Brendan Gleeson as Winston Churchill, Into the Storm
Visitors to Chartwell and Chequers during Winston Churchill’s time were often treated to film screenings hosted by one of the premier cinephiles of his era. Whether in or out of power, Churchill turned to movies for entertainment, relaxation, and inspiration. “He loved the films, any film,” recalled one of his private secretaries. “After it, then tears down his face, and wiping them away, “The best film I’ve ever seen.”1
Churchill knew something about the film industry. Not long after the end of his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer following the defeat of the Conservative government in 1929, Churchill found himself in Hollywood, where he visited Charlie Chaplin and was filmed with the diminutive actor at his studio. Churchill also pursued the very modern practice of writing screenplays for movies that were never made, a lucrative sideline that helped keep at bay the ever-present creditors that so haunted his middle years. Perhaps his most intriguing cinematic near miss was an epic film about Napoleon, which was to feature Chaplin in the lead role.
Churchill made only one visit to Iceland, in August 1941, on his way back to England after his first wartime meeting with President Roosevelt. That visit was celebrated with an article in Finest Hour 173. But despite the visit being short and singular, it has left its mark. Today there is in Iceland a vibrant community of Churchillians who several years ago organized themselves into a local affiliate of the International Churchill Society. Even the President of Iceland, as a fan and a historian, has lectured locally on Churchill on two occasions prior to taking office in 2016. Read More >
Darkest Hour, a new film starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill during his first days as Prime Minister in 1940, received a special preview screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as part of the opening night of the Thirty-fourth International Churchill Conference. The director of the movie, Joe Wright, spoke immediately after the film in conversation with Michael Bishop, the Executive Director of the International Churchill Society. Read More >
Churchill was a man of many interests. He took a keen interest in the development of both silent movies and ