Friday, June 13, 2008

"Churchill": PBS re-airs 3-part film

On June 12, the PBS Maryland Public Television rebroadcast the three-part, three-hour film "Churchill" (2003) from Carlton Television, with Ian McKellen. The three episodes are (1) “Destiny”, which covers Churchill’s life and career before WWII, (2) “The Lion’s Roar”, which covers the early WWII period (especially the Battle of Britain), and (3) “The Last Prize”, which covers the victory in Europe, and the Cold War, his retirement and strokes, and his death and funeral. It was filmed at Chartwell, Blenheim, Baldon Church, and the House of Commons.

His full name was Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, and he was born prematurely in 1974. He was a poor and rebellious student (with what he called a “speech impediment”) and had an erratic early life, getting into the Sandhurst military academy after a couple of failed entrance attempts. He had episodes in Cuba, India and what is now Pakistan, and South Africa. He entered Parliament as a Conservative in 1900 and changed over to Liberal. He went back into military service during the “stalemate” of World War I, and the film shows some footage. He would return to politics and be appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer when Britain tried to return to the gold standard in 1924. His meeting with Keynes would lead to a curious document by Keynes that would predict the 1930s depression. His participation during the Abdication Crisis would create controversy and “exile”.

However, Churchill would be appointed Prime Minister as World War II developed, and he would give the “we will never surrender” speech. Later he would say, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” The film shows striking live footage of the German bombings of London, which came about rather suddenly with airraid sirens. (The episode is covered in other period movies like “Mrs. Miniver”). The British people would endure hardships at home that Americans, as challenged as they were with the war, did not quite grasp. Later, Churchill would ponder using poison gas to sicken the people in Germany, and say that in total war, morality doesn’t matter. But instead he (along with FDR) would “settle” for carpet bombing of cities in Germany. Later he would have reservations about this practice, as developed in

Churchill would lose the 1945 election after the War. After World War II Churchill would be outspoken about the Soviets and the development of the Iron Curtain, and would return to power in 1951. He would have health problems, including pneumonia and strokes. After his death in early 1965 he would have a grand funeral, and the film shows (in color) the procession with a band transcription of the “Funeral March” from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A-flat creating a somber mood.

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