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A Night to Remember

original movie poster
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Produced by William MacQuitty
Written by Walter Lord (novel)
Eric Ambler
Starring Kenneth More
Ronald Allen
Robert Ayres
Honor Blackman
Music by William Alwyn
Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth
Distributed by The Rank Organisation
Release date(s) 1 July 1958 (United Kingdom)
16 December 1958 (United States)
Running time 123 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $1,680,000 (est.)

A Night to Remember is a 1958 docudrama film adaptation of Walter Lord's book of the same name, recounting the final night of the RMS Titanic. It was adapted by Eric Ambler, directed by Roy Ward Baker, and filmed in the United Kingdom. The production team, supervised by producer William MacQuitty, used blueprints from the ship to recreate sets, and Titanic's fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall and ex-Cunard Commodore Harry Grattidge both worked as a technical advisors on the film. The film premiered in the United Kingdom on Tuesday July 1, 1958, and in the United States on Tuesday December 16, 1958.

A Night to Remember ended up winning the 1959 "Samuel Goldwyn International Award" for the United Kingdom at the Golden Globe Awards.[1]



The Titanic was the largest vessel afloat, and was believed to be unsinkable. Her passengers included the cream of American and British society. The story of her sinking is told from the point of view of her passengers and crew, principally second officer, Charles Lightoller (Kenneth More).

Once in the open sea on her maiden voyage, the Titanic receives a number of ice warnings from nearby steamers. Captain Edward J. Smith (Laurence Naismith) is unconcerned and the ship continues on at high speed.

Late on April 14, 1912, a lookout spots an iceberg directly in front of the ship. The ship turns hard to port, but the Titanic collides with the iceberg on its starboard side, opening the first five compartments to the sea, below the waterline. Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe), the ship's builder, inspects the damage and finds that the ship will soon sink.

A distress signal is immediately sent out, and efforts begin to signal a ship (depicted to be the SS Californian) that is on the horizon, a mere 10 miles away. But the ship's radio operator is off duty and he does not hear the distress signal. Fortunately, the radio operator on the Carpathia receives the distress call, understands the emergency and immediately alerts Captain Arthur Rostron (Anthony Bushell) who promptly orders the ship to head to the Titanic at maximum speed.

Captain Smith orders his officers Lightoller and Murdoch to start lowering the lifeboats. Many women and children are reluctant to get in a small, cramped lifeboat, and Murdoch and Lightoller must use force to put them in. Many men try to sneak into the lifeboats, but Lightoller will not allow them. Murdoch, working the other side of the ship, is shown as more accommodating to men. As the stewards struggle to hold back women and children holding third-class tickets ("steerage"), most of the women and children from second and first class climb into the lifeboats and launch away from the ship.

The bow of the ship is taking in a lot of water and there are only two collapsible lifeboats left. Lightoller and other able seamen struggle to untie them and, unable to take the time to put passengers into the boats, leave them in the hope that the boats will save more lives.

The RMS Carpathia is four hours away and is racing to the site, in hope of saving more lives. The ship sinks amid much chaos on the decks, with third class passengers allowed up from below after the boats are gone.

Lightoller and many others swim off the ship. The ship sinks deeper into the water suddenly a funnel breaks loose and crashes into the water and the ship goes down. One of the overturned collapsibles is floating, so Lightoller and a few more men balance on the boat and wait. Chief Baker Joughin is found in the water, not minding the cold, and pulled up on the boat. Lightoller spots another lifeboat and the men are saved. The Carpathia comes and rescues the survivors.

As the film ends, Lightoller, the senior surviving officer, reflects that they were all so sure about the safety of the ship, and that he will "never be sure again, about anything."


Desmond Llewelyn makes an uncredited appearance as a crew member reassuring the panicking steerage passengers.[2] Bernard Fox, who appears uncredited as the lookout who utters the famous words "Iceberg, dead ahead, sir" also appears as Colonel Archibald Gracie IV in the 1997 Titanic film, making him a cast member of two films about the sinking of the Titanic.


Kenneth More recalled the production of the film in his autobiography, published 20 years later in 1978. There was no tank big enough at Pinewood Studios to film the survivors struggling to climb into lifeboats, so it was done in the open-air swimming bath at Ruislip Lido at 2 o'clock on an icy November morning. When the extras refused to jump in, More realised he would have to set an example. He called out: "Come on!"

