Why Titanic’s youngest survivor refused to see James Cameron’s film


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Millvina Dean was only 9 weeks old when her family boarded the Titanic — she couldn’t imagine the horror she was about to experience.

When the ship crashed into the iceberg in April 1912, Dean, her brother and mother survived, while her father died with 1,500 people in the world’s most famous maritime disaster.

Dean’s story has resurfaced amid the re-release of James Cameron’s “Titanic” to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1997 film. Dean refused to see the blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

As the story goes, Dean’s family wasn’t even supposed to be aboard the Titanic — they were forced to change vessels due to a coal strike.

When the ship started to sink, Dean, her brother and mother boarded lifeboat 10. They were eventually rescued by the RMS Carpathia, which set off to New York City.

Dean said it wasn’t until she was 8 years old that her mother told her the tale of the Titanic.
PA Images via Getty Images

After spending weeks in the hospital, they set sail to England on the RMS Adriatic. Crowds waited to hold Dean upon her arrival — prompting officers to limit gawkers to 10 minutes apiece.

Dean, who died in 2009 at the age of 97, wasn’t truly aware of the tragedy of the Titanic until she was 8, and she didn’t publicly speak about the shipwreck until it was found in the depths of the ocean in 1985.

Her mother didn’t want to talk about the catastrophe after losing her first husband, Dean previously said, because it “was so awful for her.” 

While Dean told the Belfast Telegraph she “couldn’t care less” about her father because he was a “stranger” to her, she did admit that her father was the reason she never watched Cameron’s smash hit.

“Because that’s the ship on which my father went down. Although I didn’t remember him, nothing about him, I would still be emotional,” she said at the time, just weeks before her passing. “I would think: ‘How did he go down? Did he go down with the ship or did he jump overboard?’”

Millvina Dean
Dean was only 9 weeks old when she boarded the ship.
San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

That didn’t stop the film’s cast from donating to her extensive nursing home costs due to a broken hip — to the tune of $30,000.

The TV special “Titanic: 25 years Later With James Cameron” premiered this month in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Oscar-winning film. In it, the director finally settled the debate if Jack (played by DiCaprio) could have survived on the lovebirds’ makeshift raft.

While he admitted the star-crossed lovers both could have fit in certain scenarios, it isn’t likely they would have survived. In fact, the “Avatar” director believes Jack needed to die for the fictionalized film’s plot.

kate winslet and leonardo dicaprio in titanic
The James Cameron flick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is being re-released for the 25th anniversary.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

In 1998, Dean finally completed the voyage from England to New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth II before heading to Kansas City, where she would have landed if Titanic had not wrecked 85 years earlier.

“[Dean] was a remarkable, sparkling lady,” Charles Haas, president of the Titanic International Society, told the Los Angeles Times after her death. “She knew her place in history and was always willing to share her story with others, especially children. She was the last living link to the story.”

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