Time: 98 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Won Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Nominated for Best Art Direction.
SYNOPSIS: Unhappily married and uncomfortable with life among the British upper crust, Julia Sturges takes her two children and boards the Titanic for America. Her husband Richard also arranges passage on the doomed luxury liner in order to fight for custody of their two children. Their problems soon seem minor when the ship hits an iceberg.
BOTTOM LINE: It's hard to judge this film after watching James Cameron's version – which perfectly marries the luxury of the ship, the lives of those on that fateful voyage and the horror of the disaster into a melodrama of epic proportions worthy of the ship's undying legend. While it manages with the finale to still capture the emotional devestation of the passengers, it fails to truly engage until that point. By being filmed in B+W, even though color was widely available, this version fails to capture the glamour and excitement of being on this vessel, making it feel just like every other film that takes place on a boat where people fall in and out of love while crossing the Atlantic.
Stanwyck and Webb give the scenes of their dissolving marriage real poignancy, but it's hard to understand her running away from a man who merely spoils their children. Surely, she could have put her foot down in Europe and forced him to require more of them than knowing which fork to use. Granted, their daughter Annette (Dalton) is a bit stuck up and fashion conscious, but that's fairly normal for an 17-year-old girl. She, of course, finds love in the arms of the all-American athlete played by the gorgeous Robert Wagner, who breaks down her haughty reserve to find the lovely girl underneath. At least the film tries to convince you of that. The impending doom of their romance adds a bit of pathos to the picture, but I still found it hard to care all that much.
While the actually sinking of the ship isn't all that impressive effects being what they were in the early 1950s the loading of the lifeboats still grips at the heart. That the hubris of the shipping line caused so many unnecessary deaths is hard to swallow no matter what version you're watching. I don't understand how it won the an Oscar for its screenplay, which is nothing special, especially since they already knew how the story was going to end. This is a decent family drama, but nothing to run out and see.