The First Movie About the Titanic Starred a Titanic Survivor

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The First Movie About the Titanic Starred a Titanic Survivor

Postby Andrew Clarkson » Thu Dec 08, 2016 7:36 am

It can feel like modern Hollywood is too quick to make entertainment out of tragedy, but it turns out that’s always been the case. The first Titanic film was actually made in 1912—only a month after the Titanic sank. Not only that, but it starred a Titanic survivor.

Dorothy Gibson was already a popular actress when she set sail on the ill-fated ship. The 22-year-old had an existing contract with the American branch of the French film company Éclair, so after the disaster she quickly tapped her resources to co-write a film that would be a starring vehicle for her—and, taking advantage of public interest in the tragedy, a marketing sensation for Éclair.

Gibson began her now-forgotten career as a model, known best as the original “Harrison Fisher Girl,” artist Harrison Fisher’s beautiful muse. Her face was in magazines, postcards, and various Edwardian merchandise for years. In 1911 Gibson had her big acting break after being hired by Éclair American Company to work as their leading lady. She starred in the hit silent comedy The Easter Bonnet and the incredibly well-received drama Hands Across The Sea, in which she played Molly Pitcher. Her leading lady looks caught the attention of Éclair producer Jules Brulatour, who began a secret affair with her. Brulatour played a big role in pushing his starlet mistress into the Titanic feature.

In the spring of 1912, Gibson spent several weeks on vacation in Europe with her mother. Brulatour wired her to return to America to begin work on two new films she was contracted to do. So Gibson and her mother went to Paris to book a trip on the Titanic, sailing out of Cherbourg on April 10th. 

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