I leaped. Never have I experienced such cold in all my life. It was like jumping into a deep freeze. The shock forced the breath out of my body. My heart seemed to stop beating. I felt crushed, unable to think. I had rigor mortis, without the mortis. And then I surfaced, spat out the dirty water and, gasping for breath, found my voice.

'Stop!' I shouted. 'Don't listen to me! It's bloody awful! Stay where you are!'

But it was too late ....[3]

The character of the baker, seen drinking after giving up his seat in a lifeboat to a female passenger, is based on Chief Baker Charles Joughin, who on that night drank some whisky, threw deck chairs overboard, rode the stern all the way down, swam in the freezing water for hours and was eventually picked up by the overturned collapsible boat B, surviving the disaster.

During the sinking, a man pauses as he flees through the first-class lounge to ask ship's designer Thomas Andrews, "Aren't you even going to try for it, Mr Andrews?" This sequence was replicated essentially word-for-word in the 1997 Titanic film, substituting that film's protagonists Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater instead of the man. The scene was also repeated in S.O.S. Titanic with a stewardess asking him if he'll save himself, pointing out that there would be questions that only he could answer. In reality, it was a steward, the last person to see Andrews alive, who asked him if he was going to save himself.

Awards and honours

A Night to Remember won the 1959 "Samuel Goldwyn International Award", at the Golden Globe Awards.[4]

Historical accuracy

Roy Baker's A Night to Remember was long regarded as a high point by Titanic historians for its accuracy.[5] Despite the film's relatively modest production values[6] and the picture-perfect reproduction of the ship's fittings in the 1997 Oscar-winning film Titanic,[7][5] A Night to Remember still receives praise as "the most accurate of all Titanic movies"[8] and "the definitive Titanic tale",[9] especially for its social realism, reflecting, in the words of one critic, "the overwhelming historical evidence that the class rigidity of 1912, for all its defects, produced a genuine sense of behavioral obligation on the Titanic among rich and poor alike; that the greatest number of people aboard faced death or hardship with a stoic and selfless grace that the world has wondered at for most of this century."[10]

Although the beginning of A Night to Remember showcases the ship being christened with a bottle of champagne, the real Titanic was never christened,[11] nor was there a great ceremony when the ship touched water in Belfast, although the White Star Line did host a lunch. The footage of the launch is actually the launching of the RMS Queen Elizabeth.

As with most pictures about the Titanic, filmed before the discovery of the wreck in 1985, A Night to Remember portrays the ship sinking in one piece. The discovery, however, revealed that the ship had broken in two and most films since then (e.g. the 1996 TV miniseries Titanic and the 1997 film) have reflected this finding.[12]


  1. ^ Night To Remember, a HFPA Retrieved 2010-1-4
  2. ^ A Night to Remember (1958 film) at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ More, Kenneth (1978). More or Less. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-22603-X. 
  4. ^ Night To Remember, a HFPA Retrieved 2010-1-4
  5. ^ a b Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, "Singing over the bones: James Cameron's Titanic", Critical Studies in Media Communication (ICMC), Volume 17, Issue 1 (1 March 2000), pp. 1-27.
  6. ^ Celeste Cumming Mt. Lebanon, "Early Titanic Film A Movie to Remember", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (11 September 1998), p. 39.
  7. ^ P. Parisi, Titanic and the making of James Cameron (New York: Newmarket Press, 1998), p. 127.
  8. ^ Michael Janusonis, "VIDEO - Documentary just the tip of the iceberg for Titanic fans", The Providence Journal (5 September 2003), E-05.
  9. ^ Howard Thompson, "Movies This Week", The New York Times (9 August 1998), p. 6, col. 1.
  10. ^ Ken Ringle, "Integrity Goes Down With the Ship; Historical Facts, Including True-Life Gallantry, Lost in Titanic", The Washington Post (22 March 1998), p. G08.
  11. ^ Facts about Titanic Think Quest Retrieved 2010-1-4
  12. ^ Titanic Variety Retrieved 2010-1-4

External links



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