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 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.
Advertising poster for Dorothy Gibson's last film