Movie Musings: Observations about “Titanic,” and it’s deleted scenes
When Titanic was released in December of 1997, I quickly got swept up in the tidal wave of fandom, that soon overwhelmed the world during those next few months.
After perusing through everything from the official movie tie-in book to Cinefex magazine’s coverage of the film’s visual effects, I still hungered for more.
While surfing on the internet at the Public Library after the film came out, I was surprised to find a copy of the original script. It was one of the first film scripts I read, and I was surprised at what was contained within it. While it retained certain elements of the finished film, it revealed a number of unused or cut scenes to me, making my mind imagine what might have been.
It wasn’t until the release of Titanic: The Illustrated Screenplay in 1998, that I got a more behind-the-scenes look at what had gone into the film.
The original shooting script in the book contained almost everything I had already read, but included notations regarding some of the scenes and script changes.
I doubted I’d ever see the scenes that the script mentioned, but when Titanic was ported over to a 2-disc DVD in 2005, James Cameron made sure that a number of special features were included…including over an hour’s worth of deleted/cut material!
In going over them, I thought I’d make note of ‘a few’ scenes that were cut, including the alternate ending to the film.
Taking in the grandeur and history
With so much information about the Titanic at his disposal, one could almost forgive James Cameron for originally trying to cram so much stuff into his film.
Cameron’s camera sometimes lingered in some of the less-considered places, such as the ship’s gymnasium. In one scene, Rose and her family’s tour of the ship would have included a stopover here. There would be a tinge of irony, as the gym’s instructor Thomas McCauley, asked Rose’s mother if she would like to try out the rowing machine.
“I can’t imagine a skill I should likely need less,” says the woman, little realizing what she would be doing in less than 24 hours.
Another notable scene would have taken us off the ship, as Titanic’s wireless operators get upset at the ice warnings coming from The Californian, and tell the operator to shut up. This would have led to a scene of the Californian’s operator shutting down for the evening, and giving us a view of the ice field near that ship.
There was also word that when the Titanic sent her distress signals, she also used the newly designated SOS signal, that soon afterwards became a standard among sailing vessels. A deleted scene shows the wireless operators using the signal (instead of just the standard CQD signal, as seen in the final film).
Cameron also filmed (and cut) scenes where Captain Smith and several officers attempted to call back some of the half-filled lifeboats, so they could be filled to capacity (which the actual Smith and his officers attempted to do). However, none of the boats returned (most of the sailors captaining them, fearful that the ship’s suction would drag them down into the icy waters).
A Fight to the Finish
As the Titanic’s lights flickered off in the darkness, the grand ship began to tear itself in two.
Notable about this scene, is that we see Cal Hockley’s manservant, Spicer Lovejoy. As his eyes go wide, I’m sure some were surprised to see his face had been bloodied!
Some could probably assume that he may have suffered some trauma trying to just get to where he was on the ship, but the head-wound is actually from a major deleted scene.
Originally, after Jack and Rose escaped from Cal trying to shoot them, they rushed into the first-class dining hall. Out of bullets, and realizing how much water the ship was taking on, Cal gave up the chase.
However, handing the gun he had taken back to Lovejoy, he told his man-servant that the Heart of the Ocean necklace was in Rose’s coat, and that if Lovejoy was able to retrieve it, he’d let him keep it.
What followed was a several minutes long game of cat-and-mouse, as Lovejoy reloaded his gun, and attempted to find the couple. The fight largely took place between Jack and Lovejoy, with the bloody injury coming from Jack shoving the bodyguard’s head through a glass window!
Jack also ended up getting some payback, from when Lovejoy had punched him in the gut in the master-at-arms’ quarter. “Compliments of the Chippewa Falls Dawson’s,” proclaimed Jack, throwing a punch, and Lovejoy’s taunt back at him.
The scene was one that Cameron liked, but test audiences were lukewarm to it, as it slowed down the film’s overall momentum.
In the final film, Jack and Rose simply rush through the dining hall, and we are left to assume Cal and Lovejoy give up the chase, and return to the upper-decks.
Cameron’s fictional steerage characters
As Jack and Rose cling to the railing on the stern of the ship, Rose’s eyes alight on a blonde woman next to them. Some time later, as the ship’s stern tilts up to 90 degrees, the frightened woman ends up plummeting to her death (off-camera).
What most may not realize, is we’ve actually seen this woman previously. She is Helga Dahl, one of several fictional steerage passengers Cameron created for the film.
Almost as a counter-point to the real-life First Class Passengers and crew Rose interacts with, Cameron gave us a number of fictional Third-Class passengers, to interact with Jack and his friend, Fabrizio. The one that got the most characterization was Tommy Ryan, but many of the others were excised or cut-down as the film production went on.
