Kraft Television Theatre: A Night to Remember (1956)

Run Time - 60 min.  |  
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One of the most ambitious productions ever undertaken during the era of "live" television, this adaptation of Walter Lord's best-seller A Night to Remember successfully conveys the full scope and horror of the sinking of the superliner Titanic on April 14, 1912. Utilizing seven cameras, 31 different sets and over 100 actors, director George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting), meticulously recreates the last three hours of the Titanic from the moment it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic to its final descent beneath the waves, carrying some 1500 souls to a watery grave. Like Lord's book, John Whedon's adaptation emphasizes the element of fate in the tragedy, noting the hundred-and-one ways in which the disaster could have been averted, and also offers brief, poignant character vignettes, illustrating individual moments of courage and cowardice. Although there is plenty of dialogue, the dominant voice in the proceedings is narrator Claude Rains, who dispassionately dispenses the chronology of the disaster, minute by minute, as the viewer watches them unfold. Featured in the enormous cast is a pre-Avengers Patrick Macnee as Thomas Andrews, benighted designer of the Titanic. This version of A Night to Remember was originally telecast as an episode of the NBC anthology Kraft Television Theater; it was subsequently restaged for British viewers by the BBC, and was ultimately adapted as a theatrical feature in 1958 (long, long before either Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio were even born).