Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic 1912-2012

There's gonna be a lot written about the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. I won't flatter myself to think that I have anything all that important to add, so I'll keep it short.

Best Book I've Ever Read About the Disaster:
Hands down, I have to go with A NIGHT TO REMEMBER by Walter Lord. He was a newspaper reporter who took a trip on the OLYMPIC a few years before it retired. This spurred his interest in its doomed sister-ship, and he ended up interviewing more than 60 survivors of the disaster. It was originally published in 1955. A follow-up, THE NIGHT LIVES ON, came out in 1986. 

Best Movie Adaptation of the Disaster:
Sorry all you James Cameron fans, I pick the film version of "A NIGHT TO REMEMBER", which was made in 1958 in the United Kingdom. Directed by Roy Ward Baker and starring Kenneth More as Second Officer Lightoller (highest ranking survivor), this film is almost a documentary look at the disaster. It is head and shoulders above the largely fictitious film directed by James Cameron. If you have never seen this film, look for it at your library. Famous faces you might recognize are young Honor Blackman and David McCallum.

Worst Movie Adaptation of the Disaster:
Okay, James Cameron fans, I'm not going to pick on you this time, either. I pick "TITANIC" (1953) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb,  and Robert Wagner. This was the film that inspired James Cameron to make his version, though. In this tear-jerker, the disaster is basically a back-drop for a love story between the two Hollywood stars. It is entertaining, but does not do the story justice AT ALL. It's fun to watch Richard Basehart play an alcoholic priest who goes down with the ship. Ironically he is, of course, most well-known for his role on "Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea."

Best "Almost" Adaptation of the Disaster:
There's a little 1937 movie called "HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT" directed by Frank Borsage which stars Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer. It's climax is aboard a huge ship that hits an iceberg and sinks. It's actually a pretty good movie if you have a chance to see it. It has nothing to do with Titanic, so you can actually enjoy the "coincidences" without worrying about how many friggin' smokestacks there are on the ship. Not that you would, of course.

Weirdest Adaptation of the Disaster:
I have never seen the musical TITANIC which made its debut on Broadway in 1997. It won several TONY Awards, including Best Musical. Something about it just seems odd to me, though. "How about an evening of musical theatre about the deaths of thousands of people!" Sound like fun!? GUYS and DOLLS it ain't!! I have listened to the sound-track and have actually tried to see this in person, but have never been successful. I'm interested to see how it would work, but similar to the show ASSASSINS, I don't think I will like it if/when I finally see it.

Most Overlooked Part of the Disaster:
What we all need to remember when we think about the Titanic disaster is more than 1500 people lost their lives that night. As we watch documentaries and movies that entertain us, we should say a silent prayer for these souls.

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