Titanic 1953 film.jpg
film poster
Directed by Jean Negulesco
Produced by Charles Brackett
Written by Charles Brackett
Richard L. Breen
Walter Reisch
Starring Clifton Webb
Barbara Stanwyck
Robert Wagner
Audrey Dalton
Harper Carter
Thelma Ritter
Brian Aherne
Richard Basehart
Music by Sol Kaplan
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Editing by Louis R. Loeffler
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) April 16, 1953 (1953-04-16)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,805,000[1]
Box office $2,250,000

Titanic is a 1953 American drama film directed by Jean Negulesco. Its plot centers on an estranged couple sailing on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic, which took place in April 1912.


Mrs Julia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck), who is at the time estranged from her husband Richard (Clifton Webb), is traveling first class on the RMS Titanic. Determined to remove her children from her husband Richard's "high society" world in Europe, Julia secretly takes their two children, 17-year-old Annette (Audrey Dalton) and ten-year-old Norman (Harper Carter), on the Titanic and plans to raise them in her hometown of Mackinac, Michigan. However, after he learns of her plans, Richard pays a premium to buy a steerage ticket from a Basque immigrant in hopes of intercepting them and taking the children back to Europe. Richard and Julia talk about the custody of Annette and Norman over their first dinner on board.

Other passengers include a wealthy woman of working-class origins based on Molly Brown, Maude Young (Thelma Ritter); a social-climbing snob, Earl Meeker (Allyn Joslyn); a 20-year-old Purdue University tennis player, Gifford Rogers (Robert Wagner), who falls in love with Annette Sturges; and a priest who has been suspended for alcoholism, George S. Healey (Richard Basehart).

Julia realizes that Annette is old enough to make her own decisions and, therefore, may choose to return to Europe with her father, but she insists on maintaining custody of Norman. This angers Richard, and later, prior to dining at the captain's table, he aggressively confronts Julia. She then reveals to him that Norman is not his biological child but, rather, the result of a one-night stand she had after leaving a party where she was being belittled in the days before Richard had "made [her] over into [his] image." He agrees to relinquish custody of Norman (but promises to take care of him and Julia financially), being cold and distant from them. Richard joins Maude, Earl, and George Widener in the lounge to play bridge with them. Norman tries to get Richard to play shuffleboard with him, but he yells at him, sending him away. Giff teaches Annette the "Navajo Rag," and she finds herself smitten with him. That night Giff, Annette, and a group of college students sing and play the piano in the dining room, and from a corner table, Captain Smith watches. Suddenly the lookout spots an iceberg, and although the crew tries to steer clear of danger, the ship is cut open by the iceberg. Julia and Norman are awakened by the crash and Annette tells them that the ship has hit an iceberg. Richard tells his family to dress warmly, but properly; then, they head outside.

Richard and Julia have a tearful reconciliation on the boat deck, as he is putting Julia and the children in famous Lifeboat #6. Later, Norman gives up his seat in the full lifeboat so that a woman can be accommodated, and goes looking for his father. They reunite as the Titanic is in her final moments. Richard tells a passing steward that Norman is his 'son' and then tells the boy that he has been proud of him every day of his life and that he feels "tall as a mountain" standing by the boy's side. Then, they join the rest of the passengers and crew in singing the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee." The Titanic rises high in the air, explodes twice more, and rapidly sinks.

Richard and Norman both drown. Giff Rogers falls into the ocean while trying to free a stuck lifeboat and is rescued by the passengers in Lifeboat #7. He survives.

Meeker disguises himself as a woman and gains admittance to a lifeboat. He also survives, although Young recognizes him and calls him out in front of the other people in the lifeboat.

George Healey tries to pull himself together as the ship is sinking, and goes below (to rescue, provide last rites for, or simply end his own life), joining crewmen who have been trapped in the engine room.


