Gary Oldman wth his Oscar
Photo by Mark Seliger, Vanity Fair
Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California on 4 March. Oldman, who had only been nominated once before, received his first Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in the film Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright.
When first approached to play the role of the British Prime Minister, Oldman objected that he looked nothing like Churchill and was not suited to the role. After persistent persuasion from Wright, however, Oldman agreed—provided Japanese makeup wizard Kazuhiro Tsuji was part of the project. This decision led not only to an Oscar for Oldman but gold statuettes for Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Oldman’s extensive makeup took a full six months to develop. It took four hours to apply each morning and one hour to remove. But it was time well spent. Director Joe Wright was amazed that the makeup did not require digital touchups during post-production, because the lamps used to light numerous scenes were very hot.
The recent Channel 4 documentary “Churchill’s Secret Mistress” asserted, but did not establish, that the great man had an affair with Doris, the wife of Viscount Castlerosse during the mid-1930s. The evidence that two well-qualified historians, Warren Dockter and Richard Toye, produced to make the case for this adultery is flimsy and circumstantial, whereas Churchill gave a lifelong demonstration of his faithful devotion to his wife Clementine.
Having been Keeper of the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge and written much about Churchill and the inter-war period, I was interviewed for the documentary myself. During filming, I explained my reasons for disbelieving in the alleged liaison.
I noted that the allegation rests on two pieces of testimony. The first is a 1985 tape-recording in which Sir John Colville, one of Churchill’s wartime private secretaries, asserted that Churchill “certainly had an affair.” The second is a family tradition expounded by Lady Castlerosse’s niece, based on confidences shared with her relations at the time, that Doris did indeed become Churchill’s mistress.
Don Cusic, Winston Churchill’s Love of Music, Brackish Publishing, 2018, 115 pages, $26.95. ISBN 978–0999053713
This little book shows that if Churchill did not have an aptitude for music, he certainly took much enjoyment from it.
There can be no doubt that Churchill’s taste in music did not run to the classical. The symphony, opera, and ballet were not for him. But music comes in many varieties, and appreciation can only ever be subjective.
Churchill enjoyed the music hall ditties of his youth and could quote the words of his favorites to the end of his days. He also treasured the school songs unique to Harrow, which he attended during his teenage years.
As a soldier, Churchill appreciated both traditional marches and the songs developed by those who fought in the First World War. As a man steeped in Biblical verse, he also took inspiration from hymns. He never tired of Gilbert and Sullivan and was fond of the musical ditties of Noel Coward, including “Let’s Not Be Beastly to the Germans.”
João Carlos Espada, The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty: A View from Europe, Routledge, 2016, 212 pages, £115.00/$125.97, hardcover, ISBN 978–1472455727; £29.99/$49.95 paperback, 2018, ISBN 978–1138591592; $43.41 Kindle, ASIN B01GJZKJIC.
We learn on its first page that this book had its origin in a conversation in England between its Portuguese author as a young man and the Austrian-born British subject Karl Popper, a professor of political philosophy at the London School of Economics, then in his old age. The author, João Carlos Espada, with the woman who became his wife, had earlier taken part in the revolution that ended the long dictatorship in his country and was working as political adviser to Portugal’s democratically elected president Mario Soares. The president had arranged for Popper to deliver a lecture in Lisbon, where Espada had discussed with him his research on Popper’s critique of Marxism and his theory of democracy. Popper invited Espada to come to Britain to continue the discussion. Hence their conversation in 1988 at Popper’s house, which Espada tells us remained in his recollection after more than a quarter-century “as vivid as I recalled it when I left his home in the evening of that unforgettable first visit” (2).
