Titanic at the Movies

You’re probably familiar with the 1997 blockbuster, Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The film won 11 Academy Awards, and was the one of the most expensive movies ever made, costing approximately $200 million. The main characters are fictional, but some of the passengers and crew are based on real people.


In addition to the Titanic mega-hit by director James Cameron, there have been many movies made about the famous ocean liner. The first was released only 29 days after the sinking and starred one of its real passengers, actress Dorothy Gibson. Gibson wore the same dress in the movie as she did in the lifeboat that saved her life. Entitled Saved from the Titanic, all copies were lost in a movie studio fire following its release.


 A few foreign silent films about the Titanic followed. Then in 1929, the first sound film about the sinking was released. Titanic: Disaster in the Atlantic was produced in English, German, and French. It was highly fictionalized, and because it was the first full-length film offered in Germany, it became a big hit there.

In 1943, Nazi Joseph Goebbels oversaw a propaganda film, Titanic, in which a German officer is the hero and the British are the villains. It became the first film to mix fictional subplots and characters with historical figures. It was filmed aboard a German liner which later sank, with the loss of life greater than that of the actual Titanic.


Still regarded as one of the most historically accurate films about the Titanic, A Night to Remember was released in 1958. Based on the book by Walter Lord, some of the special effects scenes from the 1943 German film were ‘borrowed’.


Other Titanic movies include:

The Unsinkable Molly Brown, released in 1964, staring Debbie Reynolds.

Raise the Titanic, 1980, starring Jason Robards.

Titanica, 1995, an IMAX documentary narrated by Leonard Nimoy and featuring interviews with two survivors.

Ghosts of the Abyss, 2003, IMAX documentary from Walt Disney Pictures exploring the wreckage.

Titanic II, 2010, set aboard a new luxury liner Titanic II that hits an iceberg on her maiden voyage.

As long as interest in Titanic remains, there are certain to be more movies featuring some facet of the doomed ship. As for Titanic II, there are plans to build just such a ship—an exact replica of its namesake. More on that in a future post!

The Actress aboard the Titanic

Silent screen actress Dorothy Gibson, 22, had just completed her role in the romantic comedy, “The Easter Bonnet,” and she and her mother decided to vacation in Europe. After a few weeks, her producer wired her to return to the US and begin a new series of films. From Paris, they booked passage on Titanic and boarded the ship in Cherbourg.

dorothy gibson

Dorothy Winifred Brown was born in New Jersey in 1889. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother married John Gibson. Beginning in 1907, Dorothy sang and danced in several Broadway musicals. She began modeling in 1909, and her image was soon seen on magazine covers, postcards, and various merchandise.

In 1911, she was hired as leading lady for the American branch of Éclair, a French film-making company. She became a popular star in a series of comedies and dramas. Her most famous role was that of Molly Pitcher in the Revolutionary War drama, “Hands across the Sea.”

On the night of April 14th, 1912, Dorothy played bridge with “a couple of friendly New York bankers” aboard Titanic. When the game ended around 11:40 pm, she headed for the cabin she and her mother shared. She later recalled hearing “a long drawn sickening crunch” and soon noticed a slant in the deck. She hurried to awaken her mother.

They boarded Lifeboat 7, the first lifeboat to be lowered. Carrying only 28 passengers, the boat was less than half full. Water gushed in through a hole as soon as it reached the ocean’s surface, but Dorothy stated it “was remedied by the volunteer contributions of the lingerie of women and the garments of men.” Regarding the sinking, she said, “I will never forget the terrible cry that rang out from people who were thrown into the sea or who were afraid for their loved ones.”

Barely a month after the sinking, she starred in the first film made about the disaster, “Saved from the Titanic.” She wore the same gown in the film that she wore on her last night on the ship. The movie was criticized for being released so soon, when many were still grieving and coming to terms with what happened. Her career faltered, and after a brief marriage, she gave up acting and moved to Paris. Dorothy Gibson died in 1946 at the age of 57.

advert Saved from the Titanic D gibson

Advertising poster for Dorothy Gibson's last film