Stuck in an unloving marriage, rich socialite Julia Sturges (Barbara Stanwyck) boards the Titanic with her two young children with the intent of divorcing her husband, Richard (Clifton Webb), when she arrives in the States. At the last minute, Richard discovers her plan and manages to get on board the ship in an attempt to convince her to stay with him. Their marital problems take a backseat, however, when the Titanic collides with an iceberg and begins its descent into history.
Today Barbara Stanwyck is remembered primarily as the matriarch of the family known as the Barkleys on the TV western The Big Valley (1965), wherein she played Victoria, and from the hit drama The Colbys (1985). But she was known to millions of other fans for her movie career, which spanned the period from 1927 until 1964, after which she appeared on television until 1986. It was a career that lasted for 59 years.
Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York, to working class parents Catherine Ann (McPhee) and Byron E. Stevens. Her father, from Massachusetts, had English ancestry, and her Canadian mother, from Nova Scotia, was of Scottish and Irish descent. Stanwyck went to work at the local telephone company for fourteen dollars a week, but she had the urge (a dream–that was all it was) somehow to enter show business. When not working, she pounded the pavement in search of dancing jobs. The persistence paid off. Barbara was hired as a chorus girl for the princely sum of $40 a week, much better than the wages she was getting from the phone company. She was seventeen, and was going to make the most of the opportunity that had been given her.
In 1928 Barbara moved to Hollywood, where she was to start one of the most lucrative careers filmdom had ever seen. She was an extremely versatile actress who could adapt to any role. Barbara was equally at home in all genres, from melodramas, such as Forbidden (1932) and Stella Dallas (1937), to thrillers, such as Double Indemnity (1944), one of her best films, also starring Fred MacMurray (as you have never seen him before). She also excelled in comedies such as Remember the Night (1940) and The Lady Eve (1941). Another genre she excelled in was westerns, Union Pacific (1939) being one of her first and TV’s The Big Valley (1965) (her most memorable role) being her last. In 1983, she played in the ABC hit mini-series The Thorn Birds (1983), which did much to keep her in the eye of the public. She turned in an outstanding performance as Mary Carson.
Barbara was considered a gem to work with for her serious but easygoing attitude on the set. She worked hard at being an actress, and she never allowed her star quality to go to her head. She was nominated for four Academy Awards, though she never won. She turned in magnificent performances for all the roles she was nominated for, but the “powers that be” always awarded the Oscar to someone else. However, in 1982 she was awarded an honorary Academy Award for “superlative creativity and unique contribution to the art of screen acting.” Sadly, Barbara died on January 20, 1990, leaving 93 movies and a host of TV appearances as her legacy to us.
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Denny Jackson
During the boarding of the lifeboats, Norman changes seats with a woman who arrives at the last moment when the boat was completely full. This was inspired by the action of a Mexican passenger in first class named Manuel Uruchurtu, who did the same thing to a woman from second class who was refused a seat on the lifeboat. After he gave up his seat to her, he asked her to travel to Mexico, if she survived, and tell his wife what happened. His body was never found.
The filming of the disaster had a powerful effect on Barbara Stanwyck, who recalled: “The night we were making the scene of the dying ship in the outdoor tank at Twentieth, it was bitter cold. I was 47 feet up in the air in a lifeboat swinging on the davits. The water below was agitated into a heavy rolling mass and it was thick with other lifeboats full of women and children. I looked down and thought: If one of these ropes snaps now, it’s goodbye for you. Then I looked up at the faces lined along the rail – those left behind to die with the ship. I thought of the men and women who had been through this thing in our time. We were re-creating an actual tragedy and I burst into tears. I shook with great racking sobs and couldn’t stop.
To ensure authenticity, the producers recruited a former captain of the Queen Elizabeth as a technical consultant, and no background music was played during the feature film-the only music heard was that of the musicians aboard the ship.
The character of Maude Young, portrayed in this motion picture by Thelma Ritter, was obviously based upon Mrs. J.J. “Unsinkable Molly” Brown of Denver, Colorado. Even though the actual names of some of the other passengers were used in the film, Mrs. Brown’s was not. It has been suggested that there was some dispute between 20th Century Fox and the Brown estate over the use of Molly Brown’s character. Therefore, Molly Brown of the Denver, Colorado gold silver mining fortune became, for this motion picture, Maude Young of Montana lead mining.
Opening credits prologue: All navigational details of this film — conversations, incidents and general data — are taken verbatim from the published reports of inquiries held in 1912 by the Congress of the United States and the British Board of Trade.
Some of the original Titanic survivors were invited to a tear-filled special screening of the film in New York.
Many of the sets (including the ship model) were reused for several other films after this such as Dangerous Crossing (1953) and in particular the dining room, cabins, grand staircase, lounge, radio room, boat deck, promenade deck and the deck chairs. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) used the ship model (remodified), the dining room walls, the lounge, the promenade deck, and the deck chairs again. A Blueprint for Murder (1953) the ship model (remodified), the dining room, promenade deck and deck chairs were all reused again. Then finally in Woman’s World (1954), which also starred Clifton Webb only the dining room walls were used. The ship model is displayed at the Marine Museum of Fall River in Fall River, Massachusetts.