July 14th, 2017

Churchill: life and art at the movies

[See ADDENDUM below.]

At Powerline I saw this post by Steven Hayward about a new movie on Churchill called “Darkest Hour,” set shortly before D-Day. It stars Gary Oldman in the lead role, and from the trailer posted at Powerline, it looks good. I plan to see it:

Oldman not only is made up to resemble Churchill facially, his posture is like Churchill’s and he sounds much like him as well, doesn’t he?

Or does he?

When I watched that stirring “We shall never surrender!” speech towards the end of the trailer, it struck me as too histrionic compared to Churchill’s own style. As a child I used to listen to Edward Murrow records that often featured short excerpts from Churchill’s most famous speeches, and I remember that his delivery of the most inspirational lines tended to be more subdued, with a sort of weary acceptance that stalwart courage and perseverance didn’t require shouting or rabble-rousing, it was merely what the Brits would do because it was who they were.

I’ve written about those Murrow records before, here. I think that listening to them as a child was the beginning of my admiration for Churchill. Luckily, YouTube provides many of Churchill’s speeches—and here’s the same speech, the real thing. You can hear the difference (listen especially to the last two minutes, but the exact part in the trailer starts at 11:25):

And notice what he says right after “We shall never surrender!”

[ADDENDUM: In response to a comment below by Brian Swisher, I did a bit more research and discovered that the Churchill recording may have been read later by Churchill, and was almost certainly not a recording of the actual speech in Parliament, where recordings were not permitted at the time. So perhaps we really don’t know what Churchill actually sounded like in the original speech; just in his later delivery:

But many Churchill Speech CDs, and LPs before them, contained only excerpts. Some of these were taken from the BBC broadcasts, but most were recorded by Churchill years later.

No recordings were permitted in the House of Commons at that time, leaving us with two inferior possibilities: Churchill’s broadcast speeches over the BBC, or in some cases postwar recordings, both of which—said those who heard them in the Commons—lack the fire of the originals.

So perhaps Churchill did indeed exhibit a bit more fire in the heat of the moment.’ We just don’t know, but the reports would indicate he did.

However, according to the linked article, there’s no truth to the rumor that an actor made the recordings. It was Churchill himself.]

33 Responses to “Churchill: life and art at the movies”

  1. Dan Says:

    Thanks. That was great

  2. Rachelle Says:

    I watched the trailer and will probably watch the movie, but I agree with you about Oldman’s version of Churchill’s speech. Oldman was a bit too histrionic to evoke Churchill for me.
    However, his rendition made me realize how much better and more powerful Churchill’s speeches were for being somewhat businesslike rather than emotive. To me, and I suspect to millions of others, one got the idea that he really means it and doesn’t need to dress it up with any frilly emotion. “We will fight them on the beaches . . . .” from Churchill rings with an ‘of course we will and I am only mentioning it’. Of course we will fight to the end; we will never give up.

    He was a great man and the UK and the West could use his certainty and resolve again.

  3. Oldflyer Says:

    It is interesting to think of Churchill, a man so many would call a “flawed character”; and segue to the present.

    No, no. I am not suggesting that Trump is Churchillian; although I suspect that if circumstances require, he is capable of rising to greater heights than his critics believe possible. Much as Churchill did.

    I expect that some will disagree; and may even have something to say on the subject.

  4. neo-neocon Says:

    Oldflyer:

    I don’t think people would say Churchill’s character was flawed; rather, that he had some personal defects. For example, some allege he drank too much (I’ve heard he didn’t really drink as much as people think and that he just sipped his drinks throughout the day, but I don’t know which is the truth). He also sometimes could insult people, but with great flair and wit and elegance. He had some of the racial bigotry of his generation. He thought he was right about a lot of things, which may have made him arrogant, but he was brilliant and he was often right. He was a somewhat too indulgent father, apparently.

    That was it, as far as I know. Are those “character flaws”? He was a faithful husband. I don’t think he was caught in many lies, and he was a politician! What were his character flaws?

  5. Brian Swisher Says:

    I’ve read that Churchill re-delivered his Parliamentary speeches for broadcast on the wireless. This was necessarily done pretty late in the day when he was tired. Was this recording made in Parliament, or was it later?

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Biran Swisher:

    Good question. I don’t know the answer.

    This site says the speech addressed the House of Commons. So he definitely seems to have delivered it in Parliament. It still doesn’t say whether this was a repeat for the wireless.

