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Reality check: Titanic exhibit vs. movie | News

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Reality check: Titanic exhibit vs. movie

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - For many people, James Cameron's 1997 movie is the window into which we see Titanic, but how accurate is the movie compared to real life? With the new Titanic exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum opening up this Saturday, we talked with the curators to find out.

The movie is a about a first class maiden falling in love with a poor boy aboard the luxurious doomed Titanic, but this story took some liberties with reality. For example, the characters of Rose and Jack were made up.

"Perhaps not as real people, but as character types they certainly did exist," explains Alexandera Klingelhofer, Vice President of Collections at RMS Titanic Incorporated. There were third class passengers like Jack trying to make it home, along with hundreds of other artisans, workers, and immigrants.

The character of Rose, a first class passenger who was marrying to save the family fortunes did not exist, but "were there young women that had to marry for wealth... yes," explains Klingelhofer.

The character of Cal, Roses' not-so-nice rich fiancé could have existed as an archetype. "Were there evil industrialists yes," explains Klingelhofer. "However I have to say that most of the industrialists that were aboard Titanic were actually quite gentlemanly."

Another not so accurate part of the movie is the chance meeting of Jack, a third class passenger, and Rose, a first class passenger. "The classes were pretty well divided on the ship, could a young boy have gotten off into some area? Possible, but not likely," says Klingelhofer.

Even the story of the necklace was made up. "Not to say there weren't other necklaces on the ship that were equally valuable and beautiful, but there is no heart of the ocean," explains Klingelhofer.

While elements of the story maybe made up, the actual sinking of the ship was pretty accurate. The line, "Iceberg right ahead!" was really said, or maybe "Iceberg dead ahead!" The way the ship hit the iceberg was accurate as well the part where large chunks of ice fell onto the boat. "A lot of passengers who wrote first-hand experiences do say they went up there and there were clumps of ice on the deck," says Klingelhofer.

The lights did stay on even with part of the ship under water. The musicians did play while the ship was going down, and the scene of an old couple in bed waiting for the water to rise has some truth in it as well. "In real they were married for 50 years, he wanted to put his wife in a lifeboat, but she refused and said, 'I lived with you all these years and I will stay with you now," explains Klingelhofer.

The final verdict is that the movie does do a good job of keeping things real to life, but, "I don't think there is anything that tells the story of Titanic as well as this exhibition that has objects that went down with the ship and have not been recovered," says Klingelhofer.

The Titanic exhibit opens this Saturday at the Public Museum in Grand Rapids.


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