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The Goofs of A Night To Remember (1958, Rank Pictures)

It felt somewhat heretical, almost blasphemous to write this. The much revered 1958 film version of Walter Lord's 1955 book can't have mistakes surely? Well, no film can be perfect, but it is delusional to think that any project committed to celluloid can be devoid of errors. Any film-maker has a number of pressures with which to juggle: money, schedules, special effects. The resultant film is necessarily a compromise. The combined effort of producer Bill MacQuitty, director Roy Ward Baker and screenwriter Eric Ambler seems like a gallant effort.

Besides, to harp on about the mistakes of Cameron's version and ignore the errors of its 1958 younger sibling feels hypocritical; even so, it felt like murdering a popular and much loved friend when compiling these errors, and it was no easy of the film had a basis in fact, but re-arranged or mutilated so much it felt like the scenes had been put through a meat blender and then reassembled hap-hazardly: the positions and timings of the scene in many cases are wrong and although the gist of the story is still there, it does feel disjointed in place.

Some complainants have voiced perfectly reasonable objections about Kenneth More, as 2nd Officer Lightoller, being allocated the majority of lines, including those initially spoken by other officers and crew in 1912. But this is an example of the cinematic norm; I am reminded of what David Gerrold said about William Shatner, as Captain Kirk in the 1966-69 Star Trek series, where he, as commanding officer would seemingly break regulations, not to mention defy common sense, by constantly placing himself in danger: it makes little sense to employ a "star name" and then give all the lines to some one else.

However, to keep people happy and to prevent accusations that I am being unduly kind to "A Night To Remember," while demonising James Cameron's 1997 flick, I have noted occasions where dialogue and action has been shifted to Lightoller.

Similar derision has been noted on some other internet notice boards about the use of fictional characters in the film. But the majority of these "fictional" people are simply hybrids of real people, designed to be representative of people on the ship. If we were to see every single noted name (Beesley, the Collyers, the Browns, etc.) the film would be well over 3 or 4 hours long. This hybridisation of many different people into a single person or persons is a common film-making technique utitlised, for instance, by Oliver Stone in JFK (Kevin Bacon's character being the best example).

Some readers may feel that I am being unduly lenient on "A Night To Remember" but let me allay those suspicions and note some instances where it did not feel fair or proper to include deviations from the truth as "errors". For instance, I have not noted errors that were either known about at the time (the incorrect painting in the 1st class smoking room ("The Approach To The New World" rather than "Plymouth Harbour" whose depiction was unknown till the 1990s)), errors that have only become confirmed with the passage of time (the ship splitting apart before she foundered) or meaningul deviations from the book version (the band's final song being "Nearer My God To Thee" rather than "Autumn"). Another error I haven't mentioned in the main listing was the reference to a gambler named "Yates" or "Rogers"; he is seen in the 1st class smoking room, and is seen later to hand a note to a lady about to enter a lifeboat asking that his sister be informed. In fact Yates/Rogers wasn't on the Titanic at all; this was a ruse to make the authorities think that he had perished to escape federal charges related to postal thefts. (The note is reproduced in the illustrated version of "A Night To Remember" from the 1970s, but research in the last few decades have revealed it to be a hoax).

There are some points I haven't addressed: for instance, the reciprocating engines are far too small. The film-makers had to make do with what they had (a water pumping station in Shepperton), so this is hardly their fault. I also haven't addressed the lack of similarity between the actors and the characters they represent (Cyril Evans is too old, as is Ben Guggenheim, Fred Fleet and Reg Lee didn't have moustaches, Herbert Stone did have a moustache etc.) although Cameron did an excellent job in casting in 1997. Also not noted are the range of accents that we should hear, but don't; Syvia Lightoller was Australian, the priest on the Carpathia was American, Captain Lord had a West Country accent, Stone's was Devonshire, Guggenheim's was American, Thomas Andrews was of the Belfast area etc. etc.
I am not concerned with the use of stock footage; there being so little filmed material of the real Titanic, and with CGI an unthought-of fantasy, it was inevitable that the producers would use any film that would give the general gist of 1912. The only problem I have is the shot of passengers enjoying the sun on the deck-chairs a few seconds after the "April 14th" caption; it was far too cold for that!

There are also portions of the film that show mistakes common to both versions of the film; the lack of list to the portside, which steadily got worse over time. Some are undoutedly technical reasons, but as for the others ... homage or plagiarism?

So, how can we compare the 1958 and 1997 cinematic versions? Are they chalk and cheese? Since the 1950s, what have we actually learned about the Titanic? Visually, we have the Odell photographs which don't really tell us any more than we actually knew. The Titanic wreck confirms that those who saw the ship split apart on the surface weren't deluded, but honestly, it hasn't taught us much else. The most precious historical artefacts are the letters, postcards and newspaper interviews detailing survivor's accounts. The Titanic story hasn't mutated much since the late 1950s.

But as I continued to collate the errors, I find myself agreeing more and more with the opinions of others: "A Night To Remember" may be more accurate in terms of history, but "Titanic", if you'll forgive the excessive Bostwick Gates and the labyrinth of 3rd class corridors, is more accurate in terms of visual appearance: however this author did give up noting the difference between the real Titanic's and the "Night To Remember's" version of the boatdeck, which was probably altered to match footage of the SS Asturias, used a "stand-in" for the lifeboat launching shots.

What a stunning result we would have if the two films, made four decades apart could be combined, sans the blatant fiction. Rightly or worngly, "A Night To Remember" is remembered as the most accurate of all the Titanic movies. Considering its bed-fellows, this is not a proud boast.

One final caveat; the notes and screengrabs below were made during many different viewings of the film; owing to my clumsy stupidity, I neglected to take note of when certain screengrabs were taken relative to others. I've tried to piece all this together in (very near, I hope) the correct order, but if you are reading this, and viewing the film at the same time, you may find some divergence.

