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From The Editor Churchill at the Movies

Finest Hour 179, Winter 2018

Page 04

By David Freeman, January 2017


Winston Churchill loved the movies. And just at the moment, the movies love Winston Churchill. Of course, he would have used the words cinema or film, but his maternal connection to the United States, always the center of the film industry, meant that he was no stranger to American idioms.

The larger than life Churchill is a natural subject for film, but it has been mostly on the small screen that he has been represented. Actors have played Churchill at nearly all stages of his life, though most dramatizations naturally center upon the Second World War. Sometimes Churchill has been the star, and sometimes he has been a supporting character. Michael F. Bishop gives us his selection of what he sees as the best five in which Churchill is the featured player.

In Finest Hour 174, David Lough explained that it was the selling of film rights to his books that ultimately placed Churchill’s finances on a sound basis. The producer who purchased the rights was Sir Alexander Korda. In this issue John Fleet tells us more about Korda and his relationship with Churchill.

Charlie Chaplin was not only the biggest star of the silent screen—he was in his time probably the most recognizable man in the world. Churchill certainly recognized and appreciated his genius. Bradley P. Tolppanen explains how the two men first came to meet in Hollywood and how their friendship continued through the years that followed.

Churchill’s love for painting and even bricklaying as forms of relaxation are well known. He was also an avid cinephile. Film historian Robert James takes a look at three of Churchill’s favorite films (City Lights, That Hamilton Woman, and Henry V) and considers what more they tell us about the man.

In a world where we can watch any movie we want on demand using portable electronic devices of all shapes and sizes, we can lose sight of the time when most everyone was completely dependent for selection on what films were being shown at their local cinema and what times the films were shown. Starting in 1950, though, Churchill enjoyed the luxury of having a fully-equipped cinema in his home at Chartwell. Justin Reash tells the story of how this came about and Churchill’s viewing habits.

Only once in his life did Churchill visit the west coast of North America. This was part of a great journey he made across first Canada and then the United States in 1929. Along the way, he visited Hollywood and after returning home published his impressions of Tinsel Town, which we reprint here.

And so now it’s lights, camera, Churchill!

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