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Martin Moran: The Man Behind Titanic's S.O.S.

By Kathy Henderson
July 27, 1997

Before Titanic became the surprise winner of five 1997 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Martin Moran wondered if audiences would "get it," as he puts it. "I always believed that the show had something truly beautiful and unusual to offer, but I wasn't sure that it would be accepted in the commercial arena," he says. "But even early in the run, we could feel audiences responding."

In a huge ensemble, Moran makes a strong impression as Harold Bride, the telegraph operator who doggedly tapped out a new distress signal as the R.M.S. Titanic went down on the night of April 14, 1912: S.O.S. His duet with a lovesick stoker (Brian d'Arcy James), "The Proposal/The Night Was Alive," was submitted to Tony voters on a special mini-CD. "It's an exquisitely beautiful melody," notes Moran, "and a surprising juxtaposition between a guy proposing to his loved one through my character's loved one the telegraph."

Though the real Bride bravely stayed at his post until the electricity went out moments before the Titanic sank, he survived by landing in an air bubble under a collapsible boat. "The moment the Carpathia landed in New York with the survivors, Marconi took a reporter on board where Bride was still tapping away on the telegraph, sending messages to the loved ones of survivors," says Moran, who studied Morse code and "read copiously" about the disaster before rehearsals began. "You get hooked in," he says. "It's such an extraordinary story."