Ken Marschall (Photo by Marianne Sauter)

by Wayne Mazzotta

Sadly, those of you who could not attend Ken Marschallís fascinating lecture at the Seamenís Church Institute on 17 November, missed an immensely interesting, illustrated glimpse of behind-the- scenes filming of James Cameronís epic Titanic. Perhaps your greatest loss was to have been denied the privileged opportunity of sharing Kenís personal photographs of the filming. Although there was a strict rule forbidding taking photographs on the set, Ken managed to take many. Also of great interest were his anecdotes about the actual set construction, all the labor-intensive details and even a few liberties taken to improve some scenes. For instance, even though Titanicís Dining Saloon had no lamps on its tables, they were provided for the film in order to get light onto the actorsí faces. Ken also noticed errors that slipped past everyone, such as the color of a deckhouse roof that somehow ended up being painted gray rather than in the brown wood tone that would have been correct.

The views of the shipboard sets, close-up and in vibrant color, were quite remarkable. Often they were juxtaposed against Marschallís superb paintings of the vessel. Frequently, Ken would show us one of his paintings on the screen and follow it with a slide of a nearly identical view taken from the movie. His keen insights into production lore required for the filming, as well as keeping everything true to life, were awesome. He would often stop and go into considerable detail as to how director James Cameron was obsessed with reproducing everything correctly, such as the sweep of Titanicís hull or the lengths to which his set designers and decorators would go to replicate a lamp or bannister detail. (These latter were often made of oak, as were the originals.) Then too, Ken talked of scenes that were shot but ended up on the cutting room floor, all of which made me want to see the film all over again.

But my favorite moments of all were when he would show jewel-like photographs of sections of the set that were taken in such a way as to make viewers believe that they were actually taken on the ship in 1912. Incredibly, there was no visual giveaway that we were looking at a movie set at all. Many of the shots even incorporated a background of the sea. (Remember, Titanicís set was constructed on a Mexican beach just for this reason.) One shot taken of the bridge wing shows the decking, a section of lifeboat and davits and, through the window, a misty, dream-like sky and ocean in the distance, exactly the same view that one would have had on the real vessel in mid-ocean.

There was also a marvelous shot of Titanicís boat deck at night and yet another of the entrance to the First Class Dining Saloon. Other interior photographs were equally impressive, particularly two of the Dining Saloon itself, one thronged with actors and the other merely the empty room, exactly like one of Harland & Wolffís original promotional photographs.

Anyone devoted as I am to four-stackers would have been intrigued with the many views of Titanicís funnel quartet, from different angles and distances, taken in both daylight and after dark. The funnels were incredibly constructed and occasionally emitted smoke, although they were, in fact, a breath smaller than the originals.

When I came home that night, I felt as close as anyone could that I had actually been on the famous White Star vessel. Although the film itself was replete with extraordinary drama and special effects, the photographs and backstage insights that Ken Marschall shared with us combined with his talk, somehow made the vessel seem all the more real and tangible. Strangely, it was like viewing someone's vacation photographs aboard Titanic.

In all, it was a splendid evening and I am reminded of just what a great and difficult job the Museum faces in attempting to create different and meaningful events for members. A big thanks to Gregg Swain and the handful of tireless members devoted to the museum for coming up with this marvelous event. This one-of-a -kind talk made for a perfect evening, better than any I could have imagined. I could easily have stayed in my seat and absorbed another hour of Kenís stories and extraordinary slides.

How marvelous that there is an Ocean Liner Museum that can present evenings like this and what a marvelous moment it will be when, looming over the horizon, the Museum will finally find a permanent home!

(Your Editor is grateful to Curator Wayne Mazzotta for his enthusiastic write-up of Ken Marschallís backstage talk about Titanic. Ken is an articulate and expert painter/historian who has made it his unique business to know more about construction details, decor and furnishing of the immortal liner than anyone alive.

Californian Ken was in New York because he had just disembarked that morning from Millenniumís westbound repositioning from Genoa to New York. It is our fervent hope that the next time he is in town, he can be persuaded to address a Museum gathering again. One of those determined to be present will be your Editor who, because of lecturing commitments aboard Norwegian Dream, was unable to attend. Our great thanks to you, Ken, and all possible success in your continuing dedication and devotion to all ocean liners everywhere. We are all in your debt.)


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