For larger versions of the thumbnail images, click on them.

"I name this ship Titanic"

The most commonly cited mistake of them all: The Titanic, indeed no White Star Line vessel, had a christening service. Even if they did, the platform holding the dignitaries is in the wrong location. It should be to the port side of the hull, as indicated by the red box in the 1911 launch photo (right).

Joining the Titanic

We are told that Lightoller is joining the Titanic at Belfast as the Titanic's 2nd officer. However, he was still at this point, the 1st Officer. He wasn't demoted to 2nd Officer until the ship had arrived in Southampton with Chief Officer Wilde's arrival.

This scene also has, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest "put-downs" in cinematic history.

Pre sailing talk

Ismay was, according to his testimony, never on the bridge until after the collision with the iceberg. Murdoch is shown wearing the strips of 1st Officer; although he was temporarily demoted the day before sailing from Chief to 1st, it seems unlikely that he or Lightoller (the other demoted officer) had a chance to change their uniforms; indeed, a photo of Lightoller at Queenstown on April 11th show Lightoller still wearing 1st Officer stripes.

Ice warnings

A few errors in this scene: firstly, the wireless operator (Bride) would not be allowed to be seen in a public area. Secondly, the dining room is far too small. Thirdly, Ismay and Smith never sat at the same table (or so we are told). Fourthly, the only ice warning that Smith gave to Ismay was before lunch, and no words were exchanged.

It also looks like the chef, stationed where the upright piano should have been located, is hosting a carvery.

"Our passengers"

In this scene, we are told that the Californian's passengers weren't in a hurry. On that voyage, the Californian wasn't carrying any. It also seems odd that there are three officers on the bridge (Lord, Groves and Stone). The chart room and Captain's cabin were actually located down a small alleyway at the foot of the stairs from the bridge. Finally, wireless operator Cyril Evans never testified about receiving ice warnings that day.

Ironically, one of the ships that Evans names (the Baltic) castigated him the next day for monopolising vital wireless communications with long, irrelevant conversations!

Ship of Controversy

The Californian's two mast-head lights were actually on the front two masts.

"Float Ice"

Until she stopped at about 10.20pm, the only ice that the Californian had seen were three icebergs seen to the south at 6.30pm, and a wireless message was sent out an hour later. So, the film's depiction of seeing "float ice" is wrong. In the film, Chief Officer Stewart goes to the wireless office and finds Evans with Groves. Stewart asks for a message to be relayed: "From SS Californian, ice reports..." and then we fade to another scene.

What actually happened was this: it was still light at 6.30, and twilight at 7.30. Lord himself went to order the ice warning to be transmitted, and it was to another ship of the same line, the SS Antillian (though the Titanic did overhear this message and noted it). I also suspect Groves was in bed at this time too (his watch was from 8pm to midnight).

The Californian's wireless office

Note the chart in the background; this is a Marconi Communication Chart. By reading off the chart for a certain time and longitude, you can ascertain which ships should be in communications range. A potentially valuable piece of information! So why is it stuffed in a frame and not near the Marconi equipment for ready reference.

Incidentally, Evans, in his rush to leave dock, picked up the chart for the Southern Atlantic. By zooming in on the chart on the DVD, we can see that the one used in the film is for the Northern Atlantic.

Off to dinner

Music: "It helps the digestion"

The newel on the D deck landing should have a chandelier; also, as the camera tracks to follow the Lucas's, we pass the band, playing on a raised podium. This isn't correct. There are numerous instances of discrepanices between reality and the movie depiction of the dining saloon and reception room. (Note that in general, I am much more lenient about the set mistakes on "A Night To Remember" than I am for Cameron's "Titanic." Walter Lord's book was published in 1955, and the movie was made in 1957/8; that's only a few years to perform research on (what was then) the scant material known to exist. Cameron had another three decades of knowledge to draw upon and he mostly squandered it.

"Stop Engines"

Responding to the look-out's warning "Ice Ahead, Sir!" Captain Lord orders the engines to be stopped. In reality, the helm was swung to starboard, so that the ship, previously heading west, was now heading north-east. In the film, Groves is ordered to work out the ship's position: it was actually Captain Lord who did this.

The film is to be semi-congratulated about the orientation of the Californian with regard to the Titanic: the Titanic is reported, in reality, to have been seen coming up from starboard and stopping abeam (that is, with the Californian showing her full length). This is what we see in the film: Groves looks to the aft starboard side of the ship to see "the big steamer". But the film "blows it" later on because the Californian was turning clockwise in the current. As she turned, the Titanic would be seen to move along the starboard side, until it was off the front (bows) and then on the port side of the Californian.

Timing issues

Lightoller sends for a crewman to ensure that the ship's water doesn't freeze. In reality, Hichens, having come on duty at 8pm was sent to deliver this message (isn't Hichens in the wheelhouse in this scene?)

Hichens was also sure that the message to the lookouts to keep an eye out for "small ice and growlers" was sent shortly after he returned to the bridge, but Jewell and Symons were sure it was sent to them at about 9.30pm. This message was relayed, as per the film, to the next pair of look-outs at 10.00pm, Fleet and Lee. Then, between 9 and 9.30pm, Lightoller and Smith discuss the situation, then a little while later, Lightoller goes off duty.

So far, so good.

Except that, the Californian comes to a stop just after Lightoller tells Moody to telephone the lookouts, so an hour or two before it actually happened. The Californian really stopped a little after Lightoller went off duty.

"Keep out!"

