The blockbuster movie of 1997, Titanic, directed, written, co-produced and co-edited by James Cameron, starred Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater. They both meet and fall in love aboard the ship that had an ill-fated maiden voyage. For this movie, the director shot actual wreckage of Titanic. To shoot his scenes on the ship, he reconstructed the Titanic and used scale models and computer-generated imagery for recreating the sinking of the ship. At the time that it was made, partially funded by Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, its American and international distributors, it was the most expensive film ever made with an estimated budget of $200 million. The film grossed over $1.8 billion worldwide, and became the first ever film to reach a billion dollar mark. The film received critical and commercial success and got fourteen Academy Award nominations, winning eleven at the end, including the Best Picture and Best Director. The movie is also ranked as sixth best epic film of all time in AFI’s Top 10 by the American Film Institute.
But despite all its apparent flawlessness, the film just like the ship it was based on, is not unsinkable, but has many factual errors. There are other errors too, but then for it perhaps we need a whole need book to cover them all up. There are some minute to major contradictions in history of both events and in technical details of the ship. These errors are easy to detect for a keen observer because a large amount of documentary data is available to compare with. Here is the list of top ten flaws in the movie, Titanic (1997):
10. In the beginning of the movie, the car which brings Rose and Cal to the docks at Southampton has an RB (a car registration index mark) registration plate, which was not introduced until 1929. And the cabins B52-54-56, in which both of them were supposed to stay, actually was the suite occupied by Chairman Bruce, who was wrongly depicted as a coward. But according to the testimonies of the actual survivors of the Titanic, he was heroic and had to be convinced on getting into a lifeboat.
9. Titanic is shown to be docking at Southampton in a brilliantly sunny day, but the original photographs from the event show an overcastted sky. When Titanic is leaving the dock, she accelerates in few seconds to an incredible speed, which is impossible as it was a large steamer helped off by tiny tugboats. In the large shot, a viewer can see the tugboats towing Titanic out into the sea, so it is impossible to immediately gain high speed while still near the docks.
8. When Rose is shown settling in her room on the ship, she is admiring a Claude Monet painting called “The Nymphs”, which was actually painted in 1915. Not only this chronological error exists, but Rose also mentioned Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s view about the male preoccupation with size while she was talking to Bruce. However, Freud did not publish his work regarding this until 1920 in “The Pleasure Principle” and his data was solely depended on females.
7. On the first-class, passengers had no access to the promenade at all, and Jack being a steerage passenger would have never been allowed there. Hence, he would have never met Rose or the other first-class passengers. Unlike as shown in the film, the third-class passengers were never locked below deck to give priority on saving the first-class passengers when Titanic was sinking. In fact, as soon as the ship began to sink, the crew immediately went below to lead the third-class women and children to safety. However, most of these passengers could not understand English and hence three quarters of them died due to the lack of communication. Not only this upper-class attitude has been shown wrongly, but the film had devalued the “women and children first” custom of the time. In reality, it would have been impossible to think for a man to save himself instead of a woman or a child. The men have been wrongly depicted as selfish.
6. When Jack and his friend Fabrizio are running to catch the ship, Jack is holding a rucksack on his back, which was a standard issue Swedish Army gear from 1939. But this is not the only mistake with Jack’s appearance. The button on the left side of Jack’s borrowed jacket is a “Kingsdrew” button, which were first made in 1922. Another interesting bit of a mistake is that his character smokes hand-rolled cigarettes in the beginning of the film, which is fine, but later he is smoking a mass-produced filter cigarette while on the stern deck when trying to save Rose from jumping off the ship, which were not produced in 1912 but were invented later for safety of health. The lake that Jack told Rose he went ice fishing on when trying to save her was Lake Wissota, which is a man-made lake in Wisconsin near Chippewa Falls (where Jack was raised), but it was only filled with water in 1918 when a power company built a dam on the Chippewa River. Another factual mistake in Jack’s conversation is that he expresses to Rose that he will take her to Santa Monica Pier where he rode on the roller coaster. Even though that the pier was there since 1909, but the portion for the amusement activities was not even purchased until 1916 and the roller coaster was not added until then.
5. The hymn that the first-class passengers have been shown to sing at the church service about “those in peril on the sea” has four verses, which was written in 1860. But the verses that have “protect them by Thy guarding hand” and “O Spirit whom the Father sent” were not written until 1937. Hence, how could they have been sung at the service? Another factual error related to the church service was that on the Titanic the service was non-sectarian, but based on the Anglican Church in England (or Episcopal in America). These services were conducted by the Captains and hence they were open to anyone, thus Jack should have not been shown being stopped to enter in order to meet Rose.
4. While trying to find Jack after his capture, Rose comes across Mr. Andrews. She asks him for directions to reach Master-at-Arms’ office where Jack has been kept. The complex directions that he gives do not correspond with the real deck plan of the ship. It would have led her nowhere. However, when she does eventually reach him, he is handcuffed to the pipe. The elbow joint is a modern welded joint, not a bolted flange joint. Perhaps this was done deliberately to allow Jack some movement.
3. When Rose arrives in New York half asleep after being saved by the lifeboats in Carpathia, she looks at the Statue of Liberty which is shown to be of the same colour as it is now. There is a plate fixed on the Statue of Liberty that tells about the original colour being brown that took over 35 years to change. The Statue of Liberty was placed there in 1886 and so in 1912, it still should have been partly brown if not overall. Also the flame was replaced in 1986 upon its 100th anniversary with a golden flame and in the film it shows the Statue holding a torch with a golden flame which again is a factual flaw.
2. “Le Coeur de la Mer” translates as “The Heart of the Sea” in French. The correct name for the Heart of the Ocean hence should have been “La Coeur de l’ocean”. The actually existing “Le Coeur de la Mer”, that is The Heart of the Sea, is said to have 56 carats in the film, which would make its weight at 11.2 grams, which would be much too low for a diamond of its size.
1. In the film, First Officer Murdoch is shown to have committed suicide by a gunshot to his head, but in reality he did not do anything like that. Two crew members saw him on the Boat Deck attempting to free Collapsible A just before the bridge went under. Officer Murdoch’s depiction of a suicide was taken as a high offence by his family members and James Cameron is said to have apologised for his mistake.