Historical inaccuraciesEdit

During the film, many inaccuracies occur, such as:

  • There was no horn section in Titanic's band.
  • The boilers on Titanic did not explode, but in the film they do several times.
  • The Titanic was not booked solid as stated in the film, she was just over half-full for her maiden voyage.
  • There was no siren on the Titanic; this came around after.
  • Crewmembers on the Titanic did not wear British Navy uniforms.
  • J. Bruce Ismay is omitted from the film altogether.
  • The passengers did not stand up on deck and sing a chorus of Nearer My God To Thee. It is disputed whether the band played it on their instruments, but passengers were all rushing about. No one stood and sang.
  • People are seen easily pulling a small raft down from the roof of the officers' quarters. The collapsible life boats stored there were quite unwieldy, having boat-like lower hulls and having room for 47 passengers each.
  • At the beginning, a steward asks about the Astor cabin. They say it is A-54. There was no A-54, only A1-A37, and the Astors' cabin was C62-64, a deluxe parlor suite.
  • When the ship is going under you can see the ensign on the stern flagstaff. The ensign was only flown during daylight hours.
  • Supposedly the Sturges family comes from Mackinac, Michigan; however, they all pronounce the name of the place incorrectly. It should be pronounced "Mak-i-naw" not "Mak-i-nak".
  • Right at the start of the film a valley glacier iceberg is shown splitting away and falling into the sea. The Titanic was hit by an Arctic iceberg, carried by the Gulf Stream southward during the summer when the frozen edge of the Arctic Ocean started to melt.
  • The stern of the Titanic rose while it sank. It didn't reach 30 degrees at the very end, it reached 30 degrees a reported 10 minutes before it broke in two and then made its final plunge.
  • The ice warning first received was not delivered to the bridge.
  • There was no shuffleboard on RMS Titanic.
  • None of the First or Second Class children died in the sinking, except for Loraine Allison, who stayed on deck with her parents.
  • The Titanic did not hit the iceberg on its port side.
  • The Titanics funnels fell off as the ship sank.
  • The watertight doors on Titanic did not slide horizontally.
  • At least one collapsible lifeboat was not launched before Titanic sank, but was floated off, upside down, allowing Lightoller and others to survive. The film incorrectly shows them all having been successfully launched.
  • The Titanic is shown sinking with lights in her portholes. In reality the electrical power failed a few seconds before she went down.
  • The film narrative states that 712 people survived. The final count is disputed, due to inconsistencies in passenger lists.
  • At one point, a World War II-era lifeboat is seen being launched into the water.
  • The Titanic did not sink as quickly as shown in the film.
  • Not as many men in Second Class died.
  • The 'crows-nest' where crew looking out for possible obstructions or threats to the ship, such as ice-bergs, was not mounted to the forward funnel as depicted in film. It was actually attached to its own pole toward the front of the ship.


Charles Brackett, who co-wrote and produced the film, told the press that some of the stories had to be discarded, "because they are too fantastic for movie audiences to believe.[2] In a September 1952 news article, it was reported that Terry Moore was set to play the role of Annette Sturges, on condition that she would finish production of Man on a Tightrope on time.[3]


According to the film aggregator website, Rotten Tomatoes, Titanic holds an 88% "Fresh" rating, based on 8 reviews.[4]

Variety Magazine reviewed the film positively stating, "but by the time the initial 45 or 50 minutes are out of the way, the impending disaster begins to take a firm grip on the imagination and builds a compelling expectancy."[5]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Titanic won the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction. The film was also nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award.


  1. The Definitive Titanic Film: A Night to Remember by Jeffrey Richards, 2003
  2. "Says Movie of Titanic Sinking To Show Heroism of Victims" by Bob Thomas, Southeast Missourian, October 2, 1952, p. 14
  3. "Terry Moore Has Grown Up" by Hedda Hopper, Pittsburgh Press, September 27, 1952, p. 17
  4. Titanic (1953) Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved 2010-1-4
  5. Titanic Variety Magazine Retrieved 2010-1-4

External linksEdit

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