TV review: Lesser-known stories of Titanic's builders related in documentary
Courtesy of Stephanie Seabrook © 360 Production Ltd.
If you watch “Dancing With the Stars,” you’ll know that Len Goodman is one of the show’s judges. But even diehard fans of the reality show will not know that before Goodman donned dancing shoes he was a welder — a welder for Harland and Wolff.
And if you know your Titanic history, you’ll recall that the British shipbuilding company of Harland and Wolff constructed the ill-fated ocean liner at its Belfast, Northern Ireland dry dock.
Are you keeping up with me? Let’s do a connect-the-dots review: “Dancing With the Stars” to Len Goodman to welding to Harland and Woolf to the Titanic.
The ballroom dancer has a tenuous connection at best to the Titanic, especially considering that he welded for the company in its London yard, not in Belfast. Nevertheless, Goodman was tapped to relate stories of the Titanic’s builders and their descendants. And his importance to the PBS documentary warranted including his name in the title — but, knowing who the bigger star is, the producers gave Goodman second billing.
Another program to mark the Titanic’s 100-year anniversary, “The Titanic With Len Goodman” airs at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10, on KUED-Ch. 7.
In his navy blazer and starched shirt, Goodman makes a dapper host, beginning with a walking tour of the Belfast slipway and dry dock built specifically for the Titanic. More than three million rivets were used to construct the behemoth vessel, and it required four men and one young boy to hammer in a single red-hot iron and steel rivet. After showing that Goodman still can weld, he joins a crew to re-enact the riveting process.
In interviews, we learn that the Titanic continues to haunt the families of its builders, and crew members were traumatized by their involvement. Goodman has a chat with Philip Littlejohn, whose grandfather Alexander James Littlejohn was a Titanic first-class steward. Though it’s been 100 years, the man is still indignant at the treatment his grandfather received when the ship sank. His grandfather was discharged while still at sea and left penniless when he finally arrived in New York.
Another descendant shows two photographs of his grandfather. The first was taken before the Titanic set sail and the second following the disaster. In just a matter of months, the hair color of his grandfather had gone from jet black to totally white.
Eight workers were killed during construction, before the ship even reached the water, and that number was considered typical.
Goodman meets Yvonne Hume, the great-niece of Jock Hume, the violinist in the famous Titanic band that played “Nearer, My God, to Thee” as its last selection. A bitter family feud erupted after the musician’s death, and the woman is just now being reunited with cousins she never knew she had.
That’s the general gist of “The Titanic With Len Goodman.” These lesser-known stories are interesting enough. But the script would have benefited from tightening. Goodman describes the sinking as both “sad and tragic” and the ship’s decor had “style and panache.”
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