In Titanic (1997), poor boy Jack meets rich girl Rose. It’s an old story. Occasionally, the girl in the story is the poor one. Consider Pretty in Pink (1986) and Mystic Pizza (1988). Ragamuffins Andie (Molly Ringwald) and Daisy (Julia Roberts) make do on a budget, rescued as much by their personal style as by the hero. Roberts was believable as the daughter of a Portuguese American fishing family, who cleans up extremely well. But, to have the girl as the wealthier half of the couple almost guarantees fabulous clothes, certainly the case with Titanic.
When we first meet Rose DeWitt Bukater, she’s played by Gloria Stuart [Gold Diggers of 1935], who was then 87. In writer/director James Cameron’s version of events, Rose, who the histories of the disaster wrote off as dead, turns up as one of its last survivors. She may yield a clue to what became of the diamond necklace called the Heart of the Ocean, last seen in her possession. As she begins to speak, she has the complete attention of the treasure hunter (Bill Paxton) and his crew. This may also be the first time her granddaughter (Suzy Amis) has heard the story. Rose claims to be as much in the dark as anyone about the fate of the necklace, but there’s a twinkle in her eye. When there’s a flashback to the young Rose (Winslet) dressed in her 1912 finery, we’re already on her side.
It was a well deserved Oscar win for costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott [Avatar (2009)] who sets up Rose as impossibly well bred, the kind of girl that starving artist/street urchin Jack Dawson (DiCaprio) would be lucky to even dream about.
But, dream he does and with the help of “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown (Kathy Bates), a woman who knows something about class jumping, he puts on a dinner jacket and sees how the the stiffs of the other half live. Rose receives a very different lesson when she descends to steerage with Jack and discovers an Irish céilidh dance in full swing. Here, James Horner’s score switches from the ethereal to fiery.
There’s pure joy on her face as she dances with Jack. The fun couldn’t last, however. She’s dragged back to First Class by her fiancé (Billy Zane) and his henchman (David Warner). Of course, the story doesn’t end there.James Cameron won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. Imitating Jack’s moment of bravado, he hailed himself as “the King of the World.” Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress. With her nomination as Best Supporting Actress, Gloria Stuart became the oldest nominee. Neither won, but on turning 100 in July 2010, Stuart was honored by the Academy with a Centennial Celebration.
After telling the story of her greatest love, minus a single important detail concerning the necklace, there’s only one thing left for Rose to do.