Remembering the Titanic: Films, Books, Music and More
Remembering the Anniversary of the Titanic Disaster
When the Titanic sank 103 years ago, the event captured the public's imagination and signaled the end of an era.
If you are intrigued by the atmosphere of the the luxury liner, the following movies, music, books, and activities will serve to give you a taste of the experience--minus a plunge in the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic.
Best Books about the Titanic
Here are some of the most thorough and readable books about the Titanic disaster. The undisputed classic for 50 years has been Walter Lord's A Night to Remember, a brief, detailed, and personable account of all the major events that comprised the Titanic experience.
In addition, you will find a fascinating book about the Titanic's food and its chefs (complete with recipes), a fascinating account of the real life of the "unsinkable" Molly Brown, and lovely works of fiction.
Though this book was written in 1955, it is still the classic account of the night the Titanic sank.
At the time of the writing, Lord was able to interview about 60 of the survivors, giving him access to first-person recollections. Through this original research, he was able to write a distinct and detailed account.
Lord, a journalist by training, has kept his story tight, bringing in relevant and interesting detail when needed, but always keeping in mind that his readers want to know what happened next.
Even the foreword to the book is a page-turner, as he describes a novel written in 1898 which eerily foreshadows the Titanic disaster.
Interestingly, Lord says that contemporary accounts in newspapers were almost useless. The New York Times did a good job, but others made up stories because the captain of the Carpathia wasn't willing to tie up his wireless to give them details of the sinking.
The details Lord chooses for his story tell us not only about the "what" of the story but also of the "why," and how the Titanic's fate fits in to the broader context of history.
Book: "UNSINKABLE" The Full Story
This retelling of the Titanic saga includes enough specific detail for the ardent fact hounds among us, yet never loses hold of a fast-paced and engaging narrative.
While it covers the same territory as Walter Lord's classic A Night to Remember, this book goes into more detail about such things as the shipbuilding, the social and historical milieu, the resulting inquests in the courts, and the mission to raise the Titanic.
"It has been said that ‘Titanic ’is the third most widely recognized word in the world, following ‘God’ and ‘Coca-Cola.’” With this sentence, Butler starts us off on a book full of fascinating insights that he has gleaned from 30 years of research.
Book: Titanic Recipes
The recipes in this books give you a feel for the sumptuousness of the Titanic--and many of them are not particularly hard to make. More than a cookbook, this work also describes several facets of Edwardian society.
Even if you never intend to make any of the recipes collected in this book, it is still worth perusing for its descriptions and illustrations of daily life among the first class and crew .
The stated purpose of this book is to help readers re-create the first-class dinner of that last night on the Titanic, but unless you have access to a sous chef, servers, squab, and Edwardian dress, and have three days to devote to preparing and serving this 11-course meal, you'll probably be content with inviting a few friends over for a fancy dinner, putting some Edwardian music on the stereo, and serving up a few dishes that appeared on the Titanic's menu.
Book: Molly Brown: Unraveling the Myth
Margaret Tobin Brown was a woman well worth getting to know, and this biography is one of the best at bringing the spirited, generous, and practical woman to life with a satisfying, but not overwhelming amount of detail.
Brown's rags-to-riches rise to wealth, her high profile in society, and her survival of the sinking of the Titanic assured that her story would be turned into a legend. During her life, the newspapers and society gossips loved to spread outlandish tales about her, and when she died, the myth-making machine went into overdrive, spinning out colorful – if not accurate – descriptions of her exploits, some of which morphed into tall tales.
In actuality Iversen tells us, Margaret Brown (no one ever called her Molly during her lifetime) was born to a hard-working, staunch Irish Catholic couple. She learned to read and write quite well at school, and whatever formal education she did not share with her rich peers she worked to remedy with tutors and courses of study.
This biography is an eminently readable and enjoyable description of the life of a woman whoused her fortune, lived the good life, and work tirelessly to help others. The ending chapter provides a fitting closure to this description of Margaret Brown's life. After disembarking the Titanic and assuring her family that she was alive and well, Margaret returns to the ship to help those third class survivors who have no one to meet them at the harbor. The other rich ladies are spirited away to exclusive hotels, but Brown stays until she known as everyone is taken care of.
Book: The Watch That Ends the Night
In this novel, poet Allan Wolf gathers together 25 characters from the Titanic and gives each one a series of brief, poetic monologues, thus encompassing many viewpoints of the disaster on the Titanic.
We hear from the powerful (millionaire John Jacob Astor, steamship CEO Bruce Ismay, ship captain E. J. Smith), the well-to-do (Margaret Brown), as well as laborers, crew, gamblers and immigrants. We also hear from the iceberg and the ship's rats.
Readers will be drawn in by the poignancy and fresh insight that these voices have to offer. They will learn of Lebanese children and the obstacles they encounter in trying to make a new start in a new land. They will hear the thoughts of a captain who has never been in a seafaring accident and can't imagine that he will ever be in one. They will see a sympathetic portrait of the millionaire JJ Astor, a man who has perfected several inventions and has written a science fiction novel. They will cheer along with the spunky Margaret Brown who finally defies the sour crewman in the lifeboat and urges her fellow women passengers to row to safety.
