A Night to Remember: Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews
Michael Goodliffe as Thomas Andrews, shipbuilder
North Atlantic Ocean, April 1912
Film: A Night to Remember
Release Date: July 3, 1958
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Costume Designer: Yvonne Caffin
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
109 years ago, around 11:40 p.m. on the night of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the celebrated luxury liner RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, sinking within three hours, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 of the 2,200 on board.
Among the dead were many instrumental in the ship’s operations including its captain Edward J. Smith, three of his officers, and Irish-born shipbuilder Thomas Andrews, who oversaw the design of the Titanic and her two sister ships from the time they were conceptualized for the White Star Line five years earlier. As was his practice as a managing director for Harland and Wolff, Andrews and his “guarantee group” would travel on their new ships during their maiden voyages to observe any issues or improvements that would be needed.
Andrews spent the first four days of the Titanic‘s voyage noting primarily cosmetic changes needed to the “ship of dreams”, until Smith summoned him from his cabin shortly after the ship struck the iceberg. Following a brief tour, Andrews gloomily surmised that the extent of Titanic‘s damage made it a “mathematical certainty” that she would sink, likely within the hour and certainly with only enough room in the lifeboats for little more than half the passengers and crew on board.
Fans of James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster may recognize Andrews as the character so affably played by Victor Garber, apologizing to Kate Winslet’s “young Rose” that he didn’t build her a stronger ship. As with many aspects of Cameron’s drama, several scenes featuring Thomas Andrews—such as his “mathematical certainty” assurance, advising a young couple on their escape, and being asked if he wasn’t even “going to make a try for it?”—were, er, inspired by A Night to Remember, Roy Ward Baker’s 1958 docudrama adapted from Walter Lord’s definitive book about the sinking.
Just as the 1997 Titanic benefitted from the kind, avuncular presence of Garber’s Andrews, A Night to Remember featured the smart casting of reliable character actor Michael Goodliffe to play Andrews, bringing to life the hardworking shipbuilder’s reputation for honesty and humility.
Born in Cheshire in 1914, Goodliffe was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the British Army soon after World War II. He was captured—and mistakenly reported as killed—during the Battle of Dunkirk, serving out the rest of the war in a German prison camp, where he produced, acted in, and often wrote plays to entertain his fellow prisoners.
Goodliffe resumed his acting career following the war, lending an authoritative but affable presence to playing military figures and professionals in films like The 39 Steps (1959) and Sink the Bismarck! (1960), both starring his A Night to Remember co-star Kenneth More, and even an uncredited appearance as MI6 chief of staff Bill Tanner in Roger Moore’s second James Bond film, The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).
What’d He Wear?
Thomas Andrews dresses for what begins as a quiet Sunday evening aboard Titanic in a subdued three-piece suit, likely made from a conservative dark gray or navy woolen cloth with a subtle self-stripe effect.
The ventless single-breasteed lounge jacket is tailored in the typical fashion of the later Edwardian era, following the trends of shorter sack suits. The notch lapels end above a four-button front that Andrews typically wears with only the top button done. The shoulders are gently padded, and the sleeves are finished with four-button cuffs. The jacket has a welted breast pocket and straight flapped hip pockets.
The suit’s matching single-breasted waistcoat (vest) has a high-fastening six-button front, which he wears fully fastened down to the notched bottom. The short notch lapels are an old-fashioned detail that become less common in the decades to follow. The satin-finished back has an adjustable strap, and the front is detailed with four welted pockets.
Andrews wears his pocket watch in his lower right waistcoat pocket, the chain looped “double Albert”-style across the waistcoat with a squared diamond-shaped fob hanging near the fifth button.
The flat front suit trousers appropriately rise to conceal the waist line under the waistcoat, and it’s only when Andrews has his jacket off while poring over the ship’s blueprints in his stateroom that we glimpse the white suspenders (braces) he wears to hold them up. These trousers have on-seam side pockets and back pockets with a button to close the right one, and the bottoms appear to be finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Andrews’ white shirt is the most dated part of his outfit, due to the detachable stiff standing collar he secures in place with gold studs through the front and back of his neck. Fastened with a set of light metal rectangular cuff links, his single cuffs function like the double (French) cuffs more commonly seen today, though without the extra fold of fabric. He also wears sleeve garters just above each elbow, another now-dated element that was common during this era to allow gents to either adjust the length of their sleeves or to keep their cuffs out of the way while working.
