- James Cameron’s film Titanic accurately portrayed the real-life experiences of the passengers, including the bravery of some survivors.
- Notable figures like Margaret “Molly” Brown and J. Bruce Ismay were accurately depicted in the film, showcasing their roles and actions during the sinking.
- The film also shed light on lesser-known survivors, such as Officer Charles Lightoller and Chief Baker Charles Joughin, who played important roles in the rescue efforts.
James Cameron included several real-life survivors in his 1997 film Titanic. Many brave souls went down with the ship the night of April 14th, 1912, while some were able to board lifeboats or find other ways of surviving until the Carpathia arrived. While Cameron spent a lot of time perfecting his Romeo & Juliet love story between Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt-Bukater, he also put effort into portraying the real-life passengers. He even did an incredible job casting these roles, especially with Captain Smith.
Cameron took a few creative liberties and included a few inaccuracies, but for the most part, his film was incredibly accurate to what the real-life passengers experienced. Notable people like Benjamin Guggenheim didn’t make it out alive and reportedly didn’t even try to save themselves. There was even a scene honoring Ida and Isador Strauss, who went down on Titanic together. However, from other first-class passengers to officers in charge of the lifeboats, here are 20 real people who appeared in Cameron’s Titanic and survived the fatal crash.
20 Margaret Molly Brown
Margaret “Molly” Brown is one of the most renowned Titanic survivors due to her strong will and tenacity. Kathy Bates portrayed her in James Cameron’s film as she urged Quartermaster Robert Hichens to go back and rescue passengers who had been left behind. She was warned of the dangers of returning to the site of the sinking, but unlike some of the other selfish first-class passengers, she wasn’t afraid. Allegedly, Brown even threatened to throw Hitchens overboard because of his refusal. Brown became known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown due to her resilience and efforts to help surviving passengers as well as women during World War I.
19 J. Bruce Ismay
Unlike Brown, J. Bruce Ismay is not remembered for being a hero. Ismay served as chairman and managing director of White Star Line, and in Titanic, actor Jonathan Hyde, who played Ismay, and Bernard Hill, who played Captain Smith, acted out a scenario that actually happened. Ismay insisted on speeding up the ship in order to make headlines and break records.
It’s believed the Titanic may have had a better shot at survival had it not been speeding through icy waters. Unlike Smith and Thomas Andrews, the Titanic’s architect, Ismay didn’t go down with the ship. Cameron’s film shows him shamelessly jumping on a lifeboat, but the businessman later lived a life full of shame and depression, which lasted until his death.
18 Second Officer Charles Lightoller
Second Officer Charles Lightoller had felt the Titanic’s collision while asleep but initially didn’t see any damage and returned to his bed until he was woken up with the news she had struck an iceberg. Lightoller misinterpreted Smith’s women and children first rule and thought he was only supposed to load the boats with women and children. This resulted in boats with plenty of space for more passengers being launched into the ocean because if there weren’t any more women and children around while he was launching his boat, he didn’t allow men to fill the spaces. Lightoller survived by holding onto Collapsible B before being saved by another lifeboat.
17 Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall
Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall had one of the most important jobs the night of the Titanic’s sinking. Boxhall was the one who calculated the Titanic’s position so the crew could send out a distress signal to other boats nearby. He was also the one who attempted to use Morse Code to get the attention of a nearby boat that many in history believe was the SS Californian. Boxhall was put in charge of Lifeboat 2 and arrived at the Carpathia at 4 am.
16 Fifth Officer Harold Lowe
Harold Lowe was asleep when the Titanic hit the iceberg on April 14th, 1912, but woke up 30 minutes later. Reportedly, he shot into a crowd of men trying to jump onto lifeboat 14, saying, “get back, or I’ll shoot you all like dogs,” but in Cameron’s film, the filmmaker gave this line to Lightoller. Lowe insisted he didn’t actually shoot any of the men but was only shooting into the crowd to scare them. Lowe assisted in transferring passengers between lifeboats so he could get a team of people into one to return to the site of the sinking and rescue passengers from the water.
