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Movie Detail Monday: ‘Titanic’ and the Spinning Top

Titanic Boy Top
Titanic Boy Top

James Cameron went to incredible lengths to preserve historical accuracy in his 1997 epic “Titanic.” From the exacting scale of the ship to real-life people portrayed throughout the flick, no details were overlooked.

Even seemingly throwaway moments onboard the S.S. Titanic are steeped in reality. Take the below snippet of a scene in which a boy is playing on the deck of a ship spinning a top:

Titanic Movie Boy with Top

Sure, one could easily assume it was simply thrown in to represent the mundanity of setting sail, or perhaps the carefree and privileged nature of Titanic’s first class passengers. Yet the scene invokes an actual historical photo, one of just a few to exist of life aboard the ship.

Behold the real deal, a photo taken of first class passenger Frederic Spedden and his 6-year-old son, Douglas. It was snapped on April 11th, 1912 by Jesuit priest Francis Browne.

Douglas Spedden on the Titanic

The photograph was preserved since Browne didn’t actually stay on the ship to journey across the Atlantic. Titanic had two initial stops on her voyage, in Cherbourg, France, and Queenstown, Ireland, to pick up her final passengers. Browne exited the ship in Queenstown.

As for the Spedden family, they survived the sinking of Titanic. Young Douglas mostly slept through the ordeal, waking up the next morning safe and sound on a lifeboat. He would not be so lucky in the near future. Just three years after the disaster, Douglas was struck by an automobile and tragically killed.

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