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In the movie Titanic by James Cameron, the popular song Come Josephine in My Flying Machine features twice. As per Wikipedia:

Fragments of the song are sung a cappela in the movie Titanic (1997), early on by the character Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) to Rose and later, while awaiting rescue, by Rose (Kate Winslet); it is also featured in the deleted scene where the characters come back from the Irish party in third class.

Now, I wouldn't have actually paid attention to it but that last scene made some doubts stir. If it actually was nothing more than a light-hearted reference, why did Cameron decide to use it in the most crucial part of the movie's climax?

I think the director decided to use it because of two clear reasons :
1. Initially it was sung by Jack during his time in the ship in Rose's company. It was a happy memory, so chances are that the Rose was holding on to that memory of hers in the darkest of times.
2. Jack died of hypothermia while holding Rose's hand. Its a bit of a stretch but : the lines "up she goes" sung by Rose while looking up at the stars might bear a hint of death, as if someone was being carried into heaven. However, the confusion is - Josephine (feminine form of Joseph) is after all a girl's name. So no way could she be referring to Jack. Also, while Rose is singing the song she has no clue about Jack's death. She tries to wake him up a scene later.

So I don't understand. Why was this song repeated? I know someone like Cameron would have quite obviously did it on purpose. But what was it?

  • I don't have citations, so not an answer, but it's a "shared moment cue", that the audience will subconsciously understand, emotionally if not intellectually. – Tetsujin Jan 16 '18 at 19:37
  • @Tetsujin. Perhaps you are right. It was first used when Rose exclaimed ''Jack! I'm flying'' so probably romantic Jack used the song to court her, as it was related to flight also. So i guess point number 1 has some gravity. However, if someone could explain why Rose sang it at the end : I'd sleep well. – cinebird Jan 17 '18 at 4:33
  • I assumed but never checked that there was some historicity intended here and that the song was a popular hit at the time. But like I said, I never checked to see if that was true. – Todd Wilcox Jan 19 '18 at 20:26
  • By historicity you mean? It was indeed a popular song when titanic sank. The wikipedia page has it all. But i am interested in the directors motive behind using it. Why did Rose sing it? Why? – cinebird Jan 20 '18 at 11:35
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To Rose, it's Jack's song

The deleted scene is when we first hear it. The song is just a popular tune:

88 EXT. BOAT DECK - NIGHT

The stars blaze overhead, so bright and clear you can see the Milky Way. Rose and Jack walk along the row of lifeboats. Still giddy from the party, they are singing a popular song "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine".

JACK/ROSE Come Josephine in my flying machine, And it's up she goes! Up she goes! In the air she goes. Where? There she goes!

They fumble the words and break down laughing. They have reached the First Class Entrance, but don't go straight in, not wanting the evening to end. Through the doors the sound of the ship's orchestra wafts gently. Rose grabs a davit and leans back, staring at the cosmos.

...

ROSE (CONT'D)(pointing suddenly) Look! A shooting star.

JACK That was a long one. My father used to say that whenever you saw one, it was a soul going to heaven.

The song was popular, and touched on a fantastical idea - to fly. The book America's Songs II: Songs from the 1890s to the Post-War Years, by Michael Lasser, explains:

A ride in an automobile was a possibility, but going for a spin in an air-plane was nothing but fantasy. Back when cars and planes were new, songs about them offered opportunities for young lovers to be along - a combination of freedom, privacy, and independence for a combination of adventure, love, and sex.

Within a song lyric, the two seductive invitations were pretty much the same: "Come away with me, Lucille, / In my merry Oldsmobile" and "Come, Josephine in my flying machine/ Going up we go, up we go". Alred Bryan's lyric combined a predictable invitation with a fantastical dream: "Whoa! dear, don't hit the moon, / No, dear, not yet but soon".

Later at the bow of the ship, Rose 'flies'. Jack is taking 'Josephine' on his flying machine. The song is now 'their song'. For the characters and the audience, this moment is connected through that song. The next time either the characters or us hear it, we're taken back to this moment:

ROSE I'm flying!

She leans forward, arching her back. He puts his hands on her waist to steady her.

JACK (singing softly) Come Josephine in my flying machine...

Rose closes her eyes, feeling herself floating weightless far above the sea. She smiles dreamily, then leans back, gently pressing her back against his chest. He pushes forward slightly against her. Slowly he raises his hands, arms outstretched, and they meet hers...fingertips gently touching. Then their fingers intertwine. Moving slowly, their fingers caress through and around each other like the bodies of two lovers.

Finally, at the end of the film, Rose sings it to her and Jack, who she thinks might still be alive. The reason is probably because to both of them, the song will take them back to time to the time when they 'flew', when they were alive, and when the possibility of flying to the stars was still real.

CLOSE ON Rose's face. Pale, like the faces of the dead. She seems to be floating in a void. Rose is in a semi-hallucinatory state. She knows she is dying. Her lips barely move as she sings a scrap of Jack's song:

ROSE "Come Josephine in my flying machine..."

ROSE'S POV: The stars. Like you've never seen them. The Milky Way a glorious band from horizon to horizon.

A SHOOTING STAR flares... a line of light across the heavens.

As Jack mentioned, a shooting star is when a soul goes to heaven, and soon after Rose realises Jack is dead.

The song was present at the start, middle, and end of their relationship, and as @Tetsujin pointed out, it connects characters and moments together for the audience.

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