This controversial ‘Titanic’ accessory sold for more than $700,000 at a memorabilia auction

It’s one of the most iconic and most debated props in film history: the driftwood panel that saved Kate Winslet’s “Titanic” character, Rose DeWitt Bukater, from the icy waters of the North Atlantic after the titular ocean liner sank. , but not Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson. . And now it has sold at auction for more than $700,000.

“Often mistakenly referred to as a door, the ornate structure was actually part of the door frame just above the entrance to the first class lounge,” Heritage Auctions wrote in the auction notes.

The prop’s pivotal role in the “big scene, big goodbye” moment, as the auction house had described it, features Rose floating in the carved floral panel while Jack, having tried unsuccessfully to rest on it, has succumbed to the cold. When a rescue boat arrives, Rose is forced to release her hand from its frozen grip, as she utters the famous line, “I’ll never let you go, I promise,” through chattering teeth, as she swims toward her rescuers.

The Titanic sets sail from Southampton, England, on April 10, 1912, on its maiden voyage. (AP file photo)

The ornate balsa wood panel had previously been displayed at a Planet Hollywood in Orlando, Florida, before being stored in its archives for about two decades, the auction house told CNN.

It was sold along with a list of other props in the “Treasures From Planet Hollywood” auction, which included memorabilia items once displayed at Planet Hollywood locations around the world and from its archives. Among them were pieces like the whip from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and the ax from “The Shining.”

At nearly 1,600 lots in total, the five-day auction raised $15.7 million, according to to a press release.

But the Titanic wreck took the prize for highest-priced piece, far surpassing its asking price of $40,000 and selling for a total of $718,750 after a spirited bidding war.

Several other “Titanic” props were also on sale, including the pastel chiffon evening dress Rose wears in the film on the night of the sinking and the ship’s helm, which sold for $118,750 and $200,000 respectively.

A 2012 episode of the Discovery show “MythBusters” found that two people could have survived long enough on the panel, which measures about eight feet (2.4 meters) long and just over three feet (one meter) wide. , if they added a life. jacket for greater buoyancy. However, commenting on the results, “Titanic” director James Cameron told the show’s hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage that Jack needed to die anyway.

And in 2022, Cameron, along with a hypothermia expert, attempted to end the debate once and for all with a mock test to see if two people of the same body mass as Winslet and DiCaprio could really have stayed afloat in a piece of wood of the same size. His final answer was no, it was not possible.

There was no additional testing of these theories on the accessory before its sale, as the auction house chooses to “handle all items with great care during transportation and storage,” Heritage Auctions told CNN. But its new owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, could well be planning a day at the pool, drawn by the allure of the mystery that has been around for more than two decades.

“What we’re seeing is this enormous interest in films from the 1980s and 1990s,” Joe Maddalena, executive vice president of Heritage Auctions, said in a statement. “There’s been a generational shift where these huge franchises from the ’80s and ’90s (‘Home Alone,’ the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies, ‘Die Hard’) are now collector favorites…The “Collectors are finally rewarding these artifacts for what they are: cultural artifacts similar to the fine arts of yesteryear.”

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