Titanic (1997 film)
Titanic is a 1997 dramatic film released by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox. The bulk of the plot is set aboard the ill-fated RMS Titanic during her maiden voyage in 1912. The movie won 11 Academy Awards on March 23, 1998 including best picture of 1997. As of 2005, Titanic has the highest box office take in movie history (unadjusted for inflation). The 1997 film should not be confused with the Titanic movie made in 1953, nor a made-for-television film of the same title that was telecast in 1996.
Making the film
The film was directed by James Cameron and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Frances Fisher, Kathy Bates, Eric Braeden, David Warner, Danny Nucci, Gloria Stuart, Victor Garber, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, Bernard Fox, Ioan Gruffudd, Suzy Amis and Bill Paxton.
When this epic disaster film was not finished in time for its scheduled July 1997 release date, it sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood: studio execs began wondering if they might have another Heaven's Gate on their hands. The two releasing studios, 20th Century Fox (which handled the international distribution and actually had movie rights to the Titanic name) and Paramount Pictures (which had the U.S. rights) panicked. By the middle of 1997, Titanic had become the most costly film ever made (its reported cost hovered in the $200 million US range) and the bills were still coming in. When director James Cameron finally delivered the film to Paramount, it ran over 3 hours and it was anyone's guess whether he would ever work in Hollywood again (2007 will be his first major commercial release since Titanic). But Cameron stood his ground and threatened edit-happy studio executives with the message: "You will cut my film over my dead body."
Moved to a crowded release date of December 19, 1997 (opposite, among other major releases, the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies), the film opened with little promotion, and returned a relatively weak $28 million in ticket sales on the first weekend. Within a week the gross tripled. By New Year's Day, the film had hit $100 million and showed no sign of slowing down. It held a virtual lock on first place at the box office for nearly four months and would become the (inflation unadjusted) highest grossing film of all-time with more than $1.8 billion in ticket sales worldwide. Adjusted for inflation, it is currently the seventh highest grossing film of all time.
Cameron, who fought extremely hard to finish the film, was rewarded with an Academy Award for Best Director.
It is 1996, and a treasure hunter and his team explore the wreck of the RMS Titanic in their submersible. A safe is brought to the surface and is opened. It contains, not the fabled treasure the adventurers had hoped for, but only papers. One of them is a nude pencil portrait dated 14 April, 1912, and signed "JD". It shows a beautiful young woman reclining nude with casual modesty on a couch. On a necklace around her neck is the diamond they seek: The Heart of the Ocean.
Rose DeWitt Bukater, an ancient but still lively woman of 101 years (based upon the American artist Beatrice Wood), watches a CNN report of the treasure hunt and sees the nude portrait. She phones the treasure hunter Brock Lovett and informs him that she knows of the diamond, the Heart of the Ocean, and also the identity of the beautiful young woman in the portrait: "Oh, yes. The woman in the picture is me." Rose, accompanied by her granddaughter, flies out to the recovery site and proceeds to tell the treasure hunters of her experiences on the Titanic.
Rose, just 17 years old in April of 1912, boards the ship with the upper-class passengers with her mother, society matron Ruth DeWitt Bukater; and her fiance, industrialist Caledon Hockley. Rose clearly does not feel very much for Caledon, but her mother pushes for the marriage for financial security, to maintain their current lavish lifestyle and bolster their social cachet among the Philadelphia elite. Meanwhile, a drifter and artist named Jack Dawson wins third-class tickets to the ship in a poker game.
Rose is so unhappy about her forced engagement, as well as her endlessly shallow life, that she attempts to kill herself by jumping off the stern of the ship. Jack sees her and intervenes to prevent her suicide. Rose's company finds the two and Caledon reluctantly invites Jack to dine with their party the following evening in the first-class dining saloon in gratitude. In the meantime, Rose and Jack soon strike up a tentative friendship as he shares tales of his adventures in traveling and she expresses her own hopes, and he shows her his sketchbook of artwork. Their bond deepens when they later ditch the first-class formal dinner party for a much livelier gathering belowdecks in third-class.
Jack is clearly falling in love with Rose, but Rose is inclined to ignore their growing affection because of her engagement and their different social standings. But eventually she decides to throw caution to the wind and offer her heart to Jack. Rose asks Jack to sketch her wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean diamond, the same portrait the treasure hunters will find 84 years later. They later consummate their relationship in the backseat of a car in one of the ship's cargo holds.
