Titanic: Movie Mistakes

titanic

I’m always baffled how movie makers can approach a project that is popular enough to have a league of “amateur historians” following it, and then make correctable mistakes in their movie. It’s just asking for nitpickers to get out there in hordes (and we do) and point out the flaws in the material. Sometimes, it’s done for artistic license, but most of the time… it’s just a mistake.

Here’s some of the mistakes movie-makers have made!

titanic blood and steel

 

Titanic: Blood & Steel

  • The entire premise of this series is based on the idea that the steel used to form Titanic’s hull was “weakened” through the plate-making process. However, identical steel was used in Olympic, which collided with two separate vessels and survived; Titanic’s hull is largely intact on the ocean floor.
  • Emphasis is placed on Titanic being larger than Olympic, whereas historically they were the same length, width, and tonnage.
  • Thomas Andrews is shown as being indifferent about the ship’s construction when it comes to fixing the “steel problems”; in actuality, he was a perfectionist and at the forefront of championing improvements for Titanic’s safety (such as additional lifeboats). He was also a burly, good-natured man, and adored by everyone who worked at Harland & Wolff.
  • Captain Smith speaks of a storm that worried him about Olympic’s capabilities as a safe vessel; actually, it proved her superior design and was undamaged afterward (she did not have to “limp into New York harbor”). Similarly, any concern about the enormous size of the ships is greatly over-exaggerated.
  • The timeline of this miniseries is incorrect pertaining to the building of Titanic and Olympic; the latter is in usage as the former is beginning construction (the ships were built side by side, and Olympic only launched a year ahead of her sister ship). Though Olympic’s collision with the Hawke did force Titanic out of her dry dock for repairs, unlike as depicted in the series, Titanic was already much further along in the fitting-out process.
  • When Thomas Andrews assesses the damage to Olympic, the damage is shown on her forward-port quarter, instead of her aft-starboard quarter.
  • The blueprints seen for Titanic are actually all of the Cunard liner Lusitania (1907).
  • Several main characters start their journey in Belfast. Only crew members, Thomas Andrews, his “guarantee group,” and a Board of Trade official boarded the ship in Belfast; all other passengers had to board in Southampton.

moviemistakes2

Titanic (ITV, 2012)

  • It was not the White Star Line that brought Murdoch on board and demoted Lightoller to 2nd Officer; it was Captain Smith.
  • Unlike is written in the series, Titanic was nowhere near full capacity (thus, Lord Manton would have had no trouble booking first class cabins for his family).
  • There are no documented Italian stewards, stokers, or passengers on board other than two men in steerage.
  • Where is Thomas Andrews’ Irish accent?
  • The Batley’s vehicle is green, which means it’s a post-WW1 model-T Ford.
  • There was no dancing in first or second class on board ship.
  • Lightoller is not on duty when he ought to be; he is also fraternizing and dancing with a first-class passenger (which would never, ever happen).
  • Multiple times, the ship is shown sailing in the wrong direction.
  • Colonel, Mrs. Astor, and Thomas Andrews are shown playing cards just prior to the collision; in reality, all three were in their cabins.
  • Locked, full-length gates are shown to keep third class passengers beneath deck (they did not exist in real life).
  • Colonel Astor’s wife is placed into a lifeboat a full hour ahead of the historical account, and into the wrong lifeboat, on the wrong side of the ship, on the wrong deck level.
  • Rockets are fired from the stern, rather than the forward boat deck.
  • Steerage passengers were not allowed into first class for the Sunday church service (2nd class had their own service, and in third class, a Catholic priest presided over mass). Other third class passengers are later in first class sections of the ship, which never would have happened.
  • Moody incorrectly says they are only loading first class ladies into the boats (all ladies were loaded).
  • Lowe leaves the ship in the wrong boat, an hour later than he actually departed, from the wrong side of the ship.
  • Astor is crushed when the funnel falls; historically, his body was intact from any such damage.
  • The forward funnel falls in the wrong direction.
  • The Countess of Rothes was never in the same boat as Margaret Brown.

titanic

Titanic (1996)

  • The rooms Cal, Rose, and her mother occupy on the ship were actually Bruce Ismay’s.
  • Margaret Brown was never referred to as “Molly.”
  • Ismay did not dine with passengers, but alone at his own table.
  • The automobile in the hold was in a crate, and you couldn’t access the hold from the boiler rooms.
  • Thomas Andrews says the iceberg ruptured five compartments (historically, he knew it was six).
  • The real master-at-arms office where Jack is imprisoned had no porthole (it was an interior cabin).
  • Molly Brown was one of the last to board Lifeboat #6, not the first.
  • Thomas Andrews gives Rose the wrong directions to the master-at-arms office!
  • Again, there were no floor-to-ceiling gates separating third class from the rest of the ship (all but two of the gates were waist-high). There were isolated instances of passengers being kept below, but no such discrimination as is depicted throughout the second half of the film.
  • Lowe was never ordered into a boat (Moody suggested it), and it was likely him and not Lightoller who threatened to shoot passengers “like dogs.” (Lowe is wrongly depicted as having a Welsh accent.)
  • If an officer did shoot himself, it may not have been Murdoch (and it happened later in real life than it does in the film).
  • Captain Smith leapt into the ocean; he did not drown in the bridge.
  • The Straus’ did not die in their stateroom, but on deck.
  • Old Rose gives the wrong number of lifeboats that returned to pick up passengers, and the wrong number of survivors taken from the water.