According to the Californian clock, at 10.50pm (GMT!) Evans sends a message saying that they are stopped by ice, and receives a rebuke from Phillips on the Titanic; in reality, Evans was on his own when this happened, and despite what we see in the film, he listened to the Titanic-Cape Race traffic for a while afterwards before retiring for the night.

"...betting on a certainty"

Neither Lightoller, nor any other officer, would be seen mingling with the passengers.

A big steamer...

Captain Lord was awake when the Titanic was coming into view; he even saw her! And, Captain Lord was not tucked up in bed in his cabin, he was lying fully clothed on the chart-room settee, with his cap pulled down off his eyes to shield them from the light.

In 1912 Groves admitted - and it is repeated in this scene - that he left the bridge when he went below to inform Captain Lord. Some have said that this would be a serious dereliction of duty.

The Playroom

There was no children's playroom on the real Titanic.


There are quite a few errors in this scene. The initial dialogue is a brief summary of what was said: in the film, we have; "Moody- What did you see?" "Fleet- Iceberg dead ahead sir." On the real Titanic we had: "Fleet- is there anyone there?" "Moody- Yes, what did you see?" "Fleet - Iceberg dead ahead sir" then there is a pause, then "Moody - Thank you."

Moody was actually stationed in the wheelhouse, overseeing Hichens at the wheel. The telephones were also in the wheelhouse, and not on the starboard wall of the bridge. There is also a Quartermaster on the bridge; the only person this could be is Olliver, who was on the compass tower some 200 feet aft of the bridge. He arrived on the bridge in time to see the iceberg slip by on the other side of the ship.

Additionally, the shutters on the wheelhouse should be closed (like in Cameron's film where he makes the same mistake). When the order for "hard-a-starboard" is given, we see Hichens at the wheel spin it in the correct direction. However, with all the mechanics connected to the wheel, it would be impossible to spin it like a roullette wheel; a hand-over-hand approach would be necessary. Also, seconds later, when the watertight doors are closed, the helsman is standing prone. It would take longer than this to "spin" the wheel correctly.

Incidentally, the actor playing Fleet, Bernard Fox, also played Colonel Gracie in James Cameron's 1997 film.

Watertight doors closing

The watertight door indicator panel is on the aft wall of the bridge, in front of the wheelhouse. Testimony indicates that no such panel existed. A Quatermaster (Olliver?) is shown operating the control by spinning a wheel; not only is this contrary to how the doors were really closed, but Olliver himself said that he saw Murdoch at the watertight door control at the front of the bridge, Olliver himself having only just arrived, and was not on "stand-by" for orders.


The film-makers seem to have omitted leading fireman Barrett, but the engineering officer is a man named Hesketh. What really happened was, when the bell went off, a cry to "shut the dampers" rang out, and this was being done when the collision occurred. We don't see this in the 1958 film, which also shows water pouring in, incorrectly, through a gash halfway up the wall of the boiler room, rather than 2 feet above the floor plates. Also, in the film, at least 3 people make for the watertight door; in reality, only Barrett and Hesketh made it. Some, if not all, the remainder stokers in this boiler room, No.6, stayed where they were until ordered aloft after drawing the fires.

More Flooding

When Hesketh and his two co-workers escape into boiler room 5, they find a spray of water emerging from the coal bunker into the room. But Barrett says that the water was coming into the coal bunker only, and that it was similar in appearance to the output of a fire hose.

"Who is that steamer?"

The preceeding scene shows the Titanic starting to send off CQD signals (at 12.15am, according to the clock, albeit GMT!). In the next scene, we have Stone and Groves on the Californian discussing the strange steamer. Again, there are many errors in this scene. The ship that the two Californian officers were watching is seen side-on (it is difficult to see, but it could be the port side we are watching), whereas she was almost bow-on to them.

And there is no sign of the ice field that should be visible; the Californian was stopped in loose ice on the edge of an enormous field that stretched north and south as far as could be seen.

The apprentice, Gibson, was also not on the bridge at this time.


As in reality, Groves is already late leaving his watch (10-15 minutes). He does however stop by Evans' cabin, where he picks up the headphones and listens in. Then, bewildered, he puts the headphones down, turns off the Marconi apparatus and leaves the cabin. In reality, Groves did enter Evans cabin and did pick up the headphones, but hears nothing, not noticing that the equipment has wound down. According to Groves' testimony in London, he woke up Evans and asked him what ships he had, being told that he had the Titanic. (An earlier scene shows Groves listening in while Evans overhears the Titanic).

Groves, in his communication with Walter Lord, thinks that this aspect of the disaster elicited a whole sub-story of its own. He was sure he could pick up a distress call, even though his knowledge of Morse code was rudimentary.

Andrews's inspection

When Andrews performs his inspection, boiler room 5 is now flooding! By this time, it had remained dry, as the water filling the coal bunker had been contained when the door to it had been shut.

"We are in a precarious position."

This muster of ship's officers never happened. At any rate, Lightoller, Lowe and Pitman were in bed at the time of the collision; upon dressing, they simply went out and helped in preparing the boats. Incidentally, Captain Smith does not give any instructions to Lowe in this scene!

Just a small point: when the aft boats were being prepared for lowering, Lawrence Beesley noted, 'Just then an officer came along from the first-class deck and shouted above the noise of escaping steam, "All women and children get down to deck below and all men stand back from the boats." He had apparently been off duty when the ship struck, and was lightly dressed, with a white muffler twisted hastily round his neck. '
We do not know who this was but if he was right about the officer being "off duty", then this could be Chief Officer Wilde. At any rate, none of the officers are shown in the movie wearing a muffler.

"Chop chop."

