By Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
James Cameron’s Titanic is arguably the greatest movie of all time. The winner of eleven Academy Awards, it made Leonardo DiCaprio a teen heartthrob, earned Kate Winslet her second Academy Award nomination, and was the first film to gross more than one billion dollars at the box-office (not adjusted for inflation and also during its original theatrical run from 1997-1998). Some people might not know that there have actually been numerous films about the sinking of the Titanic prior to the release of James Cameron’s celebrated romantic epic. One of the most famous of those films is A Night to Remember, and that film truly does capture the horrors of what it must have been like to be on the ship as it slowly sank to its underwater grave.
This film actually shares a lot of parallels with James Cameron’s epic. The portrayal of the ship sinking in this black-and-white classic is just about as dramatic as the film that won eleven Oscars in technical categories. Indeed, the attention to detail given to capturing the historical accuracy of the actual sinking is one of the best features of this film because it really does make audiences empathize with the characters on-screen, and depicts what it must have been like to be on the Titanic as it sank during that fateful night. The special effects are also very remarkable since a lot of the modern technology that James Cameron utilized was not available to the filmmakers of A Night to Remember when they made it during the late 1950s. Indeed, watching the ship sink in this classic black-and-white drama is a very thrilling experience, and some scenes in this particular film actually look strikingly similar to the beloved “Best Picture” winner.
Even with all of the splendor used to recreate the grandiose Titanic, there isn’t that much of an actual plot in this film. Part of the appeal of James Cameron’s romantic tale is just the simple fact that his film is a lot like Romeo and Juliet. In other words, the 1997 classic was very accessible (and it has also been said that Romeo and Juliet is William Shakespeare’s most accessible play when compared to other dramatic works from the Bard).
Not only that, but a lot of immigrants in modern times who come to America to pursue “The American Dream” also like Titanic (1997) just because it is one of the few English language films they could actually understand (especially if English is not their first language). Not only that, but Titanic is also a crowd-pleasing favorite for cinephiles all over the world. In contrast, A Night to Remember can be difficult to understand at times simply because there are too many characters. Maybe James Cameron knew that making a film about the sinking of the Titanic with a simple plot would be the best way to approach the depressing subject matter, and he was obviously right when his film became a critical success both in terms of awards and box-office revenue. It is also worth noting that Cameron wrote the screenplay himself, which sort of meant that he did the “right” thing (pun intended).
A lot has changed since the release of Titanic in 1997. Kate Winslet earned her first Oscar for The Reader (2008), Leonardo DiCaprio (FINALLY!) won an Oscar for The Revenant (2015), and La La Land (2016) made Oscar history when it tied with Titanic (1997) and Ben-Hur (1959) as the most nominated films in Oscar history. The historic sinking of the Titanic remains a hauntingly tragic tale about how human folly cannot compete against the mysterious depths of the deep blue sea. Some people might not even know that the Titanic had sister ships from the White Star Line, and that the Britannic also sank even though it did not achieve the same level of infamy as one of the most terrifying nights in history. It has already been more than one hundred years after the ship sank in 1912 (as of 2018), but that horrific tragedy will always be “a night to remember” (pun intended).
A Night to Remember (1958) Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time the crew members lower lifeboats
Take a Sip: for every SOS distress signal sent through Morse Code
Take a Drink: every time the background musical score sounds haunting
And Do Not Be Sober: as the film becomes increasingly tragic until the very end