Titanic Sank (for Movie) In Bronx River, 1914-15
by John McNamara; originally published December 6, 1971
The Bronx River has served in many capacities over the centuries — as an Indian canoe-route, a boundary water, a busy steamboat course to the river port of West Farms, a source of waterpower to grind snuff and flour, the scene of Revolutionary warfare and also the watery grave of the illfated Titanic. In reality, the sinking of the Titanic, pride of the British merchant marine, occured in 1912 when it collided with an iceberg, but a Bronx film studio re-enacted the disaster in the waters off Hunts Point.
Murray Haas, a Hunts Pointer from way back, remembers the filming of this epic in 1914 or 1915. The Union Railway carbarns were located at Randall Ave., next to the Bronx River, and these buildings served as work-shops, dressing-rooms and studios of the film company. Carpenters built a realistic hull of the transatlantic liner, complete to portholes and lifeboats, which was then anchored in the river. Extras were hired, provided they knew how to swim, and the final touch was a replica of an iceberg — a jagged combination of wood and canvas, painted a dazzling white, that was towed past the Titanic.
Actual filming was done at night under flares and arc-lights, and Hunts Pointers on shore watched the extras diving and jumping overboard, the repeated scenes of life-boats being lowered, and the sinking of the big ship. This last was accomplished by having the Titanic collapse in horizontal sections until the funnels were at waterlevel. The scenes were shot over and over again, until the wet actors and actresses shook with cold despite the mild weather.
Mr. Haas recalls the actress who took the part of Lady Duff-Gordon and the actor who portrayed Nathan Strauss [sic; see below] the millionaire who, with his wife, went down with the ship. What impressed him were the cameramen in rowboats, grinding their comparatively primitive cameras, while their assistants pulled on the oars.
The filming of the Titanic was the biggest event on Hunts Point in many a year, and oldtimers took to pinpointing anything else with the expression "Before the Titanic" or "After the Titanic."
As we know, it was actually Nathan's brother, Isidor Straus, who, along with his wife, went down with the ship.