In 1958 - as in 1912, there was indignation about the treatment of the 3rd class and their low survival rate. This scene portrays the Titanic's stewards as if they were dealing with unruly cattle. When "A Night To Remember" was written - and three years later, adapted into the film, all we had were three steerage accounts given in 1912, plus four accounts given to Walter Lord during his research in the 1950s. From his writing (which this author has had the pleasure to peruse), it is clear: for the most-part, the steerage passengers became aware themselves of the danger, without much in the way of prompting by stewards. The passengers were either awakened by the collision, or were woken up their friends. Since the film was based on the book, this is how the rousing of the 3rd class should have been portrayed. [As a caveat, I must note that steward John Hart testified that he roused the single women and families in his area of the steerage.]

"Do you want me to drown them?"

The strongest example of transposition of lines (in this case, from Lowe to Lightoller) in the film; Lightoller berates Ismay for interfering with the loading of the lifeboats. Probably because the starboard side of the stand-in ship Asturias was being scrapped, nearly all the action takes place on the port side of the Titanic; the above exchange occurred on the starboard side, at boat No.5.

"Try SOS"

In the film, we are told that, before they got in touch with the Carpathia, Phillips had already been in contact with the Olympic, the Frankfurt and the Mount Temple. In actual fact, of these three, only the Mount Temple had been in touch. Bride suggests trying the new call, SOS, rather than CQD. But, from my own listing of wireless messages, this "new call" was actually sent out some 20 minutes after the Carpathia got in contact.

Also, note the zig-zag style braid near the cuffs on the Marconi operator's jackets. As is evident from a photograph taken in late 1911, the cuffs were actually bare. However, another undated photograph shows Phillips with a more standard braid-like weave on his cuff. Some shots of the Titanic's cabin show a screen over a window, but this is a feature that was seen on the Olympic - on the Titanic, the wireless area was a series of interior rooms, with skylights.

"Come At Once!"

Cottam of the Carpathia is shown talking to officers on the bridge of the Carpathia and then goes off to his wireless cabin, where he receives the devastating news. However, although Cottam may have briefly gone to the bridge with an account of exchanges with a ship named the Parisien, he was in his cabin at all times. He was, in his own words, preparing to turn in and had taken his coat off; still wearing his headphones, he casually sent a message to the Titanic informing them that Cape Cod had a series of messages for them. The Titanic replied with the CQD message. This is not what we see in the film.

A few other little points: Eaton and Haas claim that the wireless "cabin" was actually a shack on the roof of the Carpathia's 2nd class smoking room. A picture of it doesn't show a connecting outside corridor.

Note the time on the wall. 12.35 GMT. Although the time is about right, it was 12.35am on the Titanic, Carpathia's local time being perhaps a little different. GMT would be about 3 hours later!

The film's depiction of Cottam rushing off to the Captain doesn't jibe with the facts either. Captain Rostron later said, "[He was woken up] by our wireless operator, and also by the first officer [Horace Dean]. The wireless operator had taken the message and run with it up to the bridge, and gave it to the first officer who was in charge, with a junior officer with him, and both ran down the ladder to my door and called me. I had only just turned in. It was an urgent distress signal from the Titanic, requiring immediate assistance and giving me his position."
Although Cottam reported to the Captain directly, it seems unlikely he would have rushed off to wake the Captain without some form of permission from the Officer of the Watch.

As can be seen in this photo, the design of the davits is wrong; the ones on the Titanic were double-acting quadrant davits, but the ones here are single acting (the base of the davit arm in the frame is not a quarter of a circle, but an octant).

Also, most of the davits shared a "common base"- meaning that one foundation served two davit arms. Only one davit arm on such a base could be wound out; once this is done, a switch could be pressed, allowing the other arm to be swung out. What this means is that (for instance), the adjacent arms of boats 5 and 7 could not be cranked out at the same time, unlike this scene.

"You can see a light."

Captain Smith instructs Moody to get Boxhall to fire distress rockets from the port side every five minutes. Actually, Boxhall had decided on his own volition to send up rockets: "I had sent in the meantime for some rockets, and told the Captain I had sent for some rockets, and told him I would send them off, and told him when I saw this light. He said, "Yes, carry on with it."" The rockets were actually sent up from the starboard side, near lifeboat 1, where the unfortunate officer Lowe was subjected to the deafening retort of the blast.
Also, Smith is looking at the light straight out from the port side of the Titanic; the forward windows of the bridge are on his right hand side. The light seen from the Titanic was really almost directly ahead.

Everyone knows what rockets at sea means

Ismay takes a second or two to watch the first rocket ascend, then continues cranking the lifeboat out. When this happened (about 12.45am on the real Titanic), all the boats were ready for launching. And when the "real" rockets detonated, they did so with a deafening retort that nearly deafened 5th Officer Lowe only 600-800 feet below them. (this is also a mistake in the original book where the noise content of the rockets is vastly understated).

"It looked like a rocket"

The aloof watch officers on the Californian see the first rocket but do nothing. In fact, Stone was on his own, and wasn't sure until the 2nd rocket that what he was watching were pyrotechnics.

"The Bulkhead's Going"

Mr.Hesketh tells his men to evacuate the boiler room as the bulkhead's collapse was imminent. This presumably boiler room 5, and if so, it presents problems. Only a skeleton crew were left in the steam-filled room, but otherwise dry room. In reality, there was no warning: Fred Barrett saw a rush of water stream between the boilers from foreward (it was likely the coal bunker door that contained the small damage that had failed rather than the whole bulkhead), and the water didn't pour in from above, as in the movie scene.

Additional suction

Although there is some evidence to indicate that a suction pipe was brought from the engine room into the forward most compartments (once the watertight doors had been raised as far forward as the flooded boiler rooms), in this scene, we see water in the room directly in front of the engine room, or boiler room 1. By this time, only boiler rooms 4, 5 and 6 had any water in them.

"We may both be in the same boat?"

