Before James Cameron, First ‘Titanic’ Movie Was In 1912 Starring Real Survivor

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The very first movie about Titanic was from 1912The very first movie about Titanic was from 1912

The history of naval navigation and passenger liners changed forever changed forever following the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. The story is immortalized in school lessons and a blockbuster film alike. Of the 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, about 1,500 died. One of the survivors was Dorothy Gibson and before James Cameron told the Titanic‘s story in his 1997 romantic disaster film, Gibson starred in the actual first movie about the Titanic that very same year.

Titanic set out on its maiden voyage from Southampton on April 10, 1912. Four days later, at around 11:40 pm, the ship struck an iceberg, which scraped along right side of the hull and slicing the hull open between several watertight compartments. By 2:20 am on April 15, the ship was fully sunk. Gibson witnessed all of this and quite literally lived to tell the tale in the world’s very first Titanic movie.

Actress Dorothy Gibson survived the sinking of ‘Titanic’

The doomed RMS TitanicThe doomed RMS Titanic
The doomed RMS Titanic / PICRYL

22-year-old Dorothy established a career as a model, actress, and Vaudeville star. Together with her mother, Pauline, she boarded Titanic for her maiden voyage, only to barely survive one of the greatest naval tragedies of the era. Nearing midnight on April 14, Gibson heard the fateful sound of the ship striking the iceberg, a sound and sensation she liked to a “long drawn, sickening crunch.”

Actress and Titanic survivor Dorothy GibsonActress and Titanic survivor Dorothy Gibson
Actress and Titanic survivor Dorothy Gibson / Wikipedia

Titanic had 20 lifeboats, crucial tools that helped to halve the fatality count but at a quantity that was severely under what it should have been. Those lifeboats accommodated 1,178 people; Gibson managed to get on one. She shared the space with 26 other passengers and although they managed to escape with their lives, there was nothing triumphant about that feat. The entire group was “absolutely silent” as their boat was lowered into the water.

The shock was not over, even safely in the lifeboat. “As soon as we were at a safe distance from the Titanic, we turned to watch the great liner settling gradually down into the water,” Gibson recalled. “It seemed like a nightmare. The lights flickered out, deck by deck, until the bow was quite submerged. Then, with a lurch, the Titanic slid forward under the waves. Instantly, there sounded a rumble like Niagara, with two dull explosions.”

Dorothy Gibson told her story in what became the very first ‘Titanic’ movie

Dorothy Gibson in a promotional poster for Saved from the TitanicDorothy Gibson in a promotional poster for Saved from the Titanic
Dorothy Gibson in a promotional poster for Saved from the Titanic / Wikipedia

How soon is too soon? It’s a question asked whenever creative reimaginings of real, fatal situations pop up – and the question arose far sooner than James Cameron’s Titanic in ’97 starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Jack and Rose respectfully. But some ideas stuck around across the decades.

Movie producer Jules Brulatour, who was also Gibson’s married lover, got to plotting a movie that became a one-reel film starring none other than Gibson. She wore the very same outfit she had aboard Titanic, a white silk dress, overcoat, sweater, and black heels. Gibson also retained part of her name in the film, cast as Miss Dorothy, a young woman on her way to the U.S. to meet her own beloved, a U.S. Navy serviceman named none other than Jack.

The film set of Saved from the Titanic, featuring Alec B. Francis as Father, Gibson as herself, and John G. Adolfi as Ensign JackThe film set of Saved from the Titanic, featuring Alec B. Francis as Father, Gibson as herself, and John G. Adolfi as Ensign Jack
The film set of Saved from the Titanic, featuring Alec B. Francis as Father, Gibson as herself, and John G. Adolfi as Ensign Jack / Wikipedia

Saved From the Titanic hit theaters just one month after Titanic sank. A review from Moving Picture News declared, “Miss Dorothy Gibson, a heroine of the shipwreck and one of the most talked-of survivors, tells in this motion picture masterpiece of the enthralling tragedy among the icebergs.”

“The nation and the world had been profoundly grieved by the sinking of the Titanic, and I had the opportunity to pay tribute to those who gave their lives on that awful night,” said Gibson of her involvement in this first Titanic movie. “That is all I tried to do.”

After leaving showbiz Gibson tried to settle down in Paris, only to find herself confronted with another defining disaster as the Nazis took over France. Gibson was actually arrested and sent to a concentration camp. It took feining Nazi sympathies for her to escape, and after, she fled back to Paris, where she lived for the rest of her life, until she died at 56.

No copies of Saved from the Titanic have survived but proof of its existence persists in advertisements and the stories that linger on, carried by a chill sea breeze.

The first movie about the Titanic, Saved from the Titanic, which predates James Cameron's monumental film by decadesThe first movie about the Titanic, Saved from the Titanic, which predates James Cameron's monumental film by decades
The first movie about the Titanic, Saved from the Titanic, which predates James Cameron’s monumental film by decades / Wikipedia

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