  7. neo-neocon Says:

    Brian Swisher:

    I did a bit more research and am adding an addendum.

  8. huxley Says:

    On the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death the Daily Telegraph published the amusing story of a writer who tried to match Churchill’s reputed drinking regimen for a single day and failed dismally.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/drinks/the-day-i-tried-to-match-churchill-drink-for-drink/

    It’s the sort of thing the Telegraph does well along with the best obituaries in the business.

  9. huxley Says:

    Hmm. Not the Daily Telegraph, just the Telegraph. I was reading the Daily Mail earlier today.

  10. huxley Says:

    Actually it was while reading the Daily Mail today I discovered the crucial tidbit of information that George Stephanopolous is 5’6″ or 5’7″ and then the article mentioned that Winston Churchill was only 5’6″.

    I did not know that.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I’m in agreement with a caveat. History, for most people goes down easier with “a little bit of sugar”.

    Oldman and the director are I think justifiably engaging in what is known as artistic license.

    It’s not a documentary but entertainment. Stirring emotions is arguably, vital to impressing upon an increasingly ignorant audience, just how important this man was to democracy’s survival. Had Churchill never been born, could England have survived? Would America have had a base from which to invade the Continent?

  12. Zigzag Says:

    For a *very* interesting and fly on the wall perspective on Churchill and all his faults and virtues, the book to read is the War Diaries of Field Marshall Lord Alanbrooke (himself rather an outlier). Truly a case of Odi et Amo.

  13. Zigzag Says:

    All-in-all, those two made a pretty good team.

    Both were lucky to have been spared living past the 1960s and seeing just how far Western Civ has fallen.

  14. Les Says:

    The subject of the speech had me thinking of courage. I hope the movie coming out next week, Dunkirk, does justice to the courage of the men involved in that evacuation.

    Neville Shute wrote a nice novel (The Pied Piper) taking place during that period in which he outlined that “stalwart courage and perseverance” as displayed in an otherwise ordinary and unremarkable man.

  15. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Like Geoff Britain said about entertainment.

    The Youtube audio is hardly the stuff to stir men’s souls.
    Must be a “remix”.
    And now after “Dunkirk” I get to wait for this movie next.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    neo-neocon Says:
    July 14th, 2017 at 6:50 pm
    Oldflyer:

    I don’t think people would say Churchill’s character was flawed; rather, that he had some personal defects. ..

    That was it, as far as I know. Are those “character flaws”? He was a faithful husband. I don’t think he was caught in many lies, and he was a politician! What were his character flaws?
    * * *
    Good question: where is the line between personal defects and character flaws? I would say they are the same thing, but we might give the first name to flaws of a trivial nature, and the second to more serious defects (rather like the distinction between venial and mortal sins).

    Never got CAUGHT in a lie may be operative.

    According to at lease one biographer, Churchill was receiving classified information from his supporters in the British government before he became Prime Minister, so that he would be aware of just what situation the country was in.
    (of course I have no idea if that is true or not, but it has been alleged — I can’t remember now by whom).

  17. AesopFan Says:

    It’s always fun to go looking on the ‘net for something you remember reading in the past – came up with a couple of interesting stories:
    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/churchill-challenged/

    “Hillsdale College in Michigan has taken on the herculean task of editing the written raw material of the life of Winston Churchill, what are known as the companion volumes to Randolph Churchill and Sir Martin Gilbert’s official biography. These comprise every important document of any kind that concerns Churchill, and the present volume, the 19th, which covers the seven months between September 1943 and April 1944, is 2,752 pages long, representing an average of more than 11 pages per day.”
    Very entertaining and interesting examples, but much too late for my quest.
    More at the Hillsdale link here
    https://winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu/product-category/the-churchill-documents/

    http://www.deccanchronicle.com/world/europe/090416/archbishop-of-canterbury-learns-his-father-was-winston-churchill-s-secretary.html
    “London: The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has discovered his biological father was the former private secretary to Britain’s war-time leader Winston Churchill, he said in a statement on Friday.

    “In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby, but in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne,” Welby, 60, said on his official website. “This comes as a complete surprise,” he added.”

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/obama-dines-with-man-caught-stealing-destroying-classified-documents/article/804668

    “7:46 AM, SEP 09, 2014 | By DANIEL HALPER

    President Obama hosted “a private dinner with a group of foreign policy experts,” the White House announced last night. Among them: Sandy Berger, who was caught stealing and destroying classified documents that related to President Clinton’s record on terrorism issues.”