It was very hard finding a shot that shows the whole of the A deck landing of the forward grand staircase; in this distant shot, we see that the carving portraying "Honour and Glory Crowning Time" is of (darkened) wood, while the surroundings are white. In fact, just about all the staircase was "raw" wood; there is far too much white in this set.

"I must have my lucky pig!"

The stewardess calls after "Miss Russell", but in 1912, she went by the name Rosenbaum.

Seeking Help

Many things wrong in this scene; the rocket seen is the type launched via a wooden stick (think Guy Fawke's night or 4th July) and is lit by a match; neither of these are correct. As noted, the rockets were launched from the starboard side of the ship in reality. The small locker in the background is the area where Rowe goes to prepare more rockets for firing; in actuality, he and his colleage QM Bright brought rockets from the stern in boxes.
The film-makers seem to have used the Olympic as a basis for this set: the window in the background, above the "rocket locker" was not on the Titanic, but was on the Olympic. The small bulwark, from which Rowe fires the rocket, has vertical wooden slats, like the Olympic's: the Titanic's was solid steel.

"Thats 6 rockets"

The two stooges on the Californian's bridge wonder why a ship would want to fire rockets, and Gibson notes that the ship looks like its listing; Stone placates him by saying this is because of the angle the other ship was to them.

In actual fact, the two officers were more concerned about the other ship: "it looks like some form of distress...." and "a ship is not going to fire rockets at sea" for no reason. They also discussed the "big side" out of the water.

The film portrays Stone as using the speaking tube to communicate with the Captain; in fact, he did this after 5, not 6 rockets had been seen, and at this point, Gibson wasn't on the bridge, having gone below to prepare a new log for the morning's resumption of their journey to Boston. The speaking tube was actually on the front bulkhead of the Californian, in front of the wheel, and the Captain's tube was indeed by his bunk in his cabin; Lord being asleep in the adjoining chart-room, had to go next door to his own room to answer Stone. Lord never ventured that the rockets were perhaps because the other ship was signalling to someone else about the ice; all he asked was whether the rockets had any colours in them.

The Dreaded Bostwick Gates

I have used this section as a general discussion on the survival rate of the 3rd class. Unlike James Cameron's fictional Titanic, which had a stupidly large number of Bostwick gates, in "A Night To Remember," there is but one. Other scenes show stewards herding the 3rd class below decks. But were they really segregated? As stated, Walter Lord had only 7 steerage accounts upon which to base his research, but they are all clear: they 3rd class were allowed onto the "top deck" (that is, their areas on the open decks), but were prevented from going up ladders by locked gates and the attitudes of the crew. Of course, some enterprising people did manage to smuggle themselves onto the boat deck by the use of force, finding open doors that led up, or by other means.

Worshipping at the Temple of Bacchus

Joughin's cabin was actually found down a small passageway that led to the ship's side, and there was no staircase nearby. The film depicts Joughin as an addled drunk, but his testimony in London casts doubt on this portrayal. However, it has to be said that he was inconsistent as to how he left the Titanic. Whatever, the film does not conform to his testimony that he threw deck chairs (as floatation aids to swimmers) off the boat deck, but by threading them carefully through the open windows one deck lower. His testimony, that the ship took a large list to port which enabled him to walk along the side of the ship, is not replicated in the film.

"Where you go, I go."

Why is Ida Straus suddenly called "Rachel"? And, to open the accuracy of this scene a bit further into doubt, shouldn't the Strauses have American accents, considering that they had spent decades living in their adopted country>

Warning shots

This is boat 14; in real-life not only did Lightoller not tell Lowe to man the boat, but he also didn't fire shots to quell the panic, and, based on the occasions of gunfire at boats C and D, no mass exodus from the scene was caused when firearms were discharged.

Lowe did fire his gun as the boat was lowered along the ship side, and in the film we linger long enough on boat 14's departure to see that the 5th Officer doesn't do so along in the movie (this is the sequence where a stoker is knocked into the sea, and Lightoller gives a grimmace as the unfortunate man smacks into the sea- also the only instance of a character's breath condensing in the cold air).

It also must have taken a long time to load this boat: this is the boat where the lady falls between the side of the boat deck and the boat (officer Lowe is in the boat, and is referred to by name); and, quite a bit earlier, we hear a husband implore of this wife, "Please Lottie for God's sake be brave and go"- a reference to Charlotte Collyer who left in boat 14.

"He's only 13"

In one of the more shocking scenes of discrimination that night, Emily Ryerson later describes how her son, Jack, was refused entry into a boat because he was "a boy." Mr.Ryerson retorted, "Of course, that boy goes with his mother; he is only 13." Jack was allowed in the boat, as a crewman affirmed, "No more boys." [The other instance of discrimination against boys was when Officer Lowe ordered a boy out of his boat at gun point.]

In "A Night To Remember" it is Lightoller who veto's Jack's place in the boat and then gives a cheery reassuring smile when he is castigated. But a heated discussion emerged a few years ago on Encyclopedia-Titanic about the source of the "No boys" directive, with candidates ranging from Lightoller to Purser McElroy to second stewrad Dodd. All we have is that Mrs. Ryerson said it "was an officer." Personally, I believe it was Lightoller.

This incident occurred at boat 4, which was actually loaded from the enclosed promenade, not the open boat deck, which was a deck above. The chronology is wrong too; a few second later, we have Lady Richard (aka Lady Lucile Duff-Gordon in real life) saying that men were being allowed in the boats on the other side of the ship. She left in boat 1, which was launched long before boat 4. Its also worth noting that Lady Duff-Gordon escaped in "a very lavendar bath robe, very beautifully embroidered, together with a very pretty blue veil" (according to fellow survivor's Edith Rosenbaum's "Women's Wear Daily" article of April 19th, 1912; Lucile also says in a letter that it was a pale lavendar with touch of silvery mauve piped in black; her secretary says she was wearing a dressing gown and a moleskin coat.)