15 Quartermaster George Rowe
George Rowe was one of the officers in charge of firing rockets from the Titanic in order to get the attention of what appeared to be a ship in the distance. Rowe helped board Collapsible C before getting in and manning the boat for the remainder of the night. He remembered hearing the sound of the Titanic plunging into the ocean but didn’t witness it with his eyes. In the 50s, Rowe cooperated in offering information to Walter Lord for his 1958 film A Night To Remember.
14 Quartermaster Robert Hichens
Quartermaster Robert Hichens certainly had the added stress of being in a lifeboat with Molly Brown on top of all his other responsibilities in saving as many passengers as possible. While Brown meant well, Hitchens’ perspective is understandable, as everyone was afraid and just trying to survive. Hichens was in charge of lifeboat number 6, which was not one of the lifeboats to return to the wreckage, despite Brown’s efforts.
13 Lookout Frederick Fleet
In Cameron’s 1997 film, Scott G. Anderson portrayed Lookout Frederick Fleet in what is arguably the most important scene of the film, the moment Fleet sees the iceberg that the Titanic is headed toward. Fleet quickly warned the crew about the iceberg he saw and remained on lookout for 20 minutes after the collision. Fleet helped prepare lifeboat 6 and eventually joined Hitchens in the boat as it was lowered away.
12 Reginald Lee
Fleet wasn’t alone on lookout as Reginald Lee was there with him. In Titanic, Martin East portrays Lee and is angry with Fleet for not seeing the iceberg sooner. Lee was put in charge of lifeboat 13 and survived along with Fleet. Despite the traumatizing night, Lee returned to sea, working aboard Kenilworth Castle before his death from pneumonia-related complications in 1913, only a year after the Titanic’s sinking.
11 Junior Wireless Officer Harold Bride
Officer Harold Bride had gone to bed before Titanic struck the iceberg. However, once he was alerted of the collision, it was his job to send out distress signals to any nearby ships that could come to their rescue. Bride survived by clinging to Collapsible B with Lightoller and other passengers. Under Lightoller’s leadership, they were all able to shift their weight to keep the boat afloat. Bride and the other survivors were later taken onto other lifeboats and rowed to the Carpathia.
10 Chief Baker Charles Joughin
One of the most fascinating stories of survival from the night of Titanic’s sinking is that of Chief Baker Charles Joughin. The baker only briefly appeared in Cameron’s film, played by Liam Tuohy, and was seen at the bow of the ship drinking from a flask. This is pretty similar to what actually happened the night of the sinking. Joughin helped board passengers into lifeboat 10 and was assigned the boat’s captain, but ended up not boarding.
He then went down to the A deck promenade and started throwing chairs into the water so they could be used as floating devices. Joughin rode the ship down the way it’s portrayed in Cameron’s film, the same way Jack and Rose did. Joughlin trod water for two hours before swimming to Collapsible B. He wasn’t able to get on top, so he remained in the water. When he was rescued by a lifeboat, his only injury was swollen feet. It’s believed he was able to bear the freezing waters because of the levels of alcohol he had consumed before the sinking.
9 Madeleine Astor
Madeleine Astor was five months pregnant when she boarded the Titanic as a first-class passenger. Astor crawled with her maid and her nurse through the first-class promenade window into lifeboat 4. Her husband, John Jacob Aster IV, asked if he could join his wife on the boat since she was pregnant, but Lightoller denied his request. Madeleine Astor made it off the Titanic safely, but sadly her husband perished.