titanic

A Night to Remember (1958)

  • The film opens with the christening of Titanic; no White Star ship was ever christened.
  • Lightoller travels to Titanic as her 2nd Officer; until the ship reached Southampton, he was its 1st Officer.
  • Smith and Ismay never ate at the same table.
  • Lightoller would not mingle with passengers (nor would other officers).
  • Titanic had no “children’s playroom.”
  • Ida Straus’s first name was not Rachel.
  • Margaret Brown didn’t succeed in persuading Hitchens to return for survivors.
  • Titanic life rings were not imprinted with the ship’s name.

Please visit this website for more documented mistakes on all three films.

titanic

Titanic (1953)

  • The ship did not have a dance floor, and dancing would have been seen as inappropriate among first class passengers.
  • None of the interiors resemble those on the original ship, and the hairstyles and clothing style favor the 1950’s.
  • Crew members on Titanic did not wear British Navy uniforms.
  • The cabin number given for the Astors’ cabin never existed.
  • Titanic had no shuffleboard, no tailoring shop, or traditional “bar.”
  • The ship did not strike the iceberg on its port side.
  • As the ship went down, its funnel broke off, and all the lights would have been out. The movie shows it going under much too fast.

16 Replies to “Titanic: Movie Mistakes”

  1. hi there! i came across this post after failing to make it through even the first episode of julian fellowes’ titanic. “where did the £11 million go?” indeed! i was curious as to why you said 5th officer harold lowe is “wrongly depicted as having a welsh accent” in the 1997 film. wasn’t he welsh? he was born in eglwys rhos, conwy, so wouldn’t he have a welsh accent? i always based a titanic recreation’s merits on whether or not the characters had their proper accents on. (thomas andrews was from co. down, not london, people!) just curious to know! 🙂

  2. “There were no floor-to-ceiling gates separating third class from the rest of the ship (all but two of the gates were waist-high). There were isolated instances of passengers being kept below, but no such discrimination as is depicted throughout the second half of the film.”
    Arrrrggggg . . . every time I remember this it angers me. How dare they depict the men and women of the Titanic in that light. And the depiction of Murdoch . . don’t get me started.

    But, on a fun note, I’m loving your “Titanic” themed week.
    Cheers!

    1. Much as I love James Cameron’s film, he went out of his way to misrepresent most of the crew — for reasons I don’t understand. I’ve ranted about this in the past, so I’ll spare you another rant.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it! I’m having fun too, and trying to come up with at least 2 posts per day, with different themes (toward the end of the week, there’ll be some oneshots from the perspectives of historical figures, and some guest posts!).

      1. Yes, I’ve read your previous rant, and screamed at the points you’ve mentioned as well. It does kind of surprise me that Molly Brown was depicted the way she was (in our feminist charged world and all), or maybe they are attempting to further vilify the men… I don’t know.
        Whoa – this is gonna be great. Excited!

  3. What I find amusing is that as the years went by, more mistakes were made, when you’d think it’d be the other way around.

    1. I think less and less research is involved with more recent productions (I left out two other films, which also are nothing like the original happenings), or there are cases when for storytelling purposes, certain details are ignored and/or made up (like locking Steerage passengers below decks).

      A Night to Remember is the most accurate, because it’s based on Walter Lord’s book, which was written soon enough after the disaster to include eyewitness accounts. 🙂

      1. I get making things up for dramatic effect, but still, you’d think there’d be more accuracy! But I think you’re right. They’re more focused on telling the story and less so on the details. Which is silly really. How hard is it to get some of these things right?

        1. It isn’t hard, particularly now, when you can take twelve seconds while building a set, or setting up a camera, or reading a script, and fact-check online. Sometimes mistakes are the fault of the director… or the set designer… but many times, they’re the fault of the scriptwriter, and there’s no worming out of that one.

          The mistakes in Julian Fellowes’ miniseries are made all the funnier by the fact that, pompously, he stated that this miniseries would “set the facts straight” that the Cameron film got wrong. Well, I appreciate him NOT having Murdoch commit suicide — but putting Lowe in the wrong boat is pretty darn embarrassing. (I caught that while watching it, and if it’s been ten years since I went all OCD on Titanic-related facts, that’s pretty bad.)

          1. Lol! I’d forgotten it was he who wrote the mini-series. Is it worth watching, or should I just stick with Cameron’s movie?

          2. Well, some people liked it. I thought it was terrible — the characters were under-developed, the acting was pretty wooden, and it didn’t even LOOK like the actual ship. (As my friend Katie put it, “Where did the eleven million dollars go? Because it sure wasn’t into those tacky, el-cheapo sets!”) I watched it once, as it aired on television. I then tried watching it again months later — and quit after the first episode. I’m going to give it one last go this week as I watch my way through Titanic Movies, but… we’ll see. So I’d say no, don’t go out of your way to see it. But… if you get a chance to see Titanic: Blood & Steel DO IT.

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