Helga appears throughout the film (along with her parents), and was originally to have been a love-interest for Fabrizio (the two can be seen dancing together in the steerage party scene). However, during editing, Cameron decided to leave almost all traces of the couple’s growing relationship, on the cutting-room floor.
Another minor group of characters was the Cartmell family, who were most notable for having a little girl named Cora, whom Jack interacted with several times.
After the Grand Staircase was submerged, Cameron planned to have a scene of the Cartmell’s trying to escape from third class, but stuck behind locked steerage gates, panicking as the waters rose around them.
One can’t help but feel some might have taken offense at the scene which shows the waters rising around Cora, much like some felt Cameron went a bit too far putting Newt in danger, in parts of his film, Aliens.
The Epiphany of Brock Lovett
One scene I’ve heard people question over the years, is the final one, in which it is revealed that for much of her life, Rose had the Heart of the Ocean necklace in her possession!
This revelation was originally to have tied into the sub-story involving Bill Paxton’s treasure-hunter character, Brock Lovett.
Originally, when Rose told her story to Brock and his crew, the tale would have been told over several days, not what seems a matter of hours in the final cut.
Following the scene of Cal Hockley first giving the necklace to Rose, we would have faded back to the present day. Old Rose mentioned how the necklace felt like a ‘dog collar’ around her neck.
We would also see Lovett’s crew be a bit more ‘detached’ from the tragedy, with Brock’s friend Bodine making a crass joke about Rose’s suicide attempt (“all you had to do was wait two days,” he laughs).
After Rose is taken away to rest, a ‘ticking clock’ is introduced, where we find that the people funding Brock’s expedition intend to ‘pull-the-plug,’ leading to his desperation to get Rose to tell him as much as she knows.
It doesn’t help that Lizzy overhears Brock’s frustration towards her grandmother, and tells him that even if he is desperate, she isn’t going to put pressure on her elderly relation.
“This is three years of my life going down the drain here,” Brock tells Lizzy (sounding eerily similar to what Cameron must have been feeling!). “I bet everything to find The Heart of the Ocean.”
Lizzy reminds Brock that Rose contacted him with the information, and in a way, he has to ‘play by her rules.’
After Rose finished her story near the end of the film, there was a subtle hint that Brock had somehow understood just what the shipwreck stood for.
“Three years,” he tells Lizzy. “I thought of nothing but Titanic…but I never got it. I never let it in.”
This was where Brock’s story ended on-screen, but in the original ending, Cameron decided to push further with this revelation.
Brock and Lizzy would have seen Rose heading towards the rear of the ship, and sprinted after her, fearful that she was going to throw herself overboard!
However, upon confronting her, Rose would have revealed the necklace in her hand!
“The hardest part about being so poor, was being so rich,” she tells tells the two. “But everytime I thought about selling it, I thought about Cal, and somehow, I made it without his help.”
Brock attempts to talk Rose out of what she is doing, but she claims her mind is made up. However, she does give into his request to hold it, placing the jeweled portion in his hand.
“You look for treasure in the wrong places, Mr Lovett,” says Rose, sounding as if Jack Dawson is speaking through her, “Only life is priceless…and, ‘making each day count.'”
Brock’s hand closes around the stone, but lets it go (three years and funding be damned!), as Rose pulls it away and tosses it into the Atlantic, causing Brock’s friend Bodine to rush to the ship’s railing, watching the necklace sink into the abyss!
“That really sucks, lady!” he cries out, as Brock just looks at his empty hand…and starts laughing!
As Bodine storms off, Brock asks Lizzy to dance, and Rose smiles at the two of them.
Looking over the additional bits of subplot and ending, it does get a bit heavy-handed with Rose expounding life-lessons on Brock. While it seems the mission may be a bust, there is also the possibility that the subs could be sent back down to retrieve the necklace once Rose is asleep.
Bill Paxton also had a little fun with the ending, when he reprised his role of Lovett in a 1999 skit on Saturday Night Live. In it, Brock and the crew get upset with Rose, and even her granddaughter lands a few punches, when she finds out her grandmother had a multi-million dollar necklace in her possession, that could have had them set for life!
Paxton also got Cameron to do a fun little cameo at the end of the skit:
It’s hard to believe that at over 3 hours in length, the final cut of Titanic feels pretty ‘tight,’ when one sees all that could have been included.
The acting isn’t perfect in all of Cameron’s films, and some of the deleted scenes reflect this. There’s also a feeling that the story would have started to bore the audience if all of these scenes (and others) were kept in.
Overall, the deleted scenes are interesting to analyze, but none of them really feel like we’re missing out on anything too important.