"Seamen for boat 1"

Most of the action takes place on the port side, and we see only two boats (1 and C, and the abortive A) from the starboard side. I often wonder how stokers could wind up coming out of a door marked "Officer's Quarters". The geography of the Titanic would make this an impossibility. A few scenes previously, Lady Duff Gordon is seen saying that men were being allowed into the boats on the other side of the ship, meaning that she was on the port side. Apart from a mention in her 1932 autobiography, "Discretions and Indiscretions," the Duff Gordons and their secretary were exlusively on the starboard side all night.

"First class"

The plucky 3rd class find a passage to first class through the galley and then into the dining saloon where they marvel at the luxury. Except that the doors they enter through are on opposite sides of the funnel casing; perhaps a reason why the dining room is smaller than it should be?

A plan of the 1st class dining saloon, showing the entry point for the 3rd class.

"Lower away!"

"Lower away...again!"

As we follow the progress of boat 6 down the ship's hull, it passes a promenade deck...and then seconds later, yet another promenade deck! This is probably due to the Asturias being used as a filming location, as the architecture does not match the real Titanic. And, if the film, like the book, was based on the inquiry transcripts, boat 6 was the first portside boat the film, boat 8 reaches the water before no.6

I sometimes wonder about the rope ladder than is seen to be unfurled in this scene. Who used it, and why is it in the scene? No one mentioned using such a piece of equipment that night! It would have been easier for Peuchen to use it rather than lower himself hand over hand down the falls.

Appraissing the situation

The wireless cabin was an internal room, without a window, unlike the room in this scene, with a shutter pulled down over the window (maybe this room is based on the layout of the Olympic, which did have a window).

Don't They See Us?

The strange light is now directly ahead of the Titanic, as it really was, compared to the scene where it is first seen, where it is broadside on to the port side.

Lightoller espies the flooding

The hold is flooding rapidly

In the movie, Lightoller is shown looking into the hold, to gauge how far the flooding has progressed. In reality, his vantage point would have been impossible; the best way to look into the hold from above would be underneath the tarpaulins or wooden covers. This scene also seems to be a garbling of what Lightoller really did: he would occasionally, and temporarily abandon loading and lowering the boats to gauge the rise of the water which he did by seeing how far it had progressed up the crew's stairs leading from C deck to the boat deck.

"I'm in charge of this boat."

In reality, boat 6 spent a large portion of its time rowing towards the mystery light, which was off the Titanic's bow. So how, in the filmed version, the boat ends up at the stern of the ship? Then, later on, the viewpoint switches to somewhere off the port side of the Titanic! Note that, in this sequence, the ship's rudder is pointing to port, indicating that her last helm order was "hard a starboard".

"I think the bastard must be asleep."

QM Rowe tells Captain Smith that the rocket he has just fired was "the last one." In actual fact, Rowe later testified that there were "some" rockets still in the box he had brought form astern, and it seems that about 8 rockets were fired. The real Titanic had 36 such "rockets"; at a rate of one every 5 minutes, this is 180 minutes, or 3 hours duration, much longer than the ship had to live!

Call me a prude, but this author was surprised to hear profanity in a 1950s movie: Rowe: "I think the bastard must be asleep."

"We are the Titanic sinking. Please have your boats ready."

The film-makers had evidently based their research on photos of the Olympic; the front of her bridge was curved, the Titanic's was flat.

Incidentally, the stairs leading down were surrounded on the port and starboard sides, and on the front by a steel bulwark.

"Is there no-one else?"

A couple of points about this scene: there should be a solid bulwark abaft the bridge and behind the bridge wing cabs; to get into the lifeboats on either side, you'd have to climb over this barrier. We can also see small metal railings in front of and behind the davits that hold this lifeboat; these weren't on the real Titanic. The bulwarks may be due to the use of the Olympic's builder model which was used by the film-makers as a reference; it was later fitted with additions to convert it into the Britannic. This might explain the pecularity between the model used in the film and the real Titanic, too. For instance, the film's model has the open windows of the 2nd class promenade on B deck (an early Olympic feature) that became the restaurant and cafe parisien on the Titanic. There is a photograph of Boxhall inspecting the builder's model during the making of the movie, and the model shows that there is a solid railing running around the front and sides of the top of the bridge, which was absent on the real Titanic. This railing is visible in some shots of the model in the movie, though.

The film makes a valiant effort to try and explain how Hugh Woolner describes a mad scrum surrounding this boat, and yet Ismay says otherwise. In the film, Murdoch and Ismay try to hold back the throng telling them there's no more room, and when asked "where do we go?" Murdoch advises the crowd to go to the other end [of the boat deck]. I am not 100% convinced of this though!

The End Is Nigh

A few minutes after Ismay leaves, we see this shot of the bow sagging into the (incorrectly depicted) heaving ocean. In actual fact, when Boat C left, the well deck was awash. In the film, it is dry. From the scene where the steerage passengers kick the ice around in the forward well deck, it looks like the 2nd cargo hatch is at least their height; it was really only a little under 3 feet in height.

Tell the Carpathia to hurry

This is not long after boat C has left, and yet the clock on the wall says 1.50am (GMT). Obviously, this is derived from the British Inquiry's timing of boat C's departure as being 1.40am, whereas modern research put this at just after 2.00am. The last communication that the Carpathia heard (this message about flooding) was received at 11.55pm New York Time.

Also, like the Californian's "Communication Chart," the Titanic's is framed and put on a wall where using it would be very difficult!

