Titanic (1953) starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Wagner, Audrey Dalton, Thelma Ritter, Brian Aherne, Richard Basehart directed by Jean Negulesco Movie Review

Titanic (1953)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Audrey Dalton and Barbara Stanwyck in Titanic (1953)

More Titanic Melodrama

After discovering that his wife Julia (Barbara Stanwyck) has run off with their children and boarded the RMS Titanic, Richard Sturges (Clifton Webb) manages to buy a ticket off of another passenger at the last minute. Aboard the Titanic he tracks down and confronts Julia leading to their daughter Annette (Audrey Dalton) deciding that she will return home with her father whilst their son Norman (Harper Carter) will stay with Julia in America. But things escalate when Julia and Richard argue again leading to a shock revelation. Meanwhile Annette has found herself being courted by tennis player Gifford Rogers (Robert Wagner) whilst the boisterous business woman Maude Young (Thelma Ritter) won't take any nonsense from anyone. But then disaster strikes and the realism that the unsinkable Titanic is going down.

I doubt there are many people who enjoy movies who have not seen James Cameron's epic love story set against the backdrop of disaster "Titanic" but I wonder how many realise the similarity between Cameron's epic production and the 1953 movie "Titanic". Again we have a melodrama surrounding a relationship set against the backdrop of disaster except in this case it is a relationship between an older, married couple whose marriage has hit the rocks. That is not the only relationship story on show as we have a further story between a daughter and an eager young tennis player who sets about charming her.

Robert Wagner in Titanic (1953)

What does that mean? Well the focus is on the bitterness between Julia and Richard as Julia has had enough of Richard's priggish and demanding nature and wants to raise their children with more freedom in America. Sounds a bit dull and to be frank it is although we do have a revelation surrounding one of the children which heightens the tensions between Julia and Richard. But the performances of Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck help lift it into something interesting as both do a first rate job of playing their characters which are very much in their comfort zones as both had played similar characters before.

The trouble with "Titanic" is that whilst it fills the movie out with subplots we know exactly what is going to happen as the boat hits the iceberg and everyone realises that they are doomed. This only really means on thing when it comes to the emotional drama which has been set up between Julia and Richard as their true feelings come to the fore as turmoil erupts around them. Again it does add a twist to this evolving their son Norman and a life boat but it all seems so incredibly predictable with once again the subplots filling it out with Robert Wagner and Audrey Dalton doing a nice job of the teen lovers.

Whilst "Titanic" suffers from that inevitable sense of being predictable it is a very good production with a fantastic look. The thing about the production is that it doesn't overwhelm the story which was the case with Cameron's "Titanic" as so much had been made about his big budget production that you ended up being served impressive scenes which almost screamed look at me rather than pay attention to the story.

What this all boils down to is that this 1953 version of "Titanic" is an impressive production and thanks to the calibre of the cast has an element of class which was lacking from Cameron's later movie. But inevitably "Titanic" suffers from being predictable as after a first half of romantic conflict it is plainly obvious what will happen when the disaster strikes and unless you feel bonded with the characters it won't succeed in seducing you.