Titanic Film: A Night to Remember by Jeffrey Richards, 2003
  2. The Definitive Titanic Film: A Night to Remember by Jeffrey Richards, 2003
  3. Titanic (1953) Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved 2010-1-4
  4. Titanic Variety Magazine Retrived 2010-1-4
  5. Academy Awards Database Oscar.org Retrieved 2010-1-4

External links

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