What was the first movie to have two nominations for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress—playing the same character? If you said Titanic, you’re right. In the 1997-released Titanic, two women played Rose. Kate Winslet played “Young Rose.” And 86-year-old Gloria Stuart, an actress most active in the 1930s, played “Old Rose.”
Titanic garnered 11 Academy Awards. It won the first Best Picture Award for a film produced, directed, written and edited by the same person, James Cameron, who went on dives to the Titanic wreckage. Considered one of the top ten epics ever made, it was the most expensive film of the 20th century, costing $200 million but grossing $1.8 billion. Theaters literally wore out their reels from repeated showings. It was still playing in theaters when the video was released.
As the movie opens, it is 84 years after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Brock Lovett, a deep-sea explorer, has located the ship on the floor of the Atlantic. With robot technology he recovers a safe which contains a drawing of a woman wearing what looks like the “Heart of the Ocean,” a huge heart-shaped diamond necklace. Rose Calvert, 101, is one of the last survivors of the Titanic. She sees the drawing on TV news and knows it is the picture the man she loved drew of her. She agrees to go with Lovett and his crew to the wreckage site and record the whole story of her voyage.
The camera takes us back . . . to the maiden and last voyage of the Titanic. Boarding are upper class passengers 17-year-old Rose DeWitt Bukater, her wealthy and haughty fiancé Caledon Hockley, and her mother who is pushing Rose into the marriage. We also see among third-class passengers a drifter artist named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) who won his ticket in a card game and decided to start over in America.
Jack manages to get invited to dinner in first class, and Rose falls in love with him. It doesn’t take her fiancé Cal long to figure out that he’s about to lose one of his prized “possessions” — and not just the fabulous diamond necklace he’s given to Rose. During times Jack and Rose sneak off together, she poses while he draws her (upper body nudity alert). In another scene we see the outside of a car in the ship’s hold where their lovemaking is fogging the windows.
SPOILER ALERT: We all know the ending of the real story because the “unsinkable” Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Nor does the fictional love story have a happy ending. We see panic as Titanic starts to sink, the mad rush for lifeboats (women and children first), the cruelty that deferred to the rich while trying to keep third-class passengers locked below. We see Cal’s wrath against Jack while Jack is trying to get Rose and himself off the ship. They jump. Jack manages to get Rose onto a floating door but realizes it will sink it if he climbs on it. He sacrifices himself for her by staying in the frigid water. And we see her hold onto him until she falls into an exhausted sleep and his nearly frozen body slips beneath the waves.
The camera takes us back to the modern ship floating above the wrecked Titanic. Old Rose has finished her story and it is the middle of the night. In her cabin we see framed pictures she has brought with her. As Jack had urged with his dying words, she had lived—for both of them. The pictures show her children and grandchildren. She traveled, rode horses, flew planes. Suddenly we see Rose wake up and barefoot pad out to the deck railing. Is she going to jump? She pulls out the link to her past that she has kept secret 84 years and drops the “Heart of the Ocean” overboard to rejoin all that was lost. She goes back to bed and passes away peacefully.
The camera takes us under the waves moving through the decks of the dark, wrecked ship. But then we start seeing light, hearing music. We enter the grand ballroom looking exactly how it was the night Rose met Jack. Many brave people we saw go down with the ship are there and obviously happy. The clock near the regal staircase says 2:20 (the exact time Titanic sank). And yes, there is Jack smiling and holding out his hand to Rose. We hear Celine Dion sing “My Heart Will Go On” as tears and credits roll.
Once we get past the Titanic producer’s unbiblical idea that heaven duplicates an earthly place and time you were happiest, there are some parallels I draw. When I think of Old Rose, I recall the biblical character Anna, whose name means “grace.” Luke 2:36-38 tells us that she was very old—84. She had been married for seven years and then she became a widow (for possibly 60 years).
Where did a widow live if she hadn’t been left a home by her husband and the money to keep it up? She usually had to live in the home of an adult child. For Anna, Luke says she was at the temple day and night worshiping. Does this mean she slept on the limestone floor under a portico like a street person? It could. Or maybe someone nearby let her sleep inside. We can assume people brought her food and sometimes clothing. They probably asked her to pray for them, knowing she was constantly worshiping. She was so totally committed to worshiping God that food and shelter didn’t matter to her.
Anna was a prophetess who spoke the Word of God. She was part of the faithful Jewish remnant waiting expectantly for the arrival of the Messiah. A traditional prayer for a devout Jew was, “May I see the consolation of Israel!” Anna lived to see Him and didn’t seem shocked that He had arrived as a little baby. Luke 2:38 says that she came up to Mary and Joseph who were dedicating Jesus in the temple. Then “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”
I am astounded when I think of Anna because she was so totally sold out to God. The closest person to an Anna I ever knew was my Bible teacher when I was a young woman. She taught Bible classes all over town. Her name was Venita Whittemore, and she had a Saturday morning radio broadcast called Bible Class of the Air. Her messages were printed and sent around the world. She did her radio broadcasts on topics while she was teaching straight through books of the Bible in six or seven classes—each in a different book. The messages were one Scripture verse after another wound together with just enough other words to make the passage clear. She never said “I think” or “As I see it.” She said, “God says …” and gave chapter and verse to back it up.
When I meet women my age active in serving God, we often find that we have her in common as a former Bible teacher. Venita had become a Christian when she was three. She couldn’t remember a time she wasn’t a Christian. She taught Bible classes until she was about 93 shortly before she died. For a time she completely lost her eyesight. But she had studied the Bible so much that she had most of it memorized. So she listened to the Bible on tape and continued teaching when she couldn’t see the print on the page. Later the Lord restored her eyesight. (I don’t remember if it was through medical means or not, but it was the Lord who did it.) I often wondered if He was demonstrating her total devotion: would she keep teaching the Bible if she couldn’t see it? She did. She was a 20th century Anna—totally devoted to God.
In the movie Titanic, Old Rose had lived through a traumatic experience and lost the man she loved, but she loved him throughout her life. The biblical Anna lost her husband early but kept the real love of her life because He was the Lord. She served him faithfully all her days. So did Venita Whittemore. And so can we—even if we haven’t up until now—for the rest of our days. We don’t have to live in a church building but, as Anna did, we can continually thank God for His grace in sending Jesus to be our Savior. We can tell others about Him. And His love will go on.
©2016 by Vicki Huffman
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