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A Night to Remember (film)

by Roy Ward Baker

Another classic film that I’d never seen before. I decided to get this one from the library, since my son and I have become very interested in the history of the “Titanic.” I really enjoyed this film, especially after having read a few books about the subject, including some survivor testimony – it was great to be able to identify several of the characters from things I’ve read (particularly the Strauss couple, Colonel Archibald Gracie, Miss Evans, and the baker who survived so long in the water because he was extremely drunk).

As with any retelling of this story, parts of it were difficult to watch – so tragic! It was interesting to see the “spin” that the creators of the film (presumably following Walter Lord, who wrote the book) took with some of the historical figures. The blame was shifted away from both Captain Smith and Murdoch, I thought, and Lightoller was given a somewhat bigger role than he had in reality (understandable for a couple of reasons; firstly, he was the highest ranking officer to survive, so his own testimony is one of the things upon this film was based; also, since he was turned into the “star” of the film, it was natural to make him a bit of a composite; the director admits to having attributed to Lightoller some actions which were really done by other crew members. Not a big deal to me, though). It was also interesting to see the treatment of the crew of the “Californian,” who were pretty much made out to be incompetant, negligent idiots. To me, that’s the single most intriguing mystery in the whole Titanic saga – just what WAS going on with the “Californian?” I would love to find out that there is some reasonble explanation, but so far, I can’t seem to come up with one in my mind. Certainly “Hey, look – that ship is sending up flares. I wonder why? Probably just nothing,” isn’t a particularly satisfactory scenario.

For the time this film was made (1950s), I thought the effects were well done, and in some ways I thought this film had more authenticity than Cameron’s 1997 epic. Certainly, “A Night to Remember” was less contrivedly dramatic – no fictional love story, and no booming musical score manipulating our emotions. This was a quieter, slower-paced film, and very effective; also interesting to see parts of the saga which weren’t included in “Titanic” (the issue of the “Californian,” for example).

I’m glad we watched this; I’m interested to read Lord’s book now, as well. 9/10

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Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
elfundeb
Sep. 7th, 2006 01:32 am (UTC)
You need to read Lord's book. Fascinating take on things, although it told a story and didn't read like an inquiry into the disaster.

I hated the 1997 movie; it was so preposterous that it was laughable, even though the premise was very creative.
here_be_dragons
Sep. 7th, 2006 06:16 am (UTC)
I didn't like the 1997 movie when I saw it the first time, several years ago. But now, I don't mind it so much - yeah, there are things that are preposterous, but you can't deny that it is visually stunning. So, I watch it for the pretty (if you can call a sinking ship "pretty," but I'm sure you know what I mean). Although I was kinda glad to return the film to the video store after we'd had it for a week - Connor wanted to watch it OVER and OVER and OVER!

Plus, DeCaprio is just so HAWT! ;) (bwah, okay, so that's a joke. I don't hate him or anything, but he's not at the top of my list, either). :D
happy_potterer
Sep. 7th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC)
This site says that the Titanic didn't follow the correct procedures for firing rockets. That might explain some of the confusion on the Californian's part; the signals simply weren't the recognized distress signals.

Yeesh. I never even heard of the Californian until ten minutes ago, and now I'm looking up Titanic websites. You're a terrible influence! On the other hand, you seem to have caught baseball fever from me (or me and Joy and Deb and . . . ), so it's only fair.
here_be_dragons
Sep. 7th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
Oh YAY for a new website! I had never heard that about the different sort of rocket procedures before - and yes, that makes that part of the film make a lot more sense. According to Lord, Titanic was definitely firing them about five minutes apart. But WHY?????? OMG WHY?

Of course, the whole saga is all about OMG WHY? It seems like so many "little" things happened, and if any one of those things had been different, she wouldn't have sank (or at least not as many people would have died). But that's not what happened - maybe that's why it's still so interesting.

And BWAH! I am a bad influence, huh? Blame it on Connor. Seriously. He's the one who got so interested in this whole thing, and all of the sudden I realized that I was at LEAST as fascinated by the story. Now I'm reading books that he gave up on (the survivor stories; I'm reading Col. Archibald Gracie's account right now). So, YAY for Titanic obsession! It really is interesting. Better than Harry Potter! (At least until she gets the last book written; then we'll see). :D

But I have NOT caught baseball fever! I haven't, I haven't, I haven't! This was just a ONE OFF! Honestly!

*looks shiftily around, and hopes no one goes back to the day the White Sox won the world series. Seriously, don't bother going back to look. I did NOT post an entry that day. No, really. I DIDN'T*

It was just a coincidence that the TV just HAPPENED to be on when I got home from taking Connor to yoga. ;)
vado
Sep. 7th, 2006 10:36 am (UTC)
I should introduce you to my PA, Jackie - she's a Titanic obsessive, not to mention expert. I remember that her CV mentioned "tap dancing and The Titanic" as hobbies and I thought, "unless she's a total loony, I'm hiring her".

I did hire her and she is a loony, but I digress...
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