The RMS Titanic (lost film recordings of British passenger ship; existence unconfirmed; 1912)
The RMS Titanic was, at the time of its building, the largest passenger ship. It was met with a tragic fate when it sunk on its maiden voyage on April 15th, 1912. Over 1,500 people perished with only 700 survivors out of its 2,200-passenger count.
While still photographs of the Titanic are quite common, actual film footage of it is extraordinarily rare. For many decades, the only known surviving footage was of the ship being docked in Belfast shortly after its construction. Then, in 1997, film director James Cameron sought out extra surviving footage, particularly that of the ship departing with its passengers waving in the distance. No footage was known to exist, with many historians thinking Cameron was crazy. Then, the following year, the footage was uncovered of the exact clip Cameron was looking for until historians confirmed the footage was of Titanic's older sister, the RMS Olympic departing.
According to The Titanic and Silent Cinema by Stephen Bottomore, a few clips were known to have been taken off the boat before its demise including the:
- Laying the keel of the Titanic (31 March 1909), Animated Weekly. - Lost.
- Transport of Titanic's Largest Anchor in the World (c.1911). 400ft. - Lost.
- Launching the Titanic (31 May 1911). Films Limited of Belfast, Included in the Animated Weekly and Gaumont newsreel. - Lost.
- Titanic leaving Belfast Loch for Southampton (2 April 1912). [sic - the Titanic entering the Graving Dock, 3rd February 1912] Gaumont. - Survives
- The Titanic: at Southampton, prior to her maiden voyage (10 April 1912). Filmed by Topical Budget. - Lost"
However, none of these have surfaced except one, the aforementioned footage of the ship being docked in Belfast. A reference to the third film in the Belfast Evening Telegraph on June 6th, 1911 is as follows:
"That the hold which pictures took on the general public some time ago is not on the wane was strikingly demonstrated at the above last evening when, notwithstanding the weather, which invited one to stay indoors, large numbers attended and witnessed an admirable series of pictures. A feature of this week's bill is the launch of the world's largest liner, the Titanic, and those who had not the opportunity of witnessing the leviathan take the water should make a point of visiting the High Street during the week."
A second class passenger, Lawrence Beesley, recalls in his account, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic, a passenger on deck filming as the ship nearly collided with the New York as it pulled out of Southampton. The passenger he saw may have been filmmaker William Harbeck who did not survive and likely left his camera in his cabin. Any other films showing the ship, exterior or interior, if they ever existed have never been located.
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