The conversation took a particular turn by accident, when Espada espied, among the “highly selective collection” of books in Popper’s living room, not only works by Plato, Aristotle, Smith, Burke, Kant, and more recently Keynes and Hayek (1), but also Read More >
Lawrence M. Kryske, Churchill without Blood, Sweat, or Tears, Homeport Publishing, 2017, 156 pages, $15.99. ISBN 978–0692940174
One of the most frequently received requests by the International Churchill Society is for material about Churchill’s qualities as a leader. Lawrence M. Kryske is a retired US Navy commander and longtime Churchillian. No one is better qualified to write on the subject.
Churchill without Blood, Sweat, or Tears distills what Kryske has learned from more than fifty years of studying Churchill and a naval career that began with action during the Vietnam War and culminated as the first commanding officer of US Naval Station, Pascagoula, which was the Navy’s newest, most technologically advanced, and most environmentally clean base in the world.
Kryske begins by identifying Churchill’s formula for success: vision + courage + determination = success. The main sections of the book break down each of the three ingredients by identifying qualities that advance, cultivate, and deepen them.
Lewis E. Lehrman, Lincoln & Churchill: Statesmen at War, Stackpole Books, 2018, 526 pages, $34.95. ISBN: 978–0811719674
Lewis Lehrman has produced a wonderfully rendered comparison of two very different statesmen. Indeed, while the author’s recent Churchill, Roosevelt & Company related the statecraft of two closely intertwined war leaders, the juxtaposition of Lincoln and Churchill would seem a stretch, until now. Lehrman quickly points out the radically different backgrounds and personality traits of the president and the prime minister, yet he also suggests compelling historical parallels. Both leaders guided their countries to victory through essentially existential crises unprecedented in scope, the American Civil War and the Second World War. Lehrman also notes that the modest and unassuming Lincoln served as Commander-in-Chief of an army that exceeded two million men, one of the largest in history to that point, while Churchill refused to yield even as the British Empire and Commonwealth, vast but impecunious and poorly equipped, faced Hitler’s might with no outside aid following the fall of France.
One of the most valuable aspects of this work is how cogently it reveals the similarity of traits that made Lincoln and Churchill such outstanding wartime leaders. Both men possessed an aptitude for military affairs and harbored a deep understanding of history. Most critically, Lehrman documents Lincoln’s and Churchill’s shared sense of moral clarity with regard to the respective evils of American slavery and Nazism. This awareness created a determination in both leaders to see the fighting through to the end, even when defeat seemed imminent and those around them lost heart and clamored for peace, or some sort of shameful accommodation.
Felix Klos, Churchill’s Last Stand: The Struggle to Unite Europe, I. B. Tauris, 2017, 288 pages, $35. ISBN 978–1784538132
Before the 2016 referendum, both “Leave” and “Remain” sought to win Winston Churchill to their cause. Leavers relied on the famous Saturday Evening Post article from 1930: “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.” Remainers reject this, arguing that Churchill’s views changed over the following fifteen years. They focus instead on the speeches from Zurich onwards during the late 1940s. Just before the 2016 referendum, the publisher of this book by Felix Klos released a shortened version dealing only with those “European Movement” days and badged it “the must read book of the referendum.” Published more than a year later, this fulllength edition is engaging, well written, and well researched. Klos shows that both sides take too simplistic a view, whilst revealing Churchill’s thinking on “Europe” in more detail than ever before—but perhaps not quite in the way the author intends.
As anyone will know who is familiar with the notorious internet story about Churchill advocating the use of “poison gas”—fake news if ever there was any—Churchill’s talent for producing striking but loose phrases is a real problem for the historian. Klos makes quite clear, when Churchill spoke of a “United Europe,” that his meaning was not so plain as his language. When trying to understand the model that Churchill wished to create, readers would do better drawing an analogy with the “United Nations” than the “United States.”
125 Years ago
Spring 1893 • Age 18 “A Little Paternal Advice”
Winston spent the spring of 1893 “cramming” with Captain Walter James for the Sandhurst Entrance Examination scheduled for late June. Having twice failed the examination, Winston would have been expected to redouble his efforts, especially after Captain James had written to Lord Randolph in early March to say that Winston “means well but he is distinctly inclined to be inattentive and to think too much of his own abilities” and was “too much inclined up to the present to teach his instructors instead of endeavouring to learn from them.”