Lowered safely

Rowing away

The real lifeboats on the Titanic did not have bilge keels; they also did not have vertical slats over the clinker hull either (though to be honest, this boat seems to be an exception).

"Engine room flooding"

Cottam tells Rostron that the Titanic's engine room is flooded; the clock on the wheelhouse wall puts this at 1.53am. In truth, the Carpathia didn't communicate with the Titanic again once the initial response to the distress call had been sent. A message saying that the engine room was "flooded up the boilers" [sic] was sent at 11.41pm New York Time, which translates to about 1.41am on the Titanic, and 4.41am GMT (since this is the time that all the clocks seem to be set to).

Also, in this scene, the Carpathia is being steered by a true course, which is incorrect. The Titanic was being held to a course relative to magnetic north (and with deviations caused by the deflective properties of iron and steel on a steering compass) - which is correct.

In response to Cottam's question, Rostron says they are another two hours away (or about 3.53am). However, in an earlier scene on the Titanic, Phillips tells Smith that the Carpathia was making 17 knots and should be with them by 3.30am. First of all, the 17 knot "myth" didn't originate till later; all we have is that the Carpathia was pushed at full speed that night. Secondly, even at 17 knots, the total journey time would be about 3 1/2 hours, meaning that the Carpathia would have had to start her dash at midnight. It was well after this time when she was turned around to the north-west.

The Sound of Music

The band did not include a flute or clarinet in its compliment of instruments. The film shows them playing, post-collision, on their podium on D deck. They actualy started playing in the lounge, on A deck. When Wallace Hartley goes to his bandsment, he calls from them to play "No.22." According to the White Star Line Music songlist, No.22 was actually Massenet's Thais, and not the little haunted jaunty jig we hear in the film! A few of the bandsmen's bodies were later recovered, and we can say that the clothing on the bodies does not match those of the bandsmen seen here during their final moments; for instance, Wallace Hartley was wearing his uniform of black jacket, with emerald green lapels.

The Last Boat

Moody is shown supervising the loading of the last boat under davits, boat D, when Lightoller approaches him. Actually, Lightoller was in charge of this boat and had to fire his gun to calm the situation: crew members had to link arms to ensure only women and children got through to the boat.

A Stunning Vista

The model of the Titanic shows two mastlights; in reality, there was only one, on the fore mast.

This scene also emphasises one of the film's greatets flaws: the sea state. The night the Titanic went down, the sea was described as a flat calm. In "A Night To Remember", the sea is calm when, for instance, we see the lifeboats reaching the water, but in distance shots, the sea is shown as a rolling, heaving mass.

Crazy angles

The arm of the cherub, on the central newell on the A deck landing of the Grand Staircase is not straight: it should be bent at the elbow.

"Aren't you going to try for it?"

As I intimated in my critique of Cameron's film, this famous scene has doubts hanging over it. At any rate, the full version of this encounter is as follows:

"Later, an assistant steward saw him [Andrews] standing alone in the smoking-room, his arms folded over his breast and the belt lying on a table near him. The steward asked him, “Aren’t you going to have a try for it, Mr. Andrews?” He never answered or moved, “just stood like one stunned.”

Which is not quite what we see in the film. Also, if a steward saw him, shouldn't the man in the film be wearing a white steward's tunic rather than a dark coat? The "man" in the film also leaves the smoking room through where a revolving door should be.

The Bow Goes Under

As the collapsibles on the roof of the officer's quarters are being prepared, we see this shot of the bow going under. The model shot bears only the most meagre of resemblances to the real ship.

Boat B is readied

The film shows boat B being readied before boat A; it was actually the other way round; after Lightoller and his men had thrown the boat down, they went over to the starboard side to see if they could help there, but they were too late: Murdoch was already trying to hook boat A to the davits.

When on top, the crewmen remove railings beside the boat to allow it to descend to the deck below; I don't think these railings were there. Captain Smith is shown in the background, but Bride says that Smith was on the bridge at the time, and from where he dived into the sea.

The boat is shown to be free of entanglements caused by funnel guywires, but Lightoller had this to say later, "The afterend of the boat was underneath the funnel guy"

His Final Command

Before the bridge is inundated, Smith returns to the bridge of his final command, alone. Harold Bride specifies that he saw the captain dive into the water, though. As my friend Matthew Robert Smathers has pointed out, the wheel itself is inconsistent. In the Southampton scenes, the wheel is visible, but when the iceberg is sighted and murdoch rushes to the window, the telemotor is on its own, showing just a "nut and bolt." And then when Smith enters the bridge for the final time, the telemotor is empty. Maybe they could only afford one helm and it had to double up for the wheelhouse scenes and someone forgot to move it? Talking of bridge instruments, publicity photos of Laurence Naismith (Captain Smith) meeting his real-life counterpart's daughter (Helen Russell-Cooke) on the bridge set show that the telegraphs have a "Close watertight doors" indicator!

Run Out Of Time

After we see the Captain on the bridge, the next shot shows the men trying to push boat A down to the boat deck as the water inches towards them. Boat A was actually lowered a little time before the water reached the top of the bridge area. Lightoller was on his own on top of the bridge/wheelhouse when the boat took the sudden dip forwards, and he swam off into the sea. By his own admission, Lightoller only dealt with portside boats, including Boat B; he never helped to hoist boat A down.

The Bridge Goes Under

The model lacks the large fan assembly on the forward starboard side of the first funnel; other fan assemblies in this area seem to be missing, but I'll levae this to others more versed in the technical make-up of the ship to comment on this. There is also a large box-like structure on the deck house above and in front of the grand staircase dome. And the compass platform is missing too.

