Night to Remember, A [1958]

Two years after Twentieth Century Fox released its melodramatic disaster film Titanic in 1953, Walter Lord's meticulously researched book A Night to Remember surprised its publishers by becoming a phenomenal bestseller. Lord had an intuition that readers craved the reality of the Titanic disaster, and not the romantically mythologized translations that relied on fictional characters to enhance the world's worst maritime disaster. Lord's book proved that truth is far more compelling than fiction. Three years after it appeared, the book was brought to the screen with the kind of riveting authenticity he had insisted upon in his own research. The 1958 British production of A Night to Remember remains a definitive dramatization of the disaster, adhering to the known facts of the time and achieving a documentary-like immediacy that matches (and in some ways surpasses) the James Cameron epic released 39 years later. The film erroneously perpetuates the once-common belief that Titanic sunk in one piece (instead of breaking in half as its bow began to plunge), but many other misconceptions are accurately corrected, and the intelligent screenplay by thrill-master Eric Ambler is a model of factual suspense. By making Titanic the star of the film, director Roy Baker emphasizes the excessive confidence of the booming industrial age and creates an intense realism that pays tribute to Walter Lord's tenacious quest for truth. --Jeff Shannon

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