In the meantime, Captain Edward J. Smith and his crew have been seemingly ignoring many warnings about upcoming ice fields in the ship's path, and the Titanic maintains the high speed suggested by White Star Line managing director J. Bruce Ismay even as the ship heads into the night. On the night of 14 April 1912, the two lookouts see an iceberg directly in the Titanic's path. Despite the many efforts of the crew and engineers, the ship strikes the massive berg, flooding the lower compartments past their "unsinkable" capacity and causing the ship to begin its unstoppable descent to disaster.
Caledon discovers the relationship between Jack and Rose and gets even by framing Jack for stealing his diamond. Even though she has the chance to escape the sinking ship early on with her mother, Rose runs away from Caledon — and her chance at getting into a lifeboat — to find Jack. She frees Jack and they try desperately to make their way back above decks to escape the rapidly sinking ship. They find many obstacles, including locked gates that are used to keep the third-class passengers from reaching the upper decks to safety, as well as Caledon's violent temper that forces them back to the lower decks. They finally make their way to the top deck, but the lifeboats are gone and they, along with hundreds of terrified passengers, have no choice but to try to head aft and stay on the ship for as long as possible before the titan sinks completely into the water. The bow of the ship sinks deeper and deeper until the pressure on the hull causes the ship to split completely in half, before the two halves finally go under at 2:20 AM on April 15.
Rose and Jack stick together and wait with the hundreds of other passengers thrashing helplessly in the water, shouting desperately for those in lifeboats to row back and rescue them. By the time one of the officers decides to row back and help those in need, almost all of the passengers have died of hypothermia in the freezing Atlantic. Rose is heartbroken to realize that Jack has succumbed, as well. She bids him goodbye, then manages to get the lifeboat's attention to come back and rescue her. The survivors in the lifeboats wait for hours until the RMS Carpathia, the closest ship to answer and heed the Titanic's radio distress signals, arrives to save them. Upon arrival at New York City Rose discovers she still has the Heart of the Ocean tucked into the pocket of Caledon's coat.
Back in Rose's room, the viewer sees pictures of her life's achievements, including a photograph of her riding a horse at the Santa Monica Pier, just as she and Jack had planned to do together. To view some of these photos, go to www.rosedawson.com Rose lies in bed nearby, a scene where some fans have debated whether she is asleep or had passed away. Underwater, the Titanic looms out of the darkness and everything turns new again. A steward opens the doors from the promenade deck to the Grand Staircase, where all those who died on the ship smile in greeting. At the top of the staircase, Jack turns and smiles at Rose, a young girl of 17 again, smiling back as he helps her up the last few steps. They kiss as the crowd applauds at the couple.
Criticism and reception
Titanic generally opened to lukewarm reviews. Many reviewers felt the story and dialogue were weak while the visuals were spectacular. Jeff Millar of the Houston Chronicle wrote, "When the ship does hit the berg, at the one-hour-and-45-minute point, we are immediately compensated for the padding in writer-director James Cameron's basic narrative — a shipboard romance." Titanic's cost and size was compared to classic Hollywood epics, Roger Ebert said "It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted and spellbinding. If its story stays well within the traditional formulas for (Hollywood epics), well, you don't choose the most expensive film ever made as your opportunity to reinvent the wheel."
When the film opened in the U.S. on December 19, Titanic received steady attendance, but by Sunday that weekend theaters were beginning to sell out, with Titanic's opening weekend gross totaling $28,638,131. Titanic's popularity did not abate and theaters were still being sold out three months after the film’s release. Titanic differs from most films released since the late 1990s in that it took fifteen weeks for its weekly gross to drop by 50%. Typically films drop by about 40% a week. By the end of March, 1998 Titanic had become the first film to earn more than $1 billion. Many filmgoers saw Titanic multiple times, and the related soundtrack and book became top sellers.
Titanic grossed a total of $1,845,034,188 worldwide and is the highest grossing film of all time. When corrected for inflation, the U.S. domestic gross is actually the sixth highest of all time, immediately behind The Ten Commandments. Similar figures for the global box office are not readily available, but the international box office grew in significance for Hollywood movies in the 20 years between Star Wars and Titanic, and it is at least plausible that its worldwide gross of $1.8 billion is the largest all time even if inflation were accounted for.
The depiction of First Officer William McMaster Murdoch caused controversy in Murdoch's hometown of Dalbeattie, Scotland. The film depicts the first officer accepting a bribe, shooting two passengers in panic before committing suicide. 20th Century Fox apologized for the depiction and James Cameron donated $8,340 to a memorial fund dedicated to Murdoch.
