Film Review: Titanic (1953)

Historically inaccurate and going right for the emotional drama instead, 1953’s Titanic that won an Academy Award places the sinking right at the end and the emotional drama to the fore.

The Premise

A family that is falling apart board the infamous ship.

The Disasters Faced

Aside from the main event, drunkenly falling overboard and losing at Bridge (Heaven forbid!)

The Execution

Titanic opens with an iceberg breaking free and drifting off. From there is only the last 25 minutes where the drama of the sinking comes to the front of the film. Aside we have an unhappy couple busy pulling their children in different directions. The daughter is busy trying to be snobby to Robert Wagner who is left with some of the most cringe worthy sing songs this side of World War II. While this is all very charming and light-hearted, the main duo enjoy ripping into each other and their stage presence is great, as is the script. This is very much a drama first that’s set aboard the Titanic which is only the backdrop to heighten the drama at the end. It’s also only 93 minutes long so if the characters don’t take you, it’s one of the shorter films on the subject before the action starts.

The Effects

The wide shots are well done, as is the actual collision itself (albeit on the wrong side of the ship!) The few shots of destruction are well done with large amounts of water crashing into the shot and the sets and costumes are lavishly presented. It holds up very well for being almost 60 years old.

Why It’s Worth Watching

To watch Robert Wagner be snubbed time and time again is good enough. The acting is very well done. It’s also interesting to see how inaccurate the film is compared to the real events too as it’s night and day between this as say A Night to Remember. There’s a lot of goofs and errors too. Pushing that aside though, it is still a very enjoyable film on its own merit to watch. Also of note is the fantastic 90 minute documentary that chronicles all the Titanic films from 1912 up to 1997. It’s really well done and a great bonus feature on the UK DVD release.

Favourite Character

Harper Carter who somehow goes uncredited as the main couples son?! How on earth his name is not up in lights I’ve no idea as he is the heart and soul of the main family and their plight. The fact he does the unthinkable for others as if it were the easiest decision in the world shows him as a pure innocent child and makes the ending all the sadder for it.

Best “Death”

The cut short hymn of Nearer My God to Thee is a haunting way to close the tragedy.

Weirdest Moment

Aside from Wagner’s Jigs Volume 3, I did find it funny after Barbara Stanwyck tells Cliffton Webb their son isn’t his, she walks out and storms round the corner… where she promptly stops and waits. Obviously the set ended there but you can see her shadow just stay perfectly still while she’s out of sight as we watch Cliffton react. She’s Behiiiind You!

Conclusion

Titanic on its own merits is a thoroughly entertaining film that captivates its audience with intrigue, sordid scandal and action. As a historical memento, this is one of the most inaccurate (Molly Brown is called Maude Young?!) but if you’re looking for style over detail – this is a great film to show what early 50’s cinema could do.

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