This version of the story of the ill-fated Titanic, the world’s largest ship which sank on her maiden voyage in April 1912, is an unforgettable film epitomising the optimistic, overconfident era which perished for the most part with the Titanic.
The hopes and fears of a wide cross-section of passengers – from millionaires to steerage class – are woven into the film amongst contrasting displays of quiet courage and sheer panic when disaster strikes.
The story of the Titanic is an epic with no villains but many heroes. Chief of these is Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller (Kenneth More), who is the personification of efficiency and courage, wearing a cocky smile.
Laurence Naismith is the gallant and intrepid Captain Smith who – in the true traditions of the sea – goes down with his ship. The famous Denver millionairess Molly Brown (who got her own story in The Unsinkable Molly Brown) is played by Tucker McGuire.
The Titanic‘s designer Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe) – now a broken man – waits in the smoking room for the end, determined to go down with his creation. Honor Blackman (later of The Avengers and Goldfinger fame) is a young newlywed determined to stay with her husband, while David McCallum (Ilya Kuryakan on The Man from U.N.C.L.E) appears as an assistant wireless operator.
At the time, A Night to Remember was the biggest picture in the history of Pinewood Studios, with 200 speaking parts. Constrained by budgetary considerations, the film used models, but the cutting and the matte work are so fine you are rarely aware of this.
As a piece of documentary representation, the film is remarkably accurate (it was based on meticulous research, and several actual Titanic survivors – including the Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall – acted as advisers to the film) – although the depiction of the ship’s final plunge is now known to have been erroneous.
While it may not have Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, it’s an extraordinary film that gives a magnificent account of the Titanic tragedy.
A classic of British cinema.
Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller
Capt. Edward John Smith
Mrs Sylvia Lightoller
Maj. Arthur Peuchen
Mrs Liz Lucas
Capt. Arthur Rostron
Col. Archibald Gracie
Wireless Operator John ‘Jack’ Phillips
Chairman J. Bruce Ismay
First Officer William Murdoch
Assistant Wireless Operator Harold Bride
Wireless Operator Harold Thomas Cottam
Mrs Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown
Capt. Stanley Lord
Chief Baker Charles Joughin
Dr William O’Loughlin
Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall
Wireless Operator Cyril Evans
Sixth Officer James Moody
Quartermaster George Thomas Rowe
3rd Officer of the Carpathia
2nd Engineer Officer John Henry Hesketh
Apprentice James Gibson
Mr James Farrell
Mrs Ida Strauss
Mr Isador Strauss
Fifth Officer Harold Lowe
Second Officer Herbert Stone
Third Officer Charles Groves
Roy Ward Baker