8 Archibald Gracie IV
Writer and real estate investor Archibald Gracie IV was a first-class passenger on the Titanic. The night of the sinking, he assisted Lightoller in helping women and children into the remaining lifeboats. Gracie joined survivors and Lightoller on Collapsible B and was so exhausted and cold that he was unable to climb onto the lifeboat when it came to rescue the passengers. He had to be pulled into lifeboat 12, the last boat to reach Carpathia. Unfortunately, Gracie’s health declined after the tragedy, and he passed away in December 1912.
7 Léontine Aubart
Léontine Aubart was a first-class Titanic passenger and the mistress of Benjamin Guggenheim. Guggenheim, as displayed in Cameron’s film, was dressed in his best and went down with the ship as a gentleman. However, Aubart made it out alive with her maid and was reportedly on board lifeboat 9.
6 Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon
While many men on the Titanic either weren’t allowed on lifeboats or chose not to board them so they wouldn’t take spots away from women and children, Duff-Gordon was one of 12 people aboard lifeboat 1. The passenger admitted to bribing the officer in charge of the boat to let him on but claimed it was only so the man could buy new clothes.
5 Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon
Cosmo Duff-Gordon was not alone aboard lifeboat 1, but he had his wife Lucile, Lady Duff-Gordon, with him, along with her secretary Laura Mabel Francatelli. The British fashion designer had reportedly made a comment about her secretary losing one of her gowns in the sinking, which angered another passenger who had lost everything. This is when Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon reportedly started handing out money to the survivors on the lifeboat. Lady Duff-Gordon claimed not to remember much of what had occurred on the lifeboat after the sinking.
4 Frederick Barrett
Frederick Barrett was working in boiler room 6 when Titanic struck the iceberg. He was in the boiler room when water started pouring in, and he had to evacuate the boiler room despite being told to remain there. This was portrayed in James Cameron’s Titanic film as workers were sliding under the water-tight doors as they were closing. Barrett boarded lifeboat 13 and almost got crushed by lifeboat 15, which came down on top of it, also portrayed in the movie. Barrett was in charge of lifeboat 13 for an hour until he got too cold and let someone else take over. A woman put a cloak over him to keep him warm, and after that, he didn’t remember anything that happened on the lifeboat.
3 Third Officer Herbert Pitman
Herbert Pitman, like many others, was asleep during Titanic’ collision. He was informed of the collision by Boxhall and was then ordered to help prepare the lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship. He was put in charge of lifeboat number 5 and, at the time, didn’t believe Titanic was seriously damaged. Pitman watched Titanic sink from about 400 yards away. Pitman had wanted to go back to rescue other passengers, but the survivors in his boat begged him not to as they were afraid their boat would be swamped, and he listened.
2 Lucy Noël Martha Leslie, Countess of Rothes
Lucy Noël Martha Leslie, Countess of Rothes was a British philanthropist and was seen as a heroine during Titanic’s sinking as she helped command her lifeboat. Rothes boarded lifeboat 8, the first boat to reach the water on the port side of the ship. Rothes steered the boat for over an hour before having her husband’s cousin Gladys Cherry take over while she comforted María Josefa Peñasco y Castellana, a newlywed whose husband perished in the sinking. When Rothes boarded the Carpathia, she dedicated her time to helping women and children from steerage.
1 The Six Forgotten Chinese Passengers
In a deleted scene from Cameron’s 1997 film, a Chinese passenger is pulled into lifeboat 14 under Harold Lowe’s orders. While the scene never made it into the final version of Titanic, the night of the sinking, there were six Chinese passengers saved from the water. Cameron wrote the scene to honor them, as history has pretty much erased them from the stories of the tragedy.
There were reportedly eight Chinese passengers on board the ship, the survivors being Lee Bing, Chang Chip, Chung Foo, Ling Hee, Fang Lang, and Ah Lam. It’s believed the men were sailors on their way to the Caribbean for work since the Chinese Exclusion Act Of 1882 prevented them from entering the United States. In 2020, Arthur Jones released the documentary The Six, telling the story of the Chinese survivors cut from Cameron’s Titanic.