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Sunday, 15 April 2012

In memoriam: A Night to Remember (1958)

A Night to Remember is probably one of the best known films about the RMS Titanic after James Cameron's 1997 soap opera/special effects bonanza named, very originally, Titanic. Never having been a fan of the previous film (it may have made me cry but not for the fictitious portions of the plot. There was clearly room on that raft for two.) but having always been keenly interested in the Titanic disaster, I found that the 1953 film also called... well, Titanic (if you're curious about the film, you can read my review of it here.) was much more my cup of tea. That's why last night I decided that I would watch the 1953 film in memory of the 100th anniversary of the disaster. Just as I was about to press play however, I thought to myself, "Why not watch A Night to Remember? After all, you've never seen all of it and it's supposedly one of the best films about the Titanic.". So I did. Here's the review!

A Night to Remember, 1958
The director: Roy Ward Baker
The stars: Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Blackman
IMDb says: The Titanic disaster is depicted in straightforward fashion without the addition of fictional subplots.

A Night To Remember follows the Titanic from it's departure from Belfast to the Southampton docks and from there to it's tragic demise. As the IMDb summary states, you won't find any fictional subplots here unlike other films about the Titanic. Everything they portrayed in the film happened almost exactly as the historians of the day believed it to have happened. Whether or not these depictions of events were 100% accurate or not, we'll never know for sure. Then again, no film based on a true story is ever completely accurate.

Whilst the film doesn't invent a fictional storyline to keep audiences interested (something which I personally feel is a little redundant in such a film as this), it does vaguely follow the personal story of the second officer on board, Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More), starting with his train ride to join the boat at Southampton. I thought this was a clever way to draw the viewers into the film without detracting from the events unfolding all around, something that I feel other films have done. It may not be to everyone's taste, but I like my factual films to be as historically accurate as possible and I find that spicing up the storyline is usual completely unnecessary.

Not being an expert on the sinking of the Titanic, I wasn't watching the film and cringing at whatever inaccuracies may have occurred but there was a rather big one that couldn't escape my notice. I'm not sure exactly when it was discovered that the Titanic did not, in fact, sink in one piece (1985?) but, if you watch earlier films you will notice that it always goes down intact. In actuality, the ship, which was sinking bow first, broke in half with the stern sticking up almost vertically before plunging down back down into the ocean. Whilst that is a rather big mistake for a film to make, I think the film makers can be let of the hook because they really had no way of knowing their portrayal was false.

All in all, I highly recommend A Night to Remember. There are several scenes in it that you might recognise as being pretty much replicated in the 1997 film, but, relieved of an overly sentimental subplot, I think it far surpasses any of it's fellow films. Apart from More, Honor Blackman, and David McCallum, the cast is rather obscure. Nevertheless, they all did a fine job to make this film memorable. So, if you feel like watching a film about the tragic maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, look no further.

1 comment:

  1. I have seen both Titanic films, but I don't think I've watched this. I read that it wasn't until Cameron that they knew for sure how the real Titanic went down, so the makers of A Night to Remember can be let off the hook.


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