Titanic: 'A Night to Remember,' 1956

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One hundred years after the sinking of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic, the tragic story of the unsinkable ship fascinates as much today as it did on that fateful day, April 15, 1912. Though many today are most familiar with James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster film "Titanic,"  the story was first mass-popularized by acclaimed author Walter Lord, whose 1955 book A Night to Remember was drawn from first-hand accounts of 63 survivors on that maiden voyage.

In this March 1956 broadcast of the "New York Herald Tribune's Books and Authors Luncheon," host Irita van Doren lavishes Lord with praise, noting his eclectic career as an author and his commitment to telling the story that had mesmerized him since he was a child. She observes the many changes made to shipping in the decades since 1912, and makes particular reference to the class distinctions of the day that resulted in massive loss of life among the less affluent passengers housed on the lower decks of the massive ship.

In his enumeration of the many factors that eventually led to the wreck which left more than 1,400 people dead – starting with a delayed departure from Southampton, followed by the many warnings of icebergs that were ignored and compounded by the stillness of a moonless night - Lord notes the many ways in which fate was against the Titanic.

Lord goes on to describe the great dignity of many of the passengers aboard – rich and poor – who faced their end as the band played. He describes this night as one that proved that a man’s social position has nothing to do with his morality, his intelligence or his bravery.

Upon Van Doren’s encouragement Lord returns to the microphone to describe the rescue efforts of the RMS Carpathia, a little ship commanded by Capt. Arthur Henry Rostron that answered the Titanic's SOS calls, rescuing survivors from the icy waters all through the night.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.