Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titanic-100 years later

100 years later and so much to say, I have to start with the fact that in college I majored in history minored in film and had enough time to sneak in a couple of TV production classes and this week Titanic was all three.

Documentaries help make history come alive when we can it is good to hear from those who have studied a particular event or from those who were there (Today most of us can remember where we were on 9/11). There were many docs that aired this week and two of them “starred” the man who found the ship Robert Ballard. I’ll begin with Titanic: Ballard’s Secret mission-This was the story of how Mr. Ballard was able to locate the magnificent ship. For years he search with many other “treasure hunters”  as they searched the greatest depths of the ocean floor to find her, they knew Titanic's basic whereabouts but never quite got close enough. In the early 1980s Ballard knew he could find her but he needed some help. Here we come to a story that I had never heard until this week. Robert Ballard was a retired commander of the U.S. Navy and he went to them to ask for funding, surprisingly they said yes but he had to do something for them first. In the 1960s The Navy had two submarine missions that went terribleablly wrong and ended with the lost of life along with the subs. They had sonar but they knew Ballard had a new type of robot that could actually go down deeper then any before and see what was down there. In exchange for what he needed Ballard first had to find these subs and find out what happened to them, afterwards if there was anytime life he could go on his search. The submarines were called The Theser and The Scorpion. To make a long story short Ballard and his team did find them and with 12 days left in his deal early in the morning ( amish) on September 1 1985 her found her. And 75 years after The Titanic had fallen Mr. Ballard and the rest of the world got to see her again. 100 years later and Robert Ballard is still working to keep The Titanic “alive” in Save The Titanic Ballard wants to help preserve the ship as she continues to lay in her ocean grave. His goals are to stop illegal scavenging of Titanic artifacts and her farther unnatural decay (if you have a million dollars you too can take a trip deep down to see The Titanic) according to Ballard's research she doesn’t look the same from the first time he visited, the crowsnest that stood tall seems to have been broken off, it could have been nature but most likely a pasting sub knocked it down. I am all for this especially if it mean having guard robots. It is a grave let it be.
Next I was able to watch Titanic with Len Goodman (yes the mean, old judge on Dancing with the stars). You’ve heard of some of the more famous passengers like Marget “Molly” Brown, J.J. Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim but there were 2200 people aboard Titanic when she hit that iceberg and Goodman wanted to learn about some of them. He started where the ship was built Belfast Ireland and her master ship builder Thomas Andrews(more on him later), there he learned that 8 men died even before she touched the water. He was able to read the report on each of them and how they died.. Titanic first stop when she left her hometown was Southampton England. It was there where she picked up most of her crew and passengers and where the lost of life was most felt by those left behind.Along the way he was able to talk to same of the descendants of those who took the doomed voyage to find out who these men and women were and how they lived.
There was Luigi Gotti, who was a a chief and in charge of one of the main dining cafes. Titanic was a ship of many people with different backgrounds from all over the world, Mr. Getty was Italian. He got to choose his own staff so of course he brought the waiters that were already working with him. He and his crew were were cleaning the kitchen the ship struck the iceberg, non e of them survived. When he was serving the upper class passengers there were more below deck, the immigrants who could afford a ticket but didn’t get the private suite with multiple rooms attached. Among this group of so called steerage there were two brothers, John and Phillip Kiernon. They tried everything to get to the upper decks to try and live but according to some accounts got trapped by closed gates and finally when they found a way through it were too late. A crew member names John “Jack” Phillips who was one of the wireless operaters. Although there were warnings of icebergs with all the telegraphs going out it was hard to pay attention. After she struck the iceberg Mr. Phillips desperately singled,with the new Marconi machine , for help “12:25  come we have stuck a berg” and when the Carpathia finally got the message he answered ‘yes come quickly’and continued with ‘C.Q.D” which was SOS at the time until the power was lost  and it was too late for him to save himself. Out of the 2200 aboard 700 survived. Len Goodman learned that many of them for years and even the rest of their lives experience what sounded like to me some kind of PTSD. Two of these survivors were crew members, who worked as female stewardesses, those women who attended to the upper class passengers. They were Violet Jessup who as soon as the ship stuck the iceberg got on her life jacket and woke people up to get them out. Even after the disaster she continued working and went on over 200 voyages and retired in 1950. another was May Sloan who went on to have a life and family into the 1970s.
Some of the survivors didn’t turn out so lucky  and some of them were questioned as to how the lived especially many of the men. If you have seen the movie you you know one of these men was J. Bruce Ismay the newspapers villianfied him with others but no so more the Hearst the big newspaper magnet himself and he died in disgrace. Did these men deserve to be hated? Who knows? No one who wasn’t there can honestly say what they would have done or how they would acted?  But Len Goodman summed it up the best “The story of Titanic is about the people” . Those who lived and those who died each had a story worth knowing.

