HEAD> Original Titanic Movie Newsgroup FAQ

Original Alt.Movies.Titanic FAQ

March 1, 1998

Movie's Captain Smith and Officer Murdoch  looking at Titanic model

From: Gary <GLima@prodigy.net>   [ for Jeff Harrell ]
Subject: FAQ
Date: 01 Mar 1998 00:00:00 GMT
Newsgroups: alt.movies.titanic


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS This document attempts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about James Cameron's 1997 movie, TITANIC. Although the film deals in great measure with the actual events of April 10-15, 1912, it is primarily a work of fiction. If you're looking for information about the real Titanic, please refer to question 1.16, "Where can I learn more?" This document is maintained by Jeff A. Harrell (jeff@riva.com). It was inspired by Jim Sadur's TITANIC FAQ, which can be found [nowadays] at http://www.advanix.net/~jsadur/titanic/mov_faq.htm. Answers are tagged with the author's initials, and a list of these authors can be found in Section 3. One suggestion: if you haven't seen the movie yet, you probably shouldn't read this document. This FAQ contains information that could spoil your enjoyment of the film. SECTION 1: THE QUESTIONS ------------------------ 1. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FILM 1.1 Did Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater really exist? 1.2 What ever became of the Coeur de la Mer (the Heart of the Ocean) diamond? 1.3 So what was real? 1.4 Why aren't there more scenes with the other famous people? 1.5 Was the woman playing the older Rose a real survivor? 1.6 Were the third-class passengers really locked below deck? 1.7 Were the underwater shots of the Titanic wreck real? 1.8 Who really drew Jack's drawings? 1.9 Whatever happened to Rose's mother? 1.10 Who were the old couple in their bed as the ship sank? 1.11 What did the ending mean? 1.12 Did Rose have Jack's child? 1.13 What'll this I hear about a script? 1.14 Will there be a Director's Cut of the film, and when will it be released? How much footage will be added? 1.15 Where can I learn more? 2. NITPICKS AND QUESTIONS OF ACCURACY 2.1 What's the deal with the helm order? 2.2 Why did the captain order the "CQD" distress call? I thought Titanic sent SOS. 2.3 Is Lovejoy's pistol historically accurate? 2.4 What about Rose's dime? 2.5 Didn't I see the picture of the boy playing with the top in a book? 2.6 How come this movie shows the ship breaking in two on the surface, when A NIGHT TO REMEMBER didn't? 2.7 Why didn't the movie include [some historical point]? SECTION 2: THE QUESTIONS ANSWERED --------------------------------- 1. GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FILM 1.1 Did Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater really exist? No. The characters of Jack, Rose, her mother Ruth, her fiancee Cal, his bodyguard Spicer Lovejoy, Fabrizio, and the treasure hunters are all fictional creations of James Cameron. They are not based on any real people but rather are dramatic representations of the rich and poor people on the Titanic.  [JS] 1.2 What ever became of the Coeur de la Mer (the Heart of the Ocean) diamond? I imagine it was returned to the prop department's warehouse! Again, the diamond was a fictional creation used to give Brock Lovett and the other treasure hunters a reason to learn Rose's story.  [JS] 1.3 So what was real? Pretty much everything else. The set designs, costumes and the ship itself were painstakingly re-created from numerous written and photographic sources. Captain Smith, Thomas Andrews, Molly Brown, Bruce Ismay, Colonel Gracie and others were all real people. The sequence of events from sailing day to rescue is quite accurate. A few scenes are controversial. First Officer Murdoch's suicide by pistol never been confirmed. However there are few flaws in this vision of the Titanic sinking.  [JS] 1.4 Why aren't there more scenes with the other famous people? The best way to answer that is to say their stories don't really fit the film. This movie is a fictional romance set against an historical disaster. To add scenes of Astor, Guggenheim, etc., all struggling with Jack and Rose would have made a 3 hour movie into a 10 hour mini-series. I believe James Cameron's goal was to have the audience share life and death aboard RMS Titanic from the point of view of two people falling in love. To get a better understanding of the other stories on the Titanic, I would suggest the film "A Night to Remember" (1958) based on Walter Lord's book. The TV movie "S.O.S. Titanic" (1979) is a docudrama with yet more stories of the real people on Titanic.  [JS] 1.5 Was the woman playing the older Rose a real survivor? No, the 101 year old Rose was played by the 87 year old actress Gloria Stuart who has made movies since 1932. As far as I know, there were no living survivors involved in the production of TITANIC.  [JS] 1.6 Were the third-class passengers really locked below deck? Most authoritative sources agree that third-class passengers were not deliberately barred from the boat deck. The gates were in place as required by U.S. immigration policy, to separate steerage passengers from other areas of the ship and reduce the likelihood of spreading communicable diseases, which were more prevalent in those people who did not always have the best medical care. In some cases there were stewards who did block access; in most cases it was simply a matter of a breakdown in authority once the events of the disaster started to snowball into panic and confusion. Walter Lord states that the third-class passengers were most likely just "neglected to death".  [PK] 1.7 Were the underwater shots of the Titanic wreck real? Yes, most of the underwater closeups were photographed at 12,500 feet below the Atlantic just for this film.  [JS] In fact, the ship we see in the film, the AKADEMIK MISTISLAV KELDYSH, is the Russian research vessel that took Cameron and his crew to the site of the wreck. The submersibles MIR 1 and MIR 2 were the actual vessels used to film the site of the wreck.  [JAH] 1.8 Who really drew Jack's drawings? The sketches we see in the movie, including the drawing of Rose, were all drawn by James Cameron himself.  [JAH] 1.9 Whatever happened to Rose's mother? Unfortunately, the only answer to this question is, "we don't know." Neither film nor any of the unofficial scripts that are being passed around make any mention of Ruth Dewitt Bukater after we last see her aboard the lifeboat. In one of the unofficial scripts, however, she is mentioned in passing during a scene between Cal and Rose on the deck of the Carpathia that was eventually cut from the film. In this scene, Cal askes Rose what he should tell her mother. Rose replies, "Tell her that her daughter died with the Titanic."  [JAH] 1.10 Who were the old couple in their bed as the ship sank? They are Ida and Isidor Straus. Mr. Straus was the founder of Macy's Department Store, and was returning to New York with his wife, Ida, and their maid, Ellen Bird. There is a touching story, which most believe to be true, of the Strauses last moments on deck. Ida Straus helped Ellen Bird into lifeboat number 8, then started to get aboard herself. But with one foot on deck and one on the gunwale, she changed her mind. She returned to her husband, Isidor, saying, "We have been living together for many years, and where you go, I go." At that point, one of the other men on deck pleaded with Isidor Straus to get in the boat with his wife. He refused, saying, "I will not go before the other men." Later that night, Second Officer Lightoller encountered the couple on deck. He asked if he could show them to the boats, but they refused. The Strauses were last seen sitting together on deck chairs, calmly waiting for the end. In the film, they returned to their stateroom below decks to spend their last hours together there.  [JAH] 1.11 What did the ending mean? By "ending," we're assuming you mean the last shot of the film, the long descent into the wreck of the Titanic, and Rose's appearance on the grand staircase with Jack. There seem to be three popular theories about this. One theory is that Rose is dreaming during this sequence. This would seem to be held out by the opening lyrics to "My Heart Will Go On," which plays over the closing credits. "Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you. / That is how I know you go on." On the other hand, some believe that in the previous shot, when the camera tracks over the photographs by Rose's bed, and finally to her still form, Rose has passed away. What we see in the final sequence is her spirit going to join those she loved. This theory is supported by the fact that all the people we see in the final scene, with the exception of Rose herself, are people who died in the tragedy. Finally, some believe that the final sequence represents the metaphor-laden journey of the diamond itself, down through two and a half miles of ocean to the wreck below. There seems to be an entire school of thought springing up around the symbolism of the diamond: the heart-shape, symbolizing Rose's heart, which she refused to show to Cal but bared to Jack. The truth, like so many aspects of the Titanic, will forever be a mystery. Cameron's screenplay is deliberately vague, saying that when we last see Old Rose, warm in her bed, she "could be sleeping, or maybe something else."  [JAH] 1.12 Did Rose have Jack's child? This is another one of those unanswerable questions. The truth is, there is no evidence, either in the film itself or in the screenplay, that would lead us to believe Rose conceived Jack's child that night. First of all, there's the pseudoscientific argument that asserts that it would have been impossible for Rose to conceive, seeing as how she spent so much time that night slogging through twenty-eight degree water. This author makes no assertions about the accuracy of this theory, but it sounds about right to him. Secondly, during Bodine's briefing to Lovett he makes no mention of a child born in late 1912 or early 1913. On the other hand, he says that he "traced her as far back as the 20's." So this point, unfortunately, is inconclusive. But perhaps the best evidence on this issue comes not from the facts, but from their absence. Considering that TITANIC is fundamentally Rose's story, her giving birth to Jack's child would have been a huge part of that story. The fact that it is not mentioned, or even hinted at, in the film would suggest that it didn't happen that way.  [JAH] 1.13 What's this I hear about a script? There is a version of a TITANIC screenplay to be found on the Internet. The document is allegedly by James Cameron, and seems to be authentic, but in this day and age, you never can tell. This author found it to be a good read. YMMV. Is it a copyright violation? Almost certainly. Find the script at either of these places, at least as of 12/31/97. http://members.aol.com/VIKING1988/1.html (split) (one big file) 1.14 Will there be a Director's Cut of the film, and when will it be released? How much footage will be added? I was actally lucky enough to attend a Titanic screening with James Cameron in attendence last evening. The first question asked of him was whether there would be such an edition released. He said it was very gratifying as a film maker to make a film of this length and, having people asking for more. He said there would likely be a director's cut released on laserdisc. He did this with three of his previous films: ALIENS, THE ABYSS, and TERMINATOR 2. The length of the cut was not addressed. Having studied the supplemental material in the T2 boxed set, it is my opinion that he would not be able to know the lenth until he actually re-edited the film. He will go back to his footage, view what he has, and decide what he thinks will enhance the film. In the cases of the three aforementioned films, the added footage totaled about 20 minutes of less. In the case of TITANIC, it may be longer. The impression that I have gotten is that there is quite a bit of footage of a historical nature that was cut out. He may decide to restore most of this. He made reference to the directors cut coming out in about two years. He mentioned laserdisc. He did not mention VHS, DVD or broadcast.  [G] 1.15 Where can I learn more? Arguably, the best place to start is on the amazon.com web site. A quick keyword search on "Titanic" turns up hundreds of books and videos, from the highly recommended ("A Night to Remember," by Walter Lord) to the interesting ("Secrets of the Titanic," a National Geographic video on VHS) to the tangential ("Dance Band on the Titanic," a Harry Chapin album). If you're impatient, there's a short list of books that every student of Titanic should read. "A Night to Remember," by Walter Lord The book everybody quotes first. "Titanic: An Illustrated History," by Don Lynch and Ken Marschall A beautiful book by two of the filmmakers' advisors. "The Discovery of the Titanic," by Robert Ballard and Rick Archbold A first-hand account of Dr. Ballard's search for and discovery of the wreck. "James Cameron's Titanic," by Douglas Kirkland and Ed Marsh A chronicle of the making of the film we're all obsessed with. On the web, a ton of information can be found about both Titanic, the ship, and TITANIC, the movie. The following web sites, in no particular order, come highly recommended. Historical Sites http://www.titanic-online.com/ (RMS Titanic, Inc.) http://gil.ipswichcity.qld.gov.au/~dalgarry/main.html (a fine site, replete with photographs) http://www.powerup.com.au/~nicw/index.htm (information about Olympic, Titanic, and Britannic) http://www.floridamuseum.org/ (the world's largest exhibit of Titanic artifacts) http://atschool.eduweb.co.uk/phind/ (includes passenger and crew lists, and more) http://www.starway.org/Titanic/ (tons of information) http://www.discovery.com/guides/history/titanic/Titanic/titanic.html (the Discovery Channel site's latest entry - added by