    No Russians on the list of guests however.

  18. Tesh Says:

    I really like the subdued delivery, actually. It does indeed have a resigned British stubbornness to it. Histrionics get old fast.

  19. Oldflyer Says:

    Ok, Neo. I paused over the flawed character characterization myself. Let me amend that. He was a flawed politician, with some idiosyncratic character traits. He was also the perfect man for the challenges that his country faced.

    I still see parallels.

  20. parker Says:

    It was Churchill that inspired Western Civilization together to defeat the axis, by his spirit and oratory. He a giant upon whose shoulders we should stand upon. Sadly, the ignorant of history know not where the foundation of liberty rests. Destroy is their meme. A plague upon them.

  21. Tom G Says:

    Because the “New World” USA was always going to be the country to save the “Old”, even had the UK been invaded and lost, the US A-Bombs would have led to all of Germany being invaded and occupied by the US supplied murderous Russians, allowing the Allies to win.

    But I came here to write about how the Japanese were ready to “never surrender … fight on the beaches … fight in the hills”. Far more, in practice, than any European country, including the UK; possibly including the USA.

    Willingness to “fight to the death” for a belief is admirable especially when the belief is admirable, but there’s always some admiration at the depth of belief.

    ISIS fighters, fighting to the death for Sharia, and evil ideals, are still being brave in fighting to the death.

    Those who don’t believe in Western Civ, won’t think Churchill’s speech is so great. I think it was great, I do believe Christian Capitalist Civilization has been great, and is still very good. But the democracies with mis-educated elites are in danger, and looking like they’re failing to respond to the real dangers.

  22. Sean Says:

    No recordings were permitted in the House of Commons at that time, leaving us with two inferior possibilities: Churchill’s broadcast speeches over the BBC, or in some cases postwar recordings, both of which—said those who heard them in the Commons—lack the fire of the originals.

    Does this mean the histrionic Oldman version is closer to the original than Churchill’s recording?

  23. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Re-Search the data cores. Because what humans have told of their and his story, is mostly full of deceptions and miscorrections.

  24. OldTexan Says:

    Sir Winston, one of the most incredible men who ever lived. From a distinguished important Brit family with an interesting American mom, to say the least, and kind of left to be raised on his own. Before 1900 he has seen combat on multiple continents both as a military officer and reporter and he himself engaged in close quarters combat, been captured and escaped and moved on to the next adventure.

    When the Gallipoli attack in WWI that he had encouraged fell apart with grave loses he stepped back and went into the WWI trenches as a field officer and performed well. At the end of WWI as things settled down he wrote, painted and was a politician who thought his life was pretty much over.

    He was a keen observer of the Germans as they started their political venture with the Italians that led to WWII in the 1930’s. When things turned to crap for the Brits he became the man of the hour bringing FDR and the Americans along for the ride bending the rules every which way to save the Brits.

    Which leads me up to pictures of 6’2″ FDR sitting because he was in a wheel chair between 5’6″ Winston and 5’5″ Stalin at conferences. FDR living on Martini’s and cigarettes, Stalin with his Vodka and pipe tobacco and Churchill with his Brandy and cigars all of them perhaps more than a little numbed out by their stimulate consumption.

    As for his voice I remember listening to records of famous speeches when I was in High School and Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtin Speech’ post war was my favorite since I was going off to the college where he gave the speech in May of 1946. I remember a distinctive voice with a high English refinement and timber, something that required paying attention.

  25. Ymar Sakar Says:

    But the democracies with mis-educated elites are in danger, and looking like they’re failing to respond to the real dangers.

    Every democracy will turn into an oligarchy sooner or later. The US wanted democracy, and that is what they were given. the 12 tribes of Israel wanted a king, and a King named Saul was appointed over them. That didn’t mean it ended up well later on.

  26. Ymar Sakar Says:

    When things turned to crap for the Brits he became the man of the hour bringing FDR and the Americans along for the ride bending the rules every which way to save the Brits.

    FDR was waiting for Pearl Harbor to happen, so he could reverse his promise of not joining the war. They had already broken the Jap comm codes and knew exactly what was going on, but refused to tell Admirals Kimmel and others responsible for that island’s defense.

  27. Ymar Sakar Says:

    At Powerline I saw this post by Steven Hayward about a new movie on Churchill called “Darkest Hour,” set shortly before D-Day.,

    Saw a commercial about that on Youtube, Neo.

