Brian Henry Martin at the movies

The Best Titanic Movie

Published Thursday, 29 March 2012
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Forget about Kate and Leo in 3D, the best Titanic movie, like the ship itself, is Belfast built by a legendary local filmmaker...

In May 1911, a six year old local boy was among the thousands of spectators that witnessed the launch of the mighty ship Titanic into Belfast Lough.

Forty seven years later and the same Belfast boy re-launched Titanic onto cinema screens with the best movie version of the ocean liner's ill fated maiden voyage. His name was William MacQuitty and the film was A Night To Remember.

"The most important thing that a film producer needs is a first class story", wrote MacQuitty and he certainly knew he had that when in 1958, along with director Roy Baker Ward, they brought Walter Lord's definitive Titanic account A Night To Remember to the big screen.

The tragic sinking of the world's biggest and most luxurious ocean liner is a captivating story, whose minute by minute retelling reads like a bestselling thriller. The devil in this story was indeed in the detail.

The film like the book was meticulously researched, based entirely on eyewitness accounts. There was no fictional love triangle placed into this screenplay.

In fact, there were no fictional characters at all. A Night To Remember is as much documentary as it is drama. MacQuitty himself, prior to production consulted shipyard workers, family members and Titanic survivors. Some of whom even visited the set to meet the cast members who were playing them.

The all now-familiar characters of Titanic's icy demise appear here; including the stoic designer Thomas Andrews, the cowardly boss Bruce Ismay and the unsinkable passenger Molly Brown. If there is a star of the film, it is Second Officer Lightroller (brilliantly played by Kenneth More), who not only heroically survives the disaster but also goes on to serve with distinction in both World Wars.

"The most moving image for me " explained William MacQuitty years later, "had been not from the film, but of Joseph Boxhall, Fourth Officer of Titanic, sitting on his own in the theatre as he watched the final scene of Titanic sinking.

He had been the officer on deck when the ship struck the iceberg. He had fired the rockets and seen the vessel slowly founder: "Had we got it right?" I asked him.

He wept and said "Terribly right".'

Terribly right is the greatest review anyone could give A Night To Remember. Sobering to recall that more than 1500 people lost their lives that fateful night.

A Night To Remember is very much MacQuitty's film. You only have to view the opening credits, before the title, before the actors, before Titanic, one name is emboldened across the screen in giant white letters, A William MacQuitty Production.

MacQuitty went on to produce a slate of first class movies and was even one of the founders of UTV.

So we have a lot to thank him for, including this film blog.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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