Unceasing Deluge

Water bursts in through crates in the cargo hold. A few things wrong: the crates would have been held under baggage nets to prevent them moving around in violent weather. Secondly, the cargo that we see here would have been found in the first three cargo holds, which were already flooded. Holds 4 and 5 were used for food provisions, so it can't be this hold we see. The only other hold, no.6 was for general cargo and would not have been flooded by this time.

A Mad Rush

The poop deck set shows large circular skylights, which were not on the real Titanic.

Abandon Ship!

The font used for the ships name and port of registry are wrong; the letters were actually incised into the hull, which doesn't seem to be the case here at all; in fact, the letters are painted over rows of rivet holes! The set also lacks the sign to the port of the mast warning people and ships nearby that the Titanic has triple screws. Also missing is the anchor that was affixed to the deck.

Ismay's shame

Ismay's vantage point is somewhere off the Titanic's port side. In truth, his boat was off the Titanic's bow - "stem on" as Quartermaster Rowe, who was in charge, later said. Ismay only turned back once, after ten minutes; in other words, when the Titanic was quite close and not in the distance as shown here.

Colonel Gracie

Colonel Gracie is shown swimming in the ocean before the Titanic sinks. In reality, he was on board the ship till the end and was sucked under. He didn't come to the surface until after the Titanic had gone down.

The Funnel Falls

Although there is a witness to the fourth funnel falling at the end, it is the first funnel that fell near Lightoller. He should have been near the overturned boat B, which is missing in this scene. Lightoller managed to get on boat B in time to see the ship founder.

The End Is Near

The real Titanic went vertical before she slipped under the sea. Also, note that, even though the lights had gone off on the rest of the ship, the one on the main mast is still on (could this be the "spark" that Elizabeth Shutes noticed?)

She's gone

Like Cameron's version, the Titanic goes under whipping the sea into a froth. This never happened.

"Come on girls, row!"

The film gives the impression that Margaret "Molly" Brown was successful in overruling Hichens to go back to rescue the people in the water. In actual fact, boat 6 never did go back. "Don't you know you are speaking to a lady?" was actually spoken by a stoker who was transferred from boat 16, and not by Major Peuchen. And Molly's line that they could see the North Star was actually uttered by Helen Candee in real life.

"Wait untill they're half dead, you mean?"

The heated debate in boat 1 never happened. In the film as shown, one crewman says that they ought to turn back, and one man saying that they would get swamped. The crewman is insistent, "We ought to try, I reckon." "We're crowded enough as it is. I'm feeling most unwell," says Lady Duff Gordon, and her husband elicits a comment from the "Only seaman," the man at the tiller who says that perhaps they ought to wait a bit, until things "have quietened down." "Wait till they're half dead you mean? That won't take long in this cold." The "seaman" (at the tiller) in reality never heard a word said about going back. Only one man testified that he suggested that they go back, and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. According to someone else, Lady Duff Gorodn, between bouts of lying down on the oars and being physically sick, said that she was frightened that the boat would be swamped, and her husband upheld her views. To be fair to the film, 100 years on, the testimony of those in the boat are still muddled and reconciling them is probably impossible.

No more room

This is presumably boat A, showing men on board trying to fend off those trying to get on board. It is hard to see, but is the canvas side raised? It wasn't on the real boat A, which incidentally was swamped, forcing those on boat to stand ankle-high in cold water all night.

A Small Flotilla

We see two boats joining up, and Lowe redistributing the passengers and crew within, in readiness for a rescue. In reality, five boats joined up in this small flotilla.

"She seems to be gone now"

Gibson alerts Stone to the big steamer having disappeared. However, Gibson thought that the ship disappeared soon after 2.00am, whereas Stone informs Lord via the speaking tube that it was 2.45am. The strange ship should now be somewhere off the port bow, not the starboard rear of the Californian. The communication with the captain was made personally by Gibson being ordered by Stone to report to him with this information, rather than via speaking tube.

It is Ironic that Captain Lord tells Stone to enter the details in the log. The logbook was later found to have nothing in it at all! [The scrap log book was used to keep a running note of shipboard events and these events were later copied neatly in the formal log.]


The film shows everyone perched neatly on the upturned boat B. It was hardly like that. Jack Thayer Jr. wrote in 1940, "We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying in all conceivable positions...I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him...Harold Bride...was lying across in front of me, with his legs in the water, and his feet jammed against the cork fender, which was about two feet under water." Bride himself confirmed this in the New York Times on April 19th, 1912; "There was just room for me to roll on the edge [of the lifeboat]. I lay there not caring what happened. Somebody sat on my legs. They were wedged in between the slats, and were being wrenched. I hadn't the heart left to ask the man to move."
In the preceeding scene, Lightoller asks Bride what time the Carpathia will get there and is told an hour. But Lightoller did not know the name of the ship until later; also, Bride is shown standing, and trying to help the elderly steward on the boat, but as stated above, this is not accurate.
Joughin himself said that he was paddling and treading water for two hours, until daybreak, when he reached the upturned boat.
Also, after a little while on the boat, Lightoller noticed a swell had started, which made standing on the boat increasingly difficult.

Summoning Help

According to Lillian Bentham, who obtained the whistle used by Lightoller, its design in this scene is completely wrong. Also, boat "B" did not become visible to other craft, and vice versa, till the morning.

Bride is safe

Bride was probably actually in a cabin at this point before being transferred to the Carpathia's hospital. His feet would certainly not have allowed him to stand.

"We have 705 survivors"

While discussing the casualty figures, Rostron receives a wireless message from the Californian: "[she's] nearby... is there anything they can do?" The Californian actually pulled up close to the Carpathia while the occupants of the very last lifeboat, including Lightoller (who was the last), were climbing on board. The basics of the disaster were communicated by semaphore. So, the Californian should have been in sight in the film.

All thats left...

The lifering would have a plain white covering, with no letters at all.

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