Recently, my husband and I watched, or in my case re-watched, A Night to Remember, the 1958 British film about the sinking of the Titanic. I am decidedly not a fan of the 1997 film on the same subject, but when it sparked a popular obsession with the ship, I was pulled in and wanted to learn more about the events surrounding one of the most infamous maritime disasters in history. I found the 1953 film Titanic quite well-done even though, like its later namesake, it centered on made-up characters rather than real people. My ex-husband, a Baltimore native, recommended a book about the Titanic written by a local author, Walter Lord. I couldn’t put A Night to Remember down and sobbed during parts of it, yet I also found much humor in the tale of Charles Joughin, the ship’s chief baker, who survived the sinking by getting utterly plastered. I bet not many among us wouldn’t at least consider doing the same if we thought we were soon to exit this world in a horrible way.
Charles Joughin, Titanic’s Chief Baker
In re-watching the film based on A Night to Remember, I was again struck by how faithfully it tells the story of Titanic and those who sailed on her. There’s no melodrama in either acting or script – a story this tragic hardly needs it – and no soundtrack. The only music is played by the ship’s band, including, of course, “Nearer My God To Thee.” Some of the special effects don’t quite hold up – the icebergs, especially, are obviously fake – but the film’s opening, which juxtaposes shots of the actors on-set with actual footage of Titanic’s launching, still looks great.
As for Walter Lord, he had a varied career that included writing advertising copy, serving in the OSS as a code clerk during World War II, and receiving a law degree from Yale once the war was over. He wrote, annotated, or edited 12 bestselling books on topics ranging from military history to civil rights. A longtime Manhattan resident, Mr. Lord passed away from complications of Parkinson’s disease in 2002 and is buried in Baltimore’s Greenmount Cemetery.
Tags:A Night to Remember, Baltimore, Gilman School, Greenmount Cemetery, movie, OSS, Roland Park, Titanic, Walter Lord, World War II, Yale