- Full article: Titanic soundtrack
The soundtrack CD for Titanic was a big seller composed by James Horner and led to the release of a second volume that contained a mixture of previously unreleased soundtrack recordings with newly-recorded performances of some of the songs in the film, including one track recorded by Enya's sister, Máire Brennan.
Titanic won Oscars in just about every category it was nominated in except for the acting and makeup categories. Titanic was nominated in 14 categories and won 11, being the second movie to win that number (the first was Ben-Hur with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King matching the record in 2004). It was at the time also the only movie of which both two people playing the same person (Kate Winslet as Rose and Gloria Stuart as Old Rose) were nominated (coincidentally, the second film to be so nominated, Iris, also starred Winslet).
- Art direction — Art Direction: Peter Lamont; Set Decoration: Michael Ford
- Cinematography — Russell Carpenter
- Costume Design — Deborah L. Scott
- Direction — James Cameron
- Film Editing — Conrad Buff, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris
- Music (Original Dramatic Score) — James Horner
- Music (Original Song) — "My Heart Will Go On," music by James Horner; lyric by Will Jennings
- Best Picture — James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
- Sound — Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, Mark Ulano
- Sound Effects Editing — Tom Bellfort, Christopher Boyes
- Visual Effects — Robert Legato, Mark Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, Michael Kanfer
It also received the following nominations:
- Best Actress in a Leading Role — Kate Winslet
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Gloria Stuart
- Best Makeup — Tina Earnshaw, Greg Cannom, Simon Thompson
Titanic was first released to DVD in North America in 1999 in a widescreen-only single disc edition with no special features. Cameron stated at the time that he intended to release a special edition with extra features at a later date. Six years later, on October 25, 2005, a special edition release finally occurred with a 3-DVD set that included a widescreen-only presentation of the movie divided onto two of the discs, 45 minutes of deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a faux 1912-style newsreel, a crew tribute/gag reel, and other features. The three-disc edition is released by Paramount Pictures, Region 1, for USA and Canada only.
An international two- and four-disc edition will be released by Twentieth Century Fox, Region 2 (PAL) and Region 4 (NTSC) encoded. The international releases were originally scheduled at the same time as the USA and Canadian release, but was postponed tentatively to November 7, 2005.
The 2005 DVD release included about 45 minutes worth of deleted scenes that were cut from the film either for pacing, to shorten the film to a marketable running time, or for reasons James Cameron describes in his commentary as "tonal". Some of the cut sequences are minor additions, while others are major scenes. The public were first made aware of many of these deleted scenes with the publication of Titanic's screenplay in 1998 and a few of them were first shown in a Fox TV special detailing the making of the film, and later Cameron incorporated some of the cut scenes into his Titanic Explorer CD-ROM. Still other scenes involving Jack and Rose passed into near-legend with fans of the romantic subplot of the film wanting to see more of their heroes.
The following is a list of 19 of the major deleted scenes included on the DVD release. There were 31 deleted scenes in total:
- An extension of Rose unpacking her paintings, in which Cal clearly states that he believes her to be a virgin. The context is in discussing how the beds have never been slept in before.
- Prior to her suicide attempt, Rose is shown trying to undress herself but growing violently frustrated when she is unable to do so (due to the nature of high society costuming at the time, servants were required to assist with dressing and undressing).
- A lengthy sequence that would have followed Rose being presented with the Heart of the Ocean, starting with a CGI morph of young Rose's hand holding the diamond to a closeup of Old Rose's hand. Old Rose announces that she is tired and needs rest, but Brock wants to continue pumping her for information. Old Rose is adamant and returns to her quarters. Brock is reminded that his sponsors want to pull the plug on the expedition, after which he is confronted by Rose's angry grandaughter, Lizzy. Brock explains his dream of finding the diamond, and shows Lizzy how his hand will look as it holds the diamond. Lizzy asks Brock if he believes Rose was on the Titanic, and he replies "Yeah, I'm a believer". (This dialogue was included in some of the trailers for the film). The cut sequence continues with another CGI morph from the Titanic wreck to Rose walking along the Promenade Deck. She then sneaks through the gate into Third Class and searches for Jack in the Common Area where is he talking with Cora, a young girl. Rose finds Jack and thanks him for saving her life.
- A scene that would have followed the above had Jack and Rose discussing her dreams, and she talks about her desire to become a movie actress. To emphasize the point, she vamps for a passenger's movie camera.