True to form, Winston did not meet those expectations in the seven weeks following that letter. On 29 April, Captain James once more wrote to Lord Randolph that, while he had no definite complaints to make, “I do not think his work is going on very satisfactorily.” James told Lord Randolph that he had spoken to Winston about this and suggested that he give his son “a little paternal advice and point out, what I have done, the absolute necessity of single-minded devotion to the immediate object before him.” Read More >
The idea of establishing a permanent memorial to Winston Churchill in the United States began in 1961 during Westminster College’s commencement ceremonies, when Westminster President Dr. R. L. “Larry” Davidson and members of the St. Louis Branch of the English-Speaking Union hatched a bold plan to move the war-damaged church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury from London, England, to Fulton, Missouri.
The original church dates to the twelfth century, but it was rebuilt in 1677 by Sir Christopher Wren following the Great Fire of London. It stood proudly at the corner of Love Lane and Aldermanbury, not far from the medieval Guildhall and near Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral.
On the night of 30 December 1940, catastrophe struck again when the church suffered a direct hit by an incendiary bomb dropped by the Luftwaffe. When morning came on the final day of that year, only the external stonework and the eight columns with acanthus-leaf capitals remained. Wren’s church lay in ruins. It remained so for more than twenty years until Larry Davidson saw an article in Life magazine just before Westminster’s commencement ceremony. That Life article prompted a discussion that transformed the Westminster College campus and established a permanent memorial to Winston Churchill in the United States.
Fred Glueckstein wishes to thank Miss Tace Fox, Archivist and Record Manager at Harrow School, London for her invaluable assistance in researching the archives on his behalf.
Young Winston Churchill had just turned seventeen when his first published work was printed in December 1891 in the pages of the Harrow School’s weekly newspaper The Harrovian under the pseudonym Junius Junior.
Churchill’s first published work raises a number of curious questions. Why did he write the letter? What did the letter express? Was there a reason he used the pseudonym Junius Junior, and was there a response by schoolmates, or the school administration?
Letters to the Editor
Winston Churchill entered Harrow, an independent boarding school for boys in Middlesex, on 17 April 1888. While there, he took up fencing and spent a good deal of time in the gymnasium. Churchill eventually became fencing champion of the school in December 1892.
Winston Churchill greets Stanley Matthews before an international match during the Second World War
Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
By Paul Trevillion
Paul Trevillion is Artist in Residence at the National Football Museum in Manchester, England.
In 1994 the United States hosted the World Cup, and I was the artist on Umbro’s Soccerblast: Legends of Soccer Tour. I worked alongside American soccer superstar Michelle Akers-Stahl; Sir Stanley Matthews, who was England’s wizard of the dribble; England’s 1966 World Cup goalkeeper hero Gordon Banks; and Brazilian legend Roberto Rivelino.
It was my role standing pitch side to draw the goals as they flew in so that the fans could see my images on the big screen high above the field of play.
Michelle Akers-Stahl and Roberto Rivelino hammered the ball into the back of the opposition net again and again, much to the approval of the roaring fans. Even Sir Stanley Matthews, then nearly eighty, raised laughs from the crowd when, with a shoulder feint or body swerve, he left a defender on the seat of his pants.
When the games were over, I had an opportunity to talk to the soccer superstars. On one occasion, I asked Sir Stanley what Winston Churchill had said when he greeted players before matches during the wartime England internationals. These moments were recorded by the newsreels and shown in cinemas. The Prime Minister stopped as he walked down the line of the England team to shake hands and speak with each player.
