MOVIE MEMORIES: Braving danger as classic disaster movies are fondly remembered
Hello again big screen fans, my latest ‘Movie Memories’ post for Lanarkshire Live is dedicated, with fond memory, to Georgina Purchase née Murdoch and her daughters Jenny and Edith.
Early in the morning of April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank in the North Atlantic Ocean, killing 1,200 people on that fateful night.
It is the most discussed and documented maritime disaster in 20th century history, so inevitably Hollywood has sought to adapt the tragic story.
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Titanic (1953) was the first film version of the event. Produced by 20th Century Fox, it starred Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb.
The film is viewed with affection by Titanic historians and survivors as the definitive cinematic retelling of history for its accuracy, compared to the 1997 big-budget blockbuster Titanic .
A night to remember (1958), produced by The Rank Organisation, is an extraordinary film which beautifully captures the Titanic tragedy and cemented Rank’s position as the most prestigious producer of British film entertainment.
Based on the 1955 book A night to remember by Walter Lord is the story of real people in a tragic situation. Lord interviewed 64 survivors of the real Titanic at length for his meticulously researched book.
William MacQuitty, the producer of A night to remember was born in Belfast, where the Titanic was under construction. When he was six years old, he saw a team of horses pulling one of the of the titanic giant propellers in the streets of Ulster. When he read Lord’s book over 40 years later, he knew he had to make the movie.
Rank wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea when MacQuitty first proposed it, but he finally won them over when he stated, passionately and directly, that the story was really about the end of a societal era. arrogance and class.
MacQuitty, screenwriter Eric Ambler, cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth and director Roy Ward Baker have endeavored to be precise and A night to remember would become the most expensive film ever made by Rank Organization, through 1958.
The technology was then not available to create computer-generated images. The filmmakers of the time relied on miniature models and the construction of massive sets.
The entire midsection of the ship – four lifeboats and two huge funnels – was built on the grounds of Pinewood Studios under the supervision of art director Alex Vetchinsky and John Boxall, who had been the fourth officer of the Titanic , acting as technical adviser. The film crew used Asturias an Australian ship that was being broken up, to double for the Titanic for lifeboat launches and abandon ship scenes.
Interestingly, the interior sets were built on some sort of jig that would allow the crew to tilt to any angle demanded by the script, simulating the Titanic take water and bow to one side.
When the sets moved, they creaked in a way that was very reminiscent of a real ship. In fact, the moan of the Titanic what you hear on the soundtrack is the recorded creak of the sets when they’ve been tilted.
We see the catastrophe from the point of view of one of the heroes of the tragedy, Charles Lightroller , played by British actor Kenneth More. The cast also includes Laurence Naismith as Captain Smith and Honor Blackman as one of the survivors.
As in the book of the Lord, we do not focus on one or two characters, real or imaginary. Instead, we get to know large numbers of people by witnessing what they actually did.
It’s a tribute to this classic film that its story of fate, chaos and the loss of life is able to follow so many souls and give them enough screen time for us to identify and appreciate. their quest for life or their ultimate sacrifice. .
In his 1978 autobiography, Kenneth More recalled a memorable morning during production: “There was no tank big enough in Pinewood Studios to film survivors struggling to get into lifeboats, so it was filmed outdoors at Ruislip Reservoir near London at 2am. a very frosty November morning.
“I have never experienced such cold in my entire life. It was like jumping into a freezer. The shock forced the breath out of my body.
When Georgina Purchase told me about this fantastic movie about a big shipwreck that was showing at the Pavilion Cinema in the summer of 1958, I couldn’t wait to see it, and for both of us it became a lifelong favorite.
A night to remember was a box office success and received critical acclaim.
The 1970s introduced a unique trend in cinema – big-budget, big-star disaster thrillers.
Best Picture Oscar Winner Airport (1970) was the first of four plane disaster films produced by Universal Pictures, starring Airport 75 , Airport 77 and Airport 80: Le Concorde .
Big disaster movies meant a big box office; Earthquake (1974) was the highest-grossing film of that year.
By 1970, 20th Century Fox had begun to emerge from a dark period after a series of flops – but it needed every success it could get.
Producer Irwin Allen was about to hand them one of their greatest. The creator of fabulous TV classics like lost in space , The tunnel of time and Land of the Giants which offered insight into Allen’s fantastical world, made fantastic contributions to an industry he loved.
As a young boy I was fascinated and thrilled by the wonderful Fox Cinemascope footage shown at the Pavilion Cinema in Airdrie, as The lost World (1960), Journey to the bottom of the sea (1961) and Jules Verne Five weeks in a Balloon (1962).
The name Irwin Allen has become synonymous with wonderful escapist fantasy entertainment.
Poseidon’s Adventure had its world premiere at the newly opened National Theater in New York’s Times Square on December 12, 1972, and would become the biggest hit of 1973.
It won two Oscars, for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song for The next morning .
Poseidon’s Adventure became a cult film, spotlighting the brilliant cast of Oscar winners Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and Red Buttons.
The role of nonnie played by Carol Lynley, was offered to Petula Clark but she turned him down.
Parts of the film’s exterior scenes were filmed aboard the RMS Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California.
Paul Gallico had been inspired to write Poseidon’s Adventure novel after vacationing on this ship in 1936 when it was tossed about by huge waves and nearly capsized.
The book caught the attention of Allen, who thought the story would make a top notch feature, and he bought the film rights.
The story breaks at midnight on New Year’s Eve when the ocean liner SS Poseidon is hit by a 90 foot tidal wave which is the result of an earthquake under the sea.
The ship capsizes in a dramatic sequence that has the entire cast spinning as the ship flips over. The passengers and crew are trapped upside down inside, and a preacher attempts to lead a small group of survivors to safety.
Actress Carol Lynley recalled: “The shooting of Poseidon’s Adventure took 14 weeks. The cast spent most of the time submerged in water or surrounded by fire, explosions and steam on some of the most incredible sets ever built at 20th Century Fox Studios.
“It was extremely dangerous and very, very tough. The actors were asked to do a lot of the stunts themselves, except for some of the more risky efforts.
“We were soaked and dirty for three and a half months. There was no computer technology back then, so everything you see in this movie is real.
Poseidon’s Adventure remains a fantastic cinematic experience for the whole family.
It was followed by Allen’s production of The infernal tower who became the biggest ticket seller of 1974.
Allen was a commodity to be reckoned with. He produced harrowing tales of adventure in the grandest way only he could imagine. He was a legend in Hollywood and helped change the way movies are made.
The film industry could use someone like him today in a time when you hear so much about huge budgets and mediocre actors, but rarely about raising the standard of films.
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