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Titanic 1953

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Titanic (1953) starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck
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Titanic (1953) starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck

Titanic (1953) is the story of an unhappily married couple, on board the doomed ship.


Titanic (the 1953) version is a lot of things. The word “heartbreaking” comes to mind. At the heart of the story, there’s an unhappily married couple, the Sturges. She’s uncomfortable with life in the British upper crust. Their marriage has been strained for a long time. She’s taken her two children, and boards the Titanic for America. Her husband also arranges passage on the doomed luxury liner. To keep custody of their two children. And, in the background, there’s the inevitable sinking of the ship. Which the audience knows is coming, but the characters don’t.

There’s other characters’ stories as well, but at the center is the unhappy marriage. The couple clearly once loved each other, but it’s been a very rocky road for them. Then there’s a revelation about his son that rocks the father to his core. The boy is not his son. His wife had a one-night stand, after one of their many fights. He’s heartbroken, but tries not to outwardly show it. Especially to the young man, whom he now knows is not his biological son. And then, the ship hits the iceberg …

The ending is sad, tragic, and heartwarming all at the same time. Titanic is highly recommended, with great acting all around.


  • Clifton Webb (Laura) … Richard Ward Sturges. The father, on the verge of divorce, who has his world shattered. But, he manages a heartwarming moment at the end …. Which I won’t spoil here.
  • Barbara Stanwyck (The Two Mrs. Carrolls) … Julia Sturges. The unfaithful wife and mother. She truly loves her children, and once loved her husband. And, in the tragedy, learns that she still loves him.
  • Robert Wagner (The Towering Inferno) … Gifford Rogers. 20 year old college man. The young man, who starts to fall in love with Annette. He risks his life to fix the lines on one of the lifeboats.
  • Audrey Dalton (Mr. Sardonicus) … Annette Sturges. The lovely young daughter. Likewise, she falls in love for the first time on board the Titanic.
  • Harper Carter … Norman Sturges. The likable young man. Richard’s son, though he’s unaware that he’s not his biological son.
  • Thelma Ritter (All About Eve) … Maude Young. An expo for the unsinkable Molly Brown. She’s a wealthy woman, coming from a working class background.
  • Brian Aherne (Merrily We Live) … Captain E. J. Smith. Captain of the doomed ship. He’s trying to set a speed record …
  • Richard Basehart (The Island of Dr. Moreau) … George Healey. A former Catholic priest, who’s been defrocked for alcoholism. He has a chance to redeem himself here.
  • Allyn Joslyn (Only Angels Have Wings) … Earl Meeker. Social climber. He tries to disguise himself as a woman, to secure a spot in the lifeboats. He’s exposed.

Editorial review of Titanic courtesy of

Titanic (1953) starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck

Although it was never known for strict authenticity, the elegant 1953 production of Titanic holds just as much fascination as A Night to Remember and James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster. Its original screenplay deservedly won an Oscar® for its brilliant, dramatically involving creation of fictional characters–primarily a strained couple on the verge of divorce (Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck)–whose lives are forever altered on that fateful morning of April 15, 1912.

Director Jean Negulesco focuses on this human drama, lending a personal touch to the luxury liner’s fatal collision with an iceberg; if the scale-model disaster (complete with motorized miniature lifeboat rowers) looks quaint by modern special-effects standards, it still captures the emotional impact of Titanic‘s ultimate fate. While Titanic‘s sinking is inaccurately depicted (here the ship is damaged on the port side, and sinks in one piece), the Webb/Stanwyck relationship is handled with sophistication, style, and well-earned redemption. As would happen with Cameron’s Titanic 44 years later, fiction proved a perfect vehicle for tragic factual history. –Jeff Shannon

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