On the 14th of April, 1912, Titanic struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage and quickly sank. Many people were lost due to insufficient lifeboats. Yes, I know; everybody knows. Is there a non-war-related historical event more familiar than this? Not many.
Amazing what a little 1997 film can help to do. (Not that Titanic was the ONLY film on the topic, but was clearly the most successful.) It “achieved critical and commercial success. It equaled records with fourteen Academy Award nominations and eleven wins, receiving the prizes for Best Picture and Best Director. With a worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion, it was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark, remaining the highest-grossing film of all time for twelve years.” And it was just re-released in 3D, which Roger Ebert reviewed.
I think it succeeded because it was a kitchen sink film that appealed to a lot of people. There was this love story that touched some, not so much for me. There were the class issues, which I found more interesting. There was the hubris of the boat builders, applicable in other settings. And then there was the disaster itself, which, if you didn’t think too much about the ACTUAL PEOPLE WHO DIED, was rather spectacular. (SamuaiFrog revisits the film.)
Another issue was the music. I have the original soundtrack, composed, orchestrated, and conducted by James Horner, and I found it a bit too much of the same feel. But, I also have Back to Titanic, “which contains a mixture of previously unreleased recordings and newly-recorded performances of the songs in the film…Horner created a new suite of music, comprising light and dark sections from the score, which represents the ‘soul’ of his music for the film.
“In addition, several of the source numbers from the film were included into this second album. From ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ to the raucous pipe and drum rhythms heard in the Irish folk music played in the lower decks, these selections recreate the most poignant moments in the life and death of the great ship. ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was played on the deck by Wallace Hartley’s small orchestra and lifted spirits as the ship settled, lights blazing, into black oblivion. And ‘Come Josephine, in my Flying Machine’, which Jack Dawson briefly sings for Rose DeWitt Bukater and Rose sings when she is waiting to be rescued in the freezing seas. The song was a top hit song the year before the sinking.”
The second album, to my ear, is vastly better than the first, because it’s more eclectic, and frankly, more representative sonically of the film as a whole. Though I can avoid the bit when Celine Dion’s huge hit ‘My Heart Will Go On’ is interspersed with movie dialogue; that’s the reason for the skip button on the CD player.
See what Neil deGrasse Tyson got James Cameron to fix for the re-release of Titanic.
Then watch the video, which has nothing to do with Titanic, but a lot to do with my own growing up.
Pretty much everything you need to know about the Titanic.