THE SIT/Titanic Connection

That Which You Sink . . . 

By Bob Simonson

By now, approximately one in seven people in America have seen James Cameron's Titanic, which is arguably a higher percentage than saw Somewhere In Time during its initial release. Visually stunning, grand and majestic in its scope, it is a first-class production all the way, capably blending the massive size of the ship and its tragedy with the intimate details of a small, affectionate love story. As such, it makes a perfect complement to SIT (and what a golden opportunity Universal is missing by not re-releasing it now to capitalize on the 1912 mania). I have never been involved in the making of a feature film, but I can imagine that Mr. Cameron did a considerable amount of research, both on the ship and on the time period, prior to writing the script, research which may have included viewing other films set in 1912 to get a feel for the period. If so, one of them may well have been SIT. I believe this because I, as well as others, have noticed similarities between the two films that cannot be attributed solely to chance. They share the same year, clothing styles, and some of the same music, but numerous moments lead me to believe that Mr. Cameron may have been moved or influenced strongly enough by SIT to pay subtle homage to it. It is said that we tend to see what we want to see, and many of the similarities may simply be elements in common to most love stories. Nevertheless, I've compiled a list of them which, in one way or another, seem to indicate something more than chance at work here.

To begin with, both involve a splendid setting: a Grand Hotel, a grand ship. Both involve an aspect of time travel, one in fact, one in flashback. Both involve an elderly woman who figures prominently. Both are about a love triangle involving a beautiful, dependent young woman, the man who holds power over her, and a young, talented man who's love for her is pure. Now for specifics.

The Hero (Richard Collier/Jack Dawson)

Both come from the Midwest (Chicago/Wisconsin)

Both are involved in the arts (Playwright/Artist)

Both are drawn there by fate (Richard stops on impulse/Jack wins his ticket in a poker game)

Both sleep in unusual places (A porch chair/Under a bridge/We also see Jack lying down on a deck bench)

Both do something thoughtful for a young child (Richard returns Arthur's ball/Jack dances with young Cora and calls her his best girl/Jack also attempts to save a young boy from drowning)

Richard wears a T-shirt that says Team Atlantic; Jack is IN the Atlantic

The Heroine (Elise McKenna/Rose DeWitt Bukater)

Both come from the East (Ronkonkoma, NY/Philadelphia, PA)

Both are, or will be, actresses. 

Both are dependent on another, older man

Both find their strength and independence protecting the man they love

Both are the first in the relationship to say "I love you"

Both speak of him in mental terms ("The man of my dreams . . .the one I have created in my mind"/"He exists now only in my memory")

Both meet a man who will change the rest of their lives though nobody realizes it at the time

Both stay behind when they could leave, in order to find him

Both spend some time in a rowboat

The Villain (William Robinson/Cal Hockley)

Both are older than the lovers

Both are overbearing and intimidating (Robinson uses psychology/Hockley uses violence)

When he meets the hero, the initial meeting is hostile

When he ultimately loses her, he ends up a broken, dispirited man

The Older Woman (Elise/Rose)

Both see something that reminds them of happy times with their lovers & they weep over it

Both return something precious to its rightful place, and at night

Both wait years to see him again for the last time, or to speak of him openly for the first time

Both fulfill their destiny and die at night, at peace, surrounded by mementos of their past

The Lovers

Both meet for the first time by water

The first words spoken between them are a three-word sentence ("Is it you?"/"Don't do it.")

His presence makes her nervous

Both couples spend time together walking by the water, getting to know each other better

They must be ingenious in devising ways to be alone together without getting caught

In each case, they dance together once

Each couple has "their" music (The Rhapsody/Come Josephine)

In both cases, the lovers run toward each other (he runs downstairs, she runs on a level, and they meet at the foot of a staircase and embrace passionately)

Each time, they make love only once, and he remains the great love of her life

Each is a doomed love affair, with the lovers separated by circumstances beyond their control, and not by choice

The Circumstances

There is a portrait in both cases, and he is responsible for making it the way it is

She is reflected in a mirror at her dressing table, the villain is with her, and he starts a sentence which they finish together

There is a prominent piece of jewelry in both (pocket watch/diamond necklace) and it disappears the night she dies

She saves him from an embarrassing situation (Elise escorts Richard out of the dining room/ Rose lies about Jack saving her)

The hero's clothes are inappropriate to where he is much of the time

There is a large, earthy, sympathetic woman who helps him to be with his love, and she comments on his clothes (Genevieve/Molly Brown)

There is a reference to a penny (THE penny/"You shine up like a new penny")

Curiously, the hero has dinner with her, her mother and the villain, which does not appear in SIT but does appear in the original version "Bid Time Return". Perhaps Mr. Cameron read that as well?

A bit of whimsy and a twice-removed reference: Rose says "I'm flying", which reminds me of Peter Pan, by implication Maude Adams, by association Elise McKenna. (Remember in "Bid Time Return", he makes mention of Elise playing Peter. I'm convinced Mr. Cameron, at the very least, saw the film, if not read the book as well!)

The heroine slowly removes a comb and lets her hair fall for his benefit

Each woman expresses a desire to have him use his particular talent to enhance her (Elise wants to be in Richard's play/Rose asks Jack to draw her)

The villain confronts the hero and heroine in a potentially compromising situation (Robinson finds Richard in Elise's room/Cal fabricates a theft)

Both villains lie to her about the hero (Robinson says Richard is not "the one"/Cal frames Jack to make him out a thief)

The villain has the hero removed bodily from the premises by someone in authority.

The villain has his thug punch the hero in the stomach.

The hero is bound and left behind

Interestingly, Robinson says "We leave within the hour", which Jack and Rose only HAVE about an hour

Each woman calls out her lover's name during a crisis or separation.

Elise asks Richard to "Come back to me" in a whisper; Rose asks the boat (or is it Jack?) to "Come back . . . come back", also in a whisper

The one being left behind retreats into darkness (Elise vanishes/Jack sinks out of sight)

The woman dies old, the man dies young

Both stories start in the present, return to the past, and end in the present

Both meet again in Heaven, the lover awaiting with outstretched hand, and bathed finally in a pure white light

In many respects, Titanic is a mirror-image film to SIT, in that what happens to him in SIT happens to her in Titanic, or vice versa. It is also entirely possible that all of the apparent similarities may just have been coincidental and indeed, that Mr. Cameron may never even have seen SIT at all. But I choose to believe, paraphrasing a character in a James Bond novel, "Once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is deliberate action", and there would appear to be many more than three times here. In my vision of a perfect world, not too far in the future, Mr. Cameron would attend one of our weekends as an honored guest and creator of what for many is their second-favorite film, and who among us would not love the chance to have just five minutes alone with him, to ask him what, if anything, our film has meant to him.