Like basically everybody else on this planet, I have also seen James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster hit "Titanic" and yes, also more than once. A couple of things immediately fascinated me about the movie. One of those things actually was a character that was in it.. It wasn't so much that he impressed me, or played a relevant role in the movie but it was one that made me wonder why he was in it in the first place and why James Cameron on a certain moment decided to suddenly focus on him, while the movie was nearing its climax (SPOILER: The sinking of the Titanic).

The character that I'm talking about is the cook! Or well, I at least always thought he was supposed to be a cook but we will get in to that later. Anyway, remember the moment that the Titanic starts sinking and Jack and Rose, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, decide to stay aboard the ship for as long as they can, which means they hold on to the rear railing of the ship, while the Titanic is slowly going vertically down. For a brief moment Rose looks up and sees a man dressed as what seems to be a cook. He does or says nothing and only takes a sip from his flask (see picture below if you still don't know who I mean).

But that is not the last time we see him. As the ship goes down fast into the cold water, we see the cook character standing up, making him the last character in the movie to hit the water.

Now, I always kept thinking to myself; Why did James Cameron let a character, that we had never seen in the movie before, go down last with the ship? I never understood it but the character kept on intruiging me, every time when I would see the movie. There obviously was some kind of significance to it, which I just could never put my finger on.

But then I saw the far superior 1958 Titanic movie "A Night to Remember" and suddenly it all came together for me. There was a character in it that looked exactly like the one in the James Cameron movie, dressed in a cook's outfit. (see picture below).
He was being a sort of comical relief, as strange as that might sound for a serious Titanic movie. But as the ship goes down and everybody is running and screaming in panic, while trying to survive, he is slowly and casually walking around the ship, checking every room and cupboard for something strong to drink. He isn't busy trying to survive at all. All he wants is to get drunk, so he will not feel any fear and can die while having a good time.

I thought that James Cameron must had probably been paying homage  to this earlier Titanic movie and the character in general. A sort of funny inside joke for those who had seen the 1958 movie. This wasn't a strange thought, since James Cameron actually 'borrowed' quite a lot from all of the earlier Titanic movies for his own one but lets not get in to that. Maybe that's something for another time to talk about.

The character, as it turned out, survived the Titanic disaster in both movies. In "A Night to Remember" he gets picked up by a lifeboat, while being extremely drunk.In the 1997 movie, apparently the same thing happens but this can not be seen on screen. He does survive though and got picked up by a lifeboat, as the picture below proofs.

As it turned out, James Cameron actually shot more scenes, involving the cook-like character. But considering the fact that the movie already is well over 3 hours long as it is, it is no big surprise these scenes got eventually cut from the movie. The cut scenes involved the character, prior to the sinking, maybe even in a  "A Night to Remember" type of fashion, looking to get drunk, though I doubt that actually.

So case closed! Mystery solved! Or at least that is what I thought. But after doing some more research I found out that the character actually got based on a real person, who survived the Titanic disaster.

The persons name was Charles John Joughin (see picture), who was aboard the Titanic as its chief baker. A baker, so not a cook, as I always thought.

As it turned out, the potrayal of his story in the "A Night to Remember" is actually a quite accurate one. No big suprise, since Charles Joughin himself told his story to writer Walter Lord, who wrote the novel 'A Night to Remember', which the later movie, by the same title, got based on.

Instead of being busy trying to survive, Joughin found a bottle of whiskey and went back to his cabin, ready to die, even though he was assigned to board lifeboat 10. First he helped a couple of women and children to board the lifeboats but he himself refused every opportunity to board a lifeboat. Later on, perhaps after realizing that the ship was truly sinking, Joughin went back up again to the decks, only to find out that all of the lifeboats had been lowered already.

When the ship started to buckle, he started running toward the back end of the ship. According to him, the ship suddenly gave a list over to port, which threw everybody off, except for him. Joughin climbed up to the deck, when finally getting a hold of the safety rail, so that he was on the outside of the ship, as it went down. As the ship started to sink, he rode it down like an elevator, until he hit the water and simply stepped off, without even getting his head wet, as he later claimed, making him the last person to leave the Titanic.

He then spend two hours in the cold water, slowly paddling around, until finally, when daylight broke, he spotted a lifeboat. He swam up to it but the lifeboat was already full and besides turned upside down. A man and colleague that recognized him held his hand, while most of Joughin's lower body was still in the water. Later on another lifeboat appeared and Joughin was taking in, before finally getting picked up by the RMS Carpathia.

He later claimed that the cold water hadn't troubled him and when he got picked up by the RMS Carpathia, he had no physical injuries. All most likely thanks to the liquor he had drank, which kept his body warm, while he was in the cold water, which took the life of many others.

After the Titanic, he kept working aboard ships, including troop transport ships during WW II, before he finally retired in 1944. The Titanic disaster however wasn't the only maritime disasters he was involved with. He also was on board of the SS Oregon, when it sank in Boston Harbor.

Charles John Joughin died on 9 December 1956, at the age of 78, after two weeks with pneumonia. He is buried, alongside his wife, in the Cedar Lawn Cemetery, in Paterson, New Jersey.
 But his story and legacy of course still lives on, also thanks to the movies!

About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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