- After the Third Class party sequence, Jack walks Rose back to the First Class entrance as they sing "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine." Rose says "I don't wanna go back" and the two look at the stars for a few moments, spotting a meteorite cutting across the sky. Jack says everytime you see a shooting star, it's a soul going to heaven. This scene emphasizes the later significance of Rose whispering "Come Josephine" while staring at the sky after Titanic and Jack is lost.
- During Rose and Cal's tour of the ship, they also visited the gymnasium, which was recreated faithfully from old photographs. (A later deleted scene shows passengers huddling in the gymnasium while waiting for lifeboats.)
- A brief piece of dialogue that reveals Lovejoy is a former cop hired by Cal's father to take care of his son.
- After their romp through the boiler room, and prior to the lovemaking scene in the car, Jack and Rose kiss passionately among the boilers.
- The Californian tries to warn Titanic about the ice fields, but are rudely cut off by the radio operators on board. The Californian's radio officer gives up and goes to bed.
- Right after the collision, there was originally a comedic moment with Molly Brown asking a bartender for "a little ice" as the iceberg passes the window behind her. Historically speaking, this is inaccurate as Brown had actually been reading in her stateroom at the time of the collision; Cameron said he cut the scene as he felt in retrospect that it was inappropriate to include a comical moment at such a crucial point in the film.
- Jack and Rose play with the ice that has fallen onto the deck, Jack confident the ship is safe. Rose drops a piece of ice down Jack's shirt.
- A historically famous moment in which one of the two Titanic radio operators suggests his colleague use the "new" SOS distress signal. "Might be the only chance you get to use it."
- In her lifeboat, Molly Brown teaches some of her fellow passengers how to row.
- After Cal realizes he has accidentally given the diamond to Rose, there originally followed a lengthy and suspenseful cat-and-mouse fight sequence between Lovejoy and Jack in the quickly flooding main dining room. This sequence was cut by Cameron after it received unfavorable responses from test audiences. This scene explains why Lovejoy sports a head injury just before his death in the final version of the film.
- Cora, the little girl who befriended Jack, is shown drowning with her family, trapped behind a locked Third Class gate.
- Captain Smith orders the mostly-empty lifeboats to return to Titanic for more passengers. Aboard Molly Brown's boat, the crewmember in charge (Robert Hichens) refuses, saying it's every man for himself. "The fools," Smith says.
- After Jack helps Rose to get on the floating door following Titanic's sinking, another man tries to get on as well, but Jack threatens to kill him if he does as there's only enough room for Rose. Jack is also shown realizing at this point that he is going to die.
- An alternate, extended version of the Carpathia rescue sequence that shows additional footage of the survivors, including footage of Second Officer Lightoller and a group of other survivors balancing on the overturned collapsible lifeboat B (based upon historical accounts and a famous sequence from A Night to Remember).
- An alternate version of the scene in which Old Rose throws the diamond into the ocean. In the cut version, Old Rose goes to the stern of the ship and looks up at the sky and sees a shooting star (a reference to the earlier "Come Josephine" scene aboard Titanic that was cut). Brock, Lizzy and Lewis notice her and think at first that she's planning to jump. When they realize that she had the diamond all the time, Brock tries to convince her not to throw it away, but she won't be swayed. She does, however, allow him to hold it in his hands - and his hand makes the shape that he showed Lizzy in the earlier scene. Rose then throws the diamond into the water. (This last sequence is not included in the "deleted scenes" section of Disc 3 of the DVD release, but rather is included by itself on Disc 2. It is dubbed an alternate ending, although strictly speaking the sequence in which Old Rose goes to sleep or dies and returns to Titanic and Jack is identical in both versions.)
Although he agreed to include these and other scenes (there were 31 in total) on the DVD release, James Cameron has stated that he has no intention of reintegrating any of these sequences into the movie (unlike what he did with his earlier films Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Aliens which were released in extended versions with deleted scenes reinstated).
- ^ Millar, Jeff: “Jaw-dropping spectacle fills 'Titanic'”, Houston Chronicle, December 16, 1997.
- ^ Ebert, Roger: “Titanic”, Roger Ebert.com, December 19, 1997.
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- ^ Smith, Helen: “’Titanic’ Makers Apologize to Hero’s Hometown”, Reuters.
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- Titanic official website
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- Titanic at Moviemistakes.com
- Girl Power At the Moviesbs:Titanic (film 1997)
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