Speaking of those stories what of the one about Rose Dewitt Bukaterter and Jack Dawson, yes it is a fiction as an epic love story can get but when Titanic the film written and directed by James Cameron originally opened in theaters I was a female 17 year old high school Senior who loved the movies, romance and a touch of history, in other words the studios key demographic.
The film really begins when a elderly Rose tells her story about “the ship of dreams”. A young Rose (the beautiful and talented Academy award winner Kate Winslet) steps out of her chofer driven automobile and gets her first glance at The Titanic. As Rose, her fiancee Cal (Billy Zane) and her mother Ruth (Francis Fisher) board the ship a penniless artist named Jack (the amazing Leonardo DiCaprio) wins a  pair of 3erd class tickets for he and his friend, Fabrizio ( Danny Nucci ) they run to the ship just as her doors are about to close . the best way to discribe a film that has been around for 15 years is to pick a scene and write. The second time Jack sees Rose she runs by him and steps over the railing of the stern and looks down at the water as if she is about to jump. Jack walks up behind her and just starts to talk. I think just talking about himself helped calm Rose enough to make her see that killing herself wasn’t what she really wanted to do. This is also the first time we hear “You jump I’ll jump right in after.” Which is an important line to remember in the end. After that to reward him for saving Rose , Jack is invited to have dinner in the 1st class dining area. The dinner scene and the 3erd class scene right after shows just how different the two worlds on the ship were. At the dinner everyone was dressed in their finest. Jack had to barrow dress clothes from new money passinger Molly Brown ( Kathy Bates) and they get to eat dinner with the man you may have known more about the ship then anyone Thomas Andrews (The 1st movie I saw the wonderful Victor Garber  in). the main topic of conversation was the differences between Jack and Cal. Jack doesn’t like caviar and believes in luck while Cal would soon learn that it is better to make your own luck. Afterwards the men retire to another room for cigars and to talk about “being masters of the universe”. Instead of joining them Jack decides “it is time to go row with the other slaves” and as he says goodbye to Rose he secretly hands her a note and when she meets up with him he asks her if she “wants to go to a real party?”at this party in 3erd class Rose is able to have some fun and drinks beer, dances with Jack even though she “doesn’t know the steps” and shows off a hidden talent. I believe it is also when she begins to fall in love with Jack. It was Kate Winslet’s  favorite scene to shoot a when watching it you can see why, all the characters/actors seem to really be having fun. We fast forward to the moment The Titanic stuck the iceberg, the reason why we all saw the movie in the first place right? I have to say as hard as it is to watch my favorite scene is when Mr. Andrews is explaining to the Captain Smith (Bernard Hill ) and Mr. Ismay (Jonathan Hyde) that ‘From this moment on no matter what we do Titanic will flounder” Ismay “But this ship can’t sink” Andrews “She’s made of iron sir I assure you she can and she will it is a mathematical certainly” Smith ‘How much time?” Andrews “A hour, two at most.”  This brings me to the actual sinking of the ship the chaos director James Cameron gave the viewer is amazing and sad. Passengers fighting for a spot on the lifeboats, The Band playing on, the ship splitting in two, people some we know and some we don’t but all trying to stay on her for as long as they could but failing to do so as the fall to their deaths. Then there was James Horner's music, the 1st time I realized just how important the music is to a film was when I was watching Titanic on Dec. 20 1997. The music you hear directly influences the emotion you feel at the time. Back to Jack and Rose who were holding on tight in the same place they first met as Titanic finishes her descend into the cold ocean.
All this is why Titanic the movie is worth seeing even now in 3D. Cameron did a great job keeping it similar yet different. In 3D I was able to see more of the action in the backgrounds. During the dining scenes I actually noticed and could see what the other passengers were doing, the real depth of the ship herself and there was a moment where I swear the sunset blinded me. If you haven’t scene this 11 out of 14 Academy Award winner including best song “My Heart will go On”,  Best Director and of course best film then check it out now before Titanic disappears for another 100 years.


Titanic: Blood and Steel

This week on the Starz cable network is a 12 part 6 day mini-series that I have been watching and enjoying. With the backdrop of the building of the greatest passenger ship ever Titanic: Blood and Steel is a another side of her sad story. You most likely have not heard of this miniseries and it will be over before you read this but I had to add it.
The story starts when I a man named Mark Muir (Kevin Zegers) is hired as a Metallurgist to test the steel being used to build the ship. He is young, smart and naive when he enters this world of powerful men including Derek Jacobi as Lord Pirrie the head of the ship building company and American steel tycoon J.P. Morgan played by Chris Noth. He quickly comes to blows about the qulity of the steel being used to build Titanic with head ship builder Thomas Andrews :) played by Billy Carter and finds himself in a love triangle with with an upper class woman and a Italian immigrant named Sophia Silvestri (Alessandra Mastronardi) who works with him as a drawer/copier.
The story is less about the ship and more about those who built her. It was the turn of the century in Belfast, Ireland. There is religious uprising, Catholics against Protestants. But the real issue just may be workers rights as the men placing the rivets into the ship are fighting for Equal Pay for an equal work day.
With his father now in town it turns out Mark may now be who he says he is as a man dies after a fight between the protesters and militery. I am looking forward to what happens next and if I made you even a lettle interested check out Titanic:Blood and Steel.

Thomas Andrews-A mini bio

 After I saw the film for the first time I became a fan of Victor Garber and fell in love with Thomas Andrews.

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