Dalbeattie Town History

Murdoch of the 'Titanic' :

Another Disgraceful Portrayal of William Murdoch

I have recently received some rather appalling information in e-mails from Cynthia Dodson. In 1996 an American company produced a 'Titanic' mini-series which was shown on CBS (Columbia Broadcasting Services), to be met with the disappointment and anger of keen scholars. I would not be involving myself in this, except for the recent events over Cameron's 'Titanic'. Cynthia Dodson informed me that CBS are going to screen this mini-series again on May 24th - 26th 1998.

I must say, personally, that this re-screening meets with my disgust as being in very bad taste. The Murdoch family and Dalbeattie are being treated with contempt by this inappropriate re-screening so soon after the 'apology' from Scott Neeson of Twentieth Century Fox. I would ask CBS how they would feel if, - for example, - George Washington was portrayed as corrupt and dishonest, or Abe Lincoln was portrayed as profiteering in the slave trade.

But, to the information received.

Message Two : Received 8th May 1998

Subject: Titanic Mini-Series
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 10:06:17 -0700
From: Cynthia Dodson
To: "'webmaster@dalbeattie.com'"

Dear Mr. Edkins :

I was wondering if you were aware that the CBS network broadcast a Titanic mini-series here in 1996. During my Internet travels, I came across an interesting letter written by members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association in November of 1996, which I am forwarding to you here. You will be gratified to see that others came to the defense of William Murdoch following the original airing. I am most curious to know if you are familiar with this film version.

By the way, CBS plans to rebroadcast the mini-series this month during May sweeps on the 24th and 26th. [My highlighting - R.E.]


Cynthia Dodson

Letter follows:

TV's Titanic Mini-Series Debate

On November 20, 1996, the Members of the Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association wrote an open letter to CBS over the Titanic mini-series they aired in early November of that year (now available in video stores). A copy of that open letter, which CBS never answered, appears below. It appears in its original form and has not been edited :-

To: CBS Television, New York
Date: November 20, 1996

To Whom it May Concern :

As you may imagine, prior to its broadcast, your "November sweeps" miniseries, "Titanic," was eagerly anticipated and discussed among the members of our online community. We had hope for an honest, straight-forward recreation of the disaster. While we recognized the need for fictional characters to create subplots, we were brightened by the fact Ken Marschall and the Ulster Titanic Historical Society were both listed, in publicity releases, as being advisors. Surely, we felt, if nothing else this production would be historically accurate.

Then, Part One aired on Sunday, November 17th.

"Disappointment" does not begin to cover our collective feelings, as displayed in the numerous messages sent to our members immediately following the telecast.

"Disappointment" can only cover the areas which where historically inaccurate - the iceberg messages from other ships being received days before they were actually sent; the actions, as depicted, of real persons (most notably Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch) being so far removed from their actual actions.

For dramatic purposes, one can understand the need to have a "villain" of the piece, but to distort the character of First Officer Murdoch so willingly, it seems almost libelous of the man and his character. Your production's portrayal of Murdoch, someone who had served the White Star Line superbly for years, as an ineffectual seaman is obscene.

Quickly, though, the consensus changed from disappointing to disgust.

You created for yourselves the remarkable opportunity of depicting just how life was, not just onboard the Titanic, but in 1912 as a rule. At that time, there were distinct rules of conduct which persons followed especially those persons in First Class. Instead, you decided to throw in gratuitous scenes of sexual encounters among passengers and give the implication that those who adhered to society's "rules" in 1912 were worthy of disdain by others - witness the reaction of the "mourning" character to the character portrayed by Eva Marie Sainte. In 1912, traditionally, mourning clothes were worn for a year; to not do so would have shocked the traditionalists. Ironically, it was the Titanic disaster, in which so many young women were suddenly widowed and/or parentless which changed that tradition.

But the truly disgusting aspect of the production was the totally unnecessary rape scene. This was a vile inclusion, and should have been left on the cutting room floor, this gratuitous scene will lead to questions from persons less familiar with the Titanic asking if this actually occurred.

As per all accounts, the iceberg which sank the Titanic merely "brushed" against the side. Yet your depiction shows a tremendous, violent impact, again creating a jarring discrepancy with actual history. Part Two was only nominally better, but again showed your producers more interested in the lurid storylines they, themselves, created than in displaying any actual facts.

Why was there no disclaimer on either of the two nights warning parents of violent and/or sexual contents? Why was there no disclaimer to the effect yours was a work of fiction, and should not be taken as historically accurate?

Hopefully, the upcoming Titanic feature film from James Cameron will treat the subject matter with the respect she deserves, as your production failed in this, miserably.

Thank you,


Discussion Group of the Titanic Internet Historical Association

Subject: Re: Sky film 'Titanic' and Murdoch Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998 00:58:13 +0100 From: "holly" To: It was sreened on 15th April at 7.30. Made in 1996, stars George C Scott and catherine Zeta Jones. It seems to have been a American TV film, The Konigsberg/Sanitsky Company, distributed by Hallmark Company. The scene shows Murdoch trying to stop steerage passengers or engine room crews by the look of their costumes, from going any further, he says " stop or I will shoot the next person who tries to come any further, then he does shoot one, next he turns to look at two other officers. One of the officers shouts" Murdoch" but it is too late, he shoots himself and lands on the deck of the boat. Write up of film from sky magazine. Sky Movies Screen 2 7.30 Titanic Epic drama about the ill-fated cruise liner which sank after hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage in spring 1912. As the liner steams towards it's fate, many of the passengers make plans for their future in New York. Stars, Peter Gallagher, George C Scott, and Catherine Zeta Jones. (1996 Sky PG, S, DS, 142 mins) Hope this gives you a little more to go on. Wish I had a video card for my PC I could have made a scene from the film and sent it to you. I think the full Titanic story will never be correctly told. I only hope you can continue your task, making sure Mr Murdoch's name and actions portrayed in these films are in the correct persepctive. I feel it must be very distressing to his family. I was glad to hear that Mr Cameron made some donation as a gensture of saying sorry, I felt it could have been a little more as so much money has been made from the film. I would like to see some of the money go towards creating a new Titanic as a museum, rather than trying to raise the one that is at rest. Good luck and I hope this has been of some use to you. Holly -----Original Message----- From: Richard Edkins To: hollyprime@email.msn.com Date: Wednesday, April 29, 1998 03:17 Subject: Sky film 'Titanic' and Murdoch
Subject: re. your site Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 00:02:36 +0100 From: "holly" To: Thankyou for making it clear to many who have seen the latest Titanic film. I would like to mention that the other night another Titanic film was screened on Sky movies, this film also described Mr Murdoch as shooting himself. I feel the film is very dramatic in itself, let alone adding something that was not true. I have enjoyed viewing your page. Holly
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