Why Do We Love the Titanic?

The New Yorker:

The books are, so to speak, just the tip of the iceberg. Between 1912 and 1913 more than a hundred songs about the Titanic were published. A scant month after the sinking, a one-reel movie called “Saved from the Titanic” was released, featuring Dorothy Gibson, an actress who had been a passenger in first class. It established a formula—a love story wrapped around the real-life catastrophe—that has resurfaced again and again, notably in a 1953 tearjerker starring Barbara Stanwyck and in James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, which, when it was released, was both the most expensive and the highest-grossing film of all time. (The film was rereleased last week, after an eighteen-million-dollar conversion to 3-D.) There have been a host of television treatments. The most recent is a four-part miniseries, to première this weekend, by Julian Fellowes, the creator of “Downton Abbey.” And that’s just the English-language output: German dramatizations include a Nazi propaganda film set aboard the ship. A French entry, “The Chambermaid on the Titanic” (1997), based on a novel, fleshes out the story with erotic reveries.

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