Published: April 24, 2016
The film "Titanic" became, on this day, the first ever movie to earn 1 billion US dollars at the box office. The love story of the fictitious Rose and Jack Dawson, set against the historical backdrop of the sinking in 1912 of the luxurious liner, remains one of the highest-grossing films ever.
After its release the previous year, it rode on the crest of a wave to startling acclaim and success, being nominated for no less than 14 Oscars. It scooped 11, but ironically none for acting, a snub that was said to have sunk the expectations of its leading male star, Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Jack Dawson.
His co-star, Kate Winslet, was nominated for her performance as Dawson’s young lover, Rose, as was the 87-year-old Gloria Stuart, who played Rose in old age. But neither of them won an Oscar.
There are no living survivors of the catastrophe that occurred on the night of April 15 1912 when the world’s biggest and most luxurious passenger liner sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York after hitting an iceberg. More than 1,500 people lost their lives.
Among those rescued was Millvina Dean who, at two months of age, was the youngest passenger on the ship. She died of pneumonia in 2009 at the age of 97, the last survivor of the tragedy. Ironically, only a month previously, the Millvina Fund was set up by the Belfast, British and International Titanic Societies to pay impoverished Dean’s nursing home fees. “Titanic” director James Cameron, along with DiCaprio, Winslet and Celine Dion, who sang the film’s theme song, all contributed thousands of dollars.
In an echo of the fact and fiction that surrounds the “Titanic” movie story, special mention should be made of veteran actress Gloria Stuart’s performance when she was 87 years old. Though she failed to win an Academy Award, she is still the oldest actress ever to have been nominated. She was also the only person involved in the film who was alive when the Titanic sank in real life. She died of cancer in 2010, two months after her 100th birthday.