While the texture of knitted ties may pair well with coarser fabrics like tweed or slubbier silks and linens, an understated knitted silk tie can also add an interesting dimension to some business suits.
I’ve read that the knitted tie’s origins date back to at least the roaring ’20s, though I’m certain I’ve seen some photographic evidence of gents knotting on knitted neckwear during the decade previous, which would align with when Titanic sailed in the spring of 1912. Nearly a half-century later, knitted ties were being revived in response to the post-World War II “Bold Look” fashions, the subtle yin to the wide and wild “kipper tie” yang. By the early ’60s, the slim and solid-colored knitted tie would reach its greatest heights, embraced by pop cultural heroes from the Beatles to Bond.
Michael Goodliffe’s Andrews wears a very dark silk knit tie with a tie pin positioned just below the knot, securing the tie centimeters above the top of the high-fastening waistcoat.
At this point in time, dark leather lace-ups were the most acceptable footwear with business suits and Andrews is no exception with his cap-toe oxfords, likely constructed with black leather uppers.
Four years before Titanic sank, Thomas Andrews married his wife Helen Reilly Barbour, with whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth. Though the more widespread practice of men wearing wedding rings was still decades away, Andrews is depicted wearing a wedding band, consistent with his legacy as a devoted family man.
Andrews briefly wears an engineering coat when touring the ship before the disaster, though he unfortunately never get to see him wear the black wool coat with astrakhan fur collar that we see hanging on the back of his stateroom door.
Only briefly seen but certainly worthy of discussion would be Andrews’ outfit when joining White Star Line leaders on the bridge as Titanic departed Southampton four days earlier. The Irish shipbuilder’s attire is considerably more festive, if less dressy, with a thin-striped wool suit layered over an odd waistcoat, topped by a Shepherd’s check tweed flat cap.
Andrews wears another standing collar with his shirt, this time with a foulard silk tie consisting of a neat arrangement of small squares against a dark ground. The odd waistcoat is made from a light-colored and soft napped flannel with five mother-of-pearl buttons and a dark contrasting “tape” piping along the edges, including the jetting along the two hip pockets.
What to Imbibe
Believing the hardworking Andrews to need a break, the ship’s surgeon Dr. William Francis O’Laughlin (Joseph Tomelty), arrives at his stateroom with “sound medical advice” in the form of a bottle of Black & White Scotch whisky and charged water so that the two Irishmen may indulge in highballs that distract Andrews from the number of screws on the stateroom coat hooks.
How to Get the Look
A Night to Remember strove to represent historical accuracy to the extent that it was known at the time, so it’s no surprise that Titanic‘s builder Thomas Andrews dresses almost identically to how he was photographed in real life. Additionally impressive is the fact that a slight adjustment in fit and swapping in a modern shirt with an attached turndown collar is all that would be needed for Andrews’ sober three-piece suit to be fashionable in a gent’s closet more than a century later.
- Dark self-striped wool business suit:
- Single-breasted 4-button jacket with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Single-breasted 6-button waistcoat with short notch lapels, four welted pockets, satin-finished back with adjustable strap, and notched bottom
- Flat front trousers with on-seam side pockets, jetted back pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White cotton shirt with detachable standing collar and single cuffs
- Light metal rectangular cuff links
- Black knitted silk tie
- Tie pin
- Black leather cap-toe oxford shoes
- Pocket watch with “double Albert”-style chain
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie as well as Walter Lord’s exhaustively researched book that provided much of the source material.
She’s going to sink, Captain.
Although it’s usually for coats with a higher stance, buttoning only the top button, which was in vogue at the time, is known as Richmond style buttoning, after the Third Duke of Richmond, who had his field marshal’s uniform tailored with a single breasted front that he wore with only the top button fastened to make it more comfortable on horseback about 150 years prior to the Edwardian era.
Love this site so much man it’s given me so much more appreciation and understanding for fashion within film and tv, was wondering who is the character you’d say you have taken the most inspiration from personally?
Thanks for a well-earned appreciation of a fine actor. Goodliffe’s performance is one of the standouts in _A Night to Remember_, and he looks great in that suit. Looking at him, it’s a pity that he was never (so far as I know) cast as Sherlock Holmes: he has the _perfect_ look for it, right down to the receding hairline. What a great site this is!