And intercut through all the voices, they will follow Mr. John Snow, the undertaker, whose job it is to gather up some of the more than 1500 who were lost that night and embalm them so that they can be taken back to their relatives.
As we approach the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, this well-researched book will provide readers an immersive experience in the dreams, fears, ironies and nobility that make up the Titanic drama.
Book: Distant Waves: a Novel of the Titanic
Most people think of turn-of-the century America as stodgy and quaint, but this engaging novel presents a truer picture of the possibility and exuberance of the era. People were just getting acquainted with such amazing new inventions as electric lights that lit up the room without fire, or messages that could be sent over great distances on the airwaves.
Though the story is at its heart a romance, (doesn't every Titanic story have to have a romance?), it has some meat on its bones, and--like all good historical fiction--it wants to introduce us to the interesting people and events of the time.
Reading this book, we meet a veritable who's who of the era: in addition to Tesla, the girls in the story meet millionaire John Jacob Astor, author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini the magician, and the British journalist W. T. Stead. It's a book that has a little of everything: romance, class distinction, family secrets, science, politics, and a famous disaster.
CD: Titanic Music - Songs to Set the Mood
Nothing sums up the feel of an era quite so much as the music, and in these collections you can hear the sounds of the jazzy new ragtime songs that were taking the world by storm, as well as the popular songs of the day, and the light classical that provided ambience for diners on the Titanic.
All eight musicians aboard the Titanic chose to stay on the deck of the ship and play their tunes, presumably to keep passengers calm and orderly as they boarded the lifeboats. They played until the ship was nearly sunk, and none of them survived.
Musician and jazz composer Carl Wolf chooses several pieces of music that were popular in 1912 - ragtime, light classical, and waltzes - and groups them by the venue in which they were most likely played from a First-Class Dinner Dance to Tea in the Palm Court.
The Memphis Jazz Band, a strings-and-piano chamber group, performs such tunes as "The Maple Leaf Rag," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," "The Merry Widow Waltz," and "Blue Danube." The last selection is "Nearer My God to Thee," which was reported by some survivors to be the last piece played.
Each song is available as an MP3 download as well.
This CD includes many of the songs mentioned by passengers who survived the shipwreck.
Tracks include "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "Shine on Harvest Moon," and "Songe d'Automne," which many credible survivor accounts indicate was the last song played by the band.
Each song is available as an MP3 download as well.
Book: Titanic (Eyewitness Books)
Each two-page spread covers a different aspect--from the building of the Titanic, to the travel conditions, to what happened in the final moments of the sinking. Each page has numerous photos.
Flipping through the pages, you can see standard photos of the Titanic and of the famous passengers and crew. But you can also see more unusual images: the "mechanical camel" in the gymnasium, the White Star Line playing cards, a replica of the wireless room, the medal given to the captain of the rescue ship Carpathia, dining menus, and a multitude of other photos.
Ostensibly produced for children, this would be a fine volume for Titanic buffs of any age.
Titanic 4-Part Series
This four-part miniseries penned by Julian Fellowes (the creator of the popular Downton Abbey series) follows the fate of thre groups of people: in first class, we have the Earl of Manton and his wife and daughter; in second class we glimpse into the life of a lawyer and his wife; and we also follow the adventures of one of the crew, an Italian immigrant waiter name Paolo.
Like Downton Abbey, this series has sumptuous cinematography, romance, commentary on class distinctions, and dramatic performances immersed in Edwardian times.
The story often backs up and shows events from another's person's point of view, which can seem a little disjointed, especially when the series was aired on television with commercial breaks.
Most viewers agree that the uninterrupted DVD experience is a better way to watch it.
To see the trailer, click below.
Museums: Gathering in the Experience
Museums have gone far beyond warehouses of dusty relics and have included site, sound, and feel in interactive exhibits that can give visitors a deeper understanding of the experience.
Currently "Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition" is open in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, Kansas City, and Singapore. The curators have cleverly and deftly combined sound, sight, and touch to take you on a coherent journey that allows you a sense of what it was like to be a passenger on the Titanic. For a review of the exhibition, click here: Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Titanic museums in Branson, Missouri and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee are sponsoring a number of events to coincide with the centenary. Titanic Museum
And the Molly Brown house in Denver, which was home to Margaret Brown, one of the most outspoken and colorful survivors of the Titanic, is planning a year of special exhibitions, teas, performances and lectures. Molly Brown House
How to Get (or Assemble) a Titanic Dress
Here are a couple of sites that include good information for buying or making a dress that looks like it's from the Titanic era.
- Titanic Dresses
This site includes quite a few good resources. It has recommended places to by ready-made dresses (including the dresses in James Cameron's movie, Titanic, as well as sources for patterns if you want to sew your own.
- How to Make a Titanic Swim Dress on a Budget
When I read that this site purported to show you how to make a Titanic-style dress for under $20, I was skeptical. But the site has very good pictures, as well as a video, and I decided to head down to my local used clothing store and give it a try.
What do you plan to do to commemorate the anniversary of the Titanic?