The Regent meets with his military chiefs of staff
Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
By Christos Bouris
Christos Bouris is a postgraduate student in the faculty of History and Archaeology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
At Christmastime 1944, Winston Churchill travelled to Athens. It was a perilous journey, but the stakes were high: the future of Greece. Recently liberated from the Axis, Athens was now beset by confrontation between the communist-controlled EAMELAS (the first being a communist-led resistance group and the second her military counterpart) and British forces positioned in the Greek capital, assisted by Greek army units and security forces loyal to the Greek government. Both sides sought control of the city. The armed clash that ensued became known as “Dekemvriana” and ended with a British victory over the Greek communists.
Churchill arrived in Athens determined to use his influence in the negotiations between the Greek government and EAM in order to create a provisional government and avoid the outbreak of civil war. He also wanted to keep Greece free of communist control. Read More >
John Maurer is the Alfred Thayer Mahan Professor of Sea Power and Grand Strategy in the Strategy and Policy Department at the Naval War College. An earlier version of this article first appeared in The Journal of Strategic Studies.
In the aftermath of the First World War, Great Britain faced a serious strategic challenge in imperial Japan, whose nascent sea power threatened the security and interests of the British Empire in Asia. At the center of British decision making about Japan’s naval challenge in 1924–29 was Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill, who reviewed spending requests of government departments, set priorities, sought revenue, prepared budgets, and managed the economy in the hurly-burly politics of the public arena.
Churchill had just turned fifty and, at the height of his powers when he became Chancellor, was determined to take an active role in directing Britain’s grand strategy. One colleague described Churchill as “the most forceful personality in the Cabinet.”1 But he forcefully challenged the idea of conflict with Japan. In an oft-quoted letter to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Churchill wrote: “why should there be a war with Japan? I do not believe there is the slightest chance of it in our lifetime.”2 Instead, he foresaw a “long peace, such as follows in the wake of great wars.”3 In a tragic irony of history, Churchill’s words would later come back to haunt him when Japan attacked the British Empire in December 1941. Read More >
Fred Glueckstein is a frequent contributor to Finest Hour and author of Churchill and Colonist II (2014).
On 9 December 1905, Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman sent Winston Churchill, MP for Manchester North West, a telegram at his house, 29 Belgrave Square: “Greatly obliged if you would come and see me here at six o’clock.”1 During their meeting, Campbell-Bannerman invited Churchill to join his Government as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. The offer was accepted.
On Churchill’s first evening as a junior member of the Government, he attended a party in London where he was introduced to Edward Marsh, a clerk in the West African Department of the Colonial Office:
“How do you do?” asked Marsh. “Which I must now say with great respect.”
“Why with great respect”? Churchill responded.
“Because you’re coming to rule over me at the Colonial Office,” Marsh replied.2
John Bird’s reconstruction of Churchill’s route at Witbank
Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
By John Bird
John Bird lives in Witbank, South Africa
On 12 December 1899, Winston Churchill escaped from the State Model School in Pretoria, where he had been held prisoner by the Boers since his capture the previous month. After brazenly walking out of town, he found a railway line, which he hoped led on to his goal: the Portuguese colony at Delagoa Bay. In the evening, he scrambled onto a freight train and caught some sleep. But he knew he could not continue on the train after dawn, since he might be spotted on board and he would need to find water.
In the early hours of the 13th, Churchill jumped from the train and began to make his way on foot until he miraculously happened upon help at the Transvaal & Delagoa Bay Colliery near Witbank. While he subsequently recorded what he could of this journey, the precise route he then took has hitherto remained a complete mystery. It took many years of research, but I have now been able to put together a plausible itinerary. To do this, I found two keys were necessary to trace Churchill’s journey from the time he sprawled off the train at a quarter to four on the morning of 13 December until he was taken down a mineshaft at the colliery at a quarter to five the following morning. Read More >
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Churchill was delighted when a little girl surprised him with flowers one day in Italy. Gratefully moving his cane aside, he gave her a kiss on the cheek. Missing his own family, and beset with troubles, he truly loved this moment. I guess we’ll never know the little chap behind the bouquet. … See MoreSee Less
The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.