The sinking of HMS Titanic in 1912 provides a factual basis for this screen drama reenacting the tragic voyage. Story line is built around fictional characters aboard the supposedly unsinkable British luxury liner when it started its maiden voyage from Southampton to NY on April 11, 1912.
During the first half the film is inclined to dawdle and talk, but by the time the initial 45 or 50 minutes are out of the way, the impending disaster begins to take a firm grip on the imagination and builds a compelling expectancy.
Jean Negulesco’s direction and the script really shine after the ship’s bottom is opened by a jagged iceberg spur, bringing out the drama that lies in the confusion of shipwreck and passengers’ reaction to certain doom. The records show that of the 2,229 persons aboard, only 712 escaped before the ship plunged to the bottom of the North Atlantic at 2:30 a.m., April 15, 1912.
Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb do well by the principal roles in the fictional story. She is a wife trying to take her two children (Audrey Dalton and Harper Carter) away from the spoiling influence of a husband interested only in a superficial society life. A shipboard romance between Robert Wagner, a student returning to the states, and Dalton offer some pleasant, touching moments. Brian Aherne is excellent as the ship’s captain. Richard Basehart, a de-frocked priest addicted to the bottle, makes his few moments stand out.
1953: Best Story & Screenplay.
Nomination: Best B&W Art Direction