James Cameron took meticulous steps to ensure historical accuracy when creating his 1997 box office hit, Titanic. Since then, Cameron has done extensive research not only on the Titanic itself but the victims of the ill-fated liner. Now, almost thirty years later, the director has one major regret regarding his depiction of a significant character in the movie.
In James Cameron’s Titanic, First Officer William McMaster Murdoch was the individual who shot and killed Jack Dawson’s friend, Tommy. After Murdoch realizes what he has done, he shoots himself in the head. The last time we see William Murdoch is when his body is shown floating face down in the water.
Cameron based this scene on eyewitness evidence of a shooting/suicide by an officer during the launching of the lifeboats from the actual Titanic. Multiple survivors claim that there was a shooting while Collapsible C was being loaded.
In a private letter written onboard the Carpathia, first-class survivor Hugh Woolner wrote: “We saw the first officer [Murdoch] twice fire a pistol in the air ordering a crowd of the crew out of the boat.” Woolner’s testimony at the United States Senate Inquiry on the sinking of the Titanic largely matched what he described in his private letter. Woolner testified that “there was a sort of scramble on the starboard side, and I looked around and I saw two flashed of a pistol in the air… I head Mr. Murdoch shouting, ‘Get out of this, clear out of this.’” Although this eyewitness account directly names William Murdoch, it does not state that he shot any passengers or himself.
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