    I got the sense that Hollywood was stringing up another psy ops to manipulate emotions again.

    I don’t appreciate people branding brainwashing and psychological warfare as entertainment and then selling it to people who actually buy it. Although one can’t blame the cultists in Hollywood for maintaining what works and what wins for them. Even the Alt Right will stick to what works and what wins for them.

    It also reminds me of Robert Skiba, who does special effects and movie shots sometimes. He mentioned that his god told him that he, Skiba, needed to be as good telling the truth as Satan/Hollywood is good at telling a lie. A notice in point is Battlestar Galactic and Thor, two things Skiba loved, and goes back to review to see what editing, director skill, and shots made them so good to him.

    Thematically, Thor is very close to the Christian mythology and culture. The Son of God descends to the Earth in mortal form and saves the world…. sounds familiar. Wrong son, wrong god though from Skiba’s pov. But it works.

    Preaching and Bible Thumping doesn’t work as well as bible research and reading. But research and reading doesn’t work as well as Hollywood movies for preaching fact as fiction or fiction as fact.

  28. artemptydgr Says:

    Sidebar…

    Klaus Eberwein, a former Haitian government official who was expected to expose the extent of Clinton Foundation corruption and malpractice next week, has been found dead in Miami. Eberwein was due to appear next Tuesday before the Haitian Senate Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission where he was widely expected to testify that the Clinton Foundation misappropriated Haiti earthquake donations from international donors.

  29. Delilah Says:

    Can’t stand Garry Oldman – he is so creepy, and I can’t imagine he could portray Churchill. I just saw a 2016 British movie, starring Brian Cox, about the days leading up to D Day. Very well done. I also saw one recently about Churchill during his post-war Primer Minister stint when he had a stroke and his wife and close political colleagues ran the country. Fascinating.

  30. CapnRusty Says:

    Oldflyer:

    Trump may not be “Churchillian,” but the circumstances leading to his appointment as Prime Minister, the peril in which Western Civilization found itself, and the contempt in which he was held by those who thought of themselves as the ruling elite in his nation, are remarkably similar.

  31. Richard Saunders Says:

    Ymar Sakar “They had already broken the Jap comm codes and knew exactly what was going on, but refused to tell Admirals Kimmel and others responsible for that island’s defense.”

    Another well-debunked canard. We had by no means broken all the Japanese codes, and there was still manual interpolation and translation required. More important, we did not have rapid and secure communications with Hawaii Pacific Fleet and Army headquarters, so the warning message was sent by ordinary commercial traffic.

    In any case, war with Japan was no surprise — the Navy had been preparing for it since the ’20s. The Japanese diplomatic code that was broken did not reveal that Pearl Harbor was the target, and the Japanese attack force was under strict radio silence from before it left anchorage. Even had the message been received hours earlier, it is unlikely that the outcome of Pearl Harbor would have been different: Kimmel and Short were well aware that war was imminent and had prepared for attack. The only problem was, they thought it would come by sabotage by Hawaiian Japanese and not by aircraft carrier. There’s no evidence that an earlier warning message would have changed their defense plans.

  32. Ymar Sakar Says:

    We had by no means broken all the Japanese codes, and there was still manual interpolation and translation required. More important, we did not have rapid and secure communications with Hawaii Pacific Fleet and Army headquarters, so the warning message was sent by ordinary commercial traffic.

    Breaking all Jap codes was never the issue.

    Admiral Kimmel’s own autobiography already addressed the issue of why the warning message was sent or wasn’t sent.

    As for debunking canards, I already accomplished that in the previous thread.

  33. Andrew Parle Says:

    Not D-Day (which was in 1944). This was around the fall of France in 1940 and the Battle of Britain later that year.
    Nolan’s “Dunkirk” which is opening now is apparently very good and set in that time (although with much smaller scope, obviously).
    I recently finished Gilbert’s biography, having read Churchill’s account of WWII several times, Thinking back on all the books by Churchill or about him, I think I must be a bit of a Churchill nut. Truly an extraordinary character, and just the man who was needed at that time.
    My favorite Churchill story – which is far too good to check – was that the second message the Admiralty sent to the Fleet on the outbreak of WWII (the first being that the UK was at war) was “Winston is back.” He’d just been appointed First Sea Lord, i.e. CiC of the Royal Navy, straight off the back bench.
    ||

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