Andrys, Oct 2002 - "Be a passenger on the Titanic.") http://www.discovery.com/stories/science/sciencetitanic/sciencetitanic.html - "Titanic's Final Hours - What really happened?" Movie-Related Sites http://www.titanicmovie.com (the official site from Paramount) (Alex was an extra in the film) http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Lot/6235/ (Countdown to Titanic, as seen in EW) http://www.users.dircon.co.uk/~adam-b/movie.html (Adam Barker played Cyril Evans, radio operator aboard the Californian. His site includes a diary, and a bunch of photographs of the cast.) 2. NITPICKS AND QUESTIONS OF ACCURACY 2.1 What's the deal with the helm order? In the film, after the iceberg is spotted, First Officer Murdoch bellows a helm order: "Hard a'starboard!" But Quartermaster Hichens, manning the wheel, turns the wheel counter-clockwise, or to port. At first glance this would seem to be a mistake. However, a little investigation reveals otherwise. The order itself, "Hard a'starboard," was a holdover from earlier days when the tiller of a ship would be used to control the rudder. Pushing the tiller to the right (starboard) would cause the rudder to turn to the left (port). So a turn to port was ordered by calling "hard a'starboard." But Titanic, like her contemporaries, had a direct-driven telemotor, which means turning the wheel counter-clockwise (toward the left) would cause the rudder to turn left, resulting in a turn to port. So the order given was "hard a'starboard," but the wheel was turned counter-clockwise, and the bow of the ship swung to port. So what we saw in the movie was counter-intuitive, but accurate.  [JAH] However, a contrary opinion comes from none other than Walter Lord, author of "A Night to Remember." This passage is taken from his 1986 work, "The Night Lives On: New Thoughts, Theories and Revelations About the Titanic." There's no evidence of damage any farther aft than Boiler Room 4, and this poses an intriguing mystery. If, as the British Inquiry said, the Titanic's bow was just beginning to swing to port when the collision occurred, then the stern would have tended to slue to starboard toward the ice, rather than away from it. This should have led to some sort of contact with the berg along the whole length of the hull. What caused the opposite to happen and the stern apparently swing clear of the berg? One explanation might lie in the exchange between Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch, when the Captain rushed from his quarters onto the bridge immediately after the impact. "What have we struck?" asked Smith. "An iceberg, sir," replied Murdoch, "I hardastarboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-aport around it, but she was too close. I could not do any more." Murdoch's explanation has confused many an armchair navigator. It may help to point out that in 1912 a ship's wheel was rigged so that the helmsman turned it to starboard in order to go to port-a holdover from the days when ships were steered by tillers. In 1924 the wheel was re-rigged to cater to the instincts of a generation raised on the automobile, but everyone on the Titanic's bridge would have been used to the old way. As usual with Walter Lord's writing, it's very clear. That's not the same as being correct, of course, but at least it's not ambiguous. In this case, either Lord is right or Cameron is.  [AH] 2.2 Why did the captain order the "CQD" distress call? I thought Titanic sent SOS. From 1903 to 1908, the regulation radio distress call was "CQD," "CQ" being the signal to stop transmitting, and "D" for distress. In 1908, "CQD" was superceded by "SOS," but "CQD" was still used to call for distress. At approximately 12:10, thirty minutes after the collision with the iceberg, Captain Smith ordered wireless operators Harold Bride and Jack Phillips to "send the call for assistance." Phillips began sending "CQD... MGY... CQD... MGY." (MGY was Titanic's wireless call sign.) Before long, Phillips had received acknowledgements from the German steamer Frankfurt, the Cunarder Carpathia, and Titanic's sister ship, Olympic. He sent Bride to inform the captain, whom he found in the wheelhouse. Bride and Captain Smith returned to the wireless room together, where Captain Smith asked Phillips what signal he was sending. "CQD," Phillips replied. Bride suggested that Phillips transmit "SOS," since it was the new distress call, and "it might be your last chance to send it." In the theatrical version of Cameron's film, this action all takes place off-camera. Incidentally, it was as a result of Titanic's use of "SOS" that the new distress call gained acceptance over the old call of "CQD."  [JAH] 2.3 Is Lovejoy's pistol historically accurate? Rather than rely on my (perfect, but short) memory, I've looked up the history of the Colt .45 Auto ("Hallock's .45 Auto Handbook", Kenneth R. Hallock, and "The Colt .45 Automatic, A Shop Manual", Jerry Kuhnhausen). The first Colt .45 Automatic for military/civilian sales was the model 1905, which sold from 1905-1911. The next model was patented on August 14, 1911. Production of a military version began for the U.S. Army in December 1911, with civilian version sales in starting March 1912 (serial numbers C1-C1899). I think the David Warner character (Spicer Lovejoy) did NOT have the 1905 version; it's shape is distinctive enough that it would be obvious if it were. That leaves the model 1911. If it was a military pistol, I think it wasn't legally owned. It could have been a civilian version, since their production started the month before the Titanic sailed, but it's unlikely; they probably had no European sales in place at that time. Also, the pistol is nickel plated and engraved. This is custom work and takes time to do; another reason that the pistol wouldn't have been a civilian model. So, Lovejoy's pistol was a military Colt M1911 in .45 caliber, obtained with the influence of his employer, and custom plated and engraved to his taste.  [MM] 2.4 What about Rose's dime? Although her thumb partially obscures it, the coin that Rose gives to Jack is generally agreed to be a Berber dime, minted 1892-1916. The Berber dime is distinctive because the portrait of Liberty on the head of the coin faces the right, not the left. You can find a picture of a Berber dime here: http://www.cs.vu.nl/~fjjunge/NUMIS/world/USA/coin11.gif [ Currently not accessible - 12/99]  [JAH] 2.5 Didn't I see the picture of the boy playing with the top in a book? The scene in which Jack steals a topcoat and hat from a first-class deck chair is based on a photograph taken by Father Francis Browne. In that photograph, one can see what does, in fact, appear to be a topcoat and hat sitting on a deck chair in the background. The timing is off, however, as Father Browne disembarked at Queenstown, before Titanic set out on her Atlantic voyage. In the trivia department, one of the gentlemen in the scene in the film is played by Don Lynch, one of the foremost Titanic historians and author of "Titanic: An Illustrated History." If anyone knows where this photograph can be found on the web, please email me with the URL.  [JAH] 2.6 How come this movie shows the ship breaking in two on the surface, when A NIGHT TO REMEMBER didn't? The shortest answer to this question is simply this: the movie A NIGHT TO REMEMBER depicted Titanic sinking intact because Walter Lord indicated that it did so in his book, upon which the film is based. Since the discovery of the wreck of Titanic in 1985, various theories have been put forth to explain how the two halves of the vessel could have ended up two thousand feet from each other... and facing the wrong way, relative to one another. The most popular theory is that the ship broke in two on the surface, as we see in Mr. Cameron's film. The question then becomes, why did Lord believe Titanic sank intact, when a number of survivors claimed that the ship broke apart on the surface? The most popular answer to this question seems to be that Lord chose to believe the surviving officers, and the officers testified that Titanic sank intact.  [JAH] 2.7 Why didn't the movie include [some historical point]? + There are a great many points of interest not mentioned in the movie, simply because if Cameron included everything that occured that night, he'd have ended up with a 12-hour mini-series costing $500 mil. In fact, what can be learned about the Titanic's story is virtually never-ending. I've been a buff for 20 years, and still discovering more all the time.  [B] SECTION 3: AUTHORS ------------------ AH   Andy Hall, tigone@phoenix.net B   "Brent", blaycock@mts.net G   "Gary", glima@prodigy.net JAH   Jeff A. Harrell, jeff@riva.com JS     Jim Sadur, jsadur@intercall.com MM   Michael D. Murphy, mdmurphy@mmm.com PK   Paul Kallio, grognard@webtv.net --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jeff A. Harrell "Once we had printing presses, RIVA Technologies, Inc. we were pretty much doomed." jeff@rivatech.com -- Scott Adams ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

April 15, 1912

Photos courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Back to top of page ... or

          Go to Titanic Books/Movies/Music page                     or,  to Home page

(c) Layout for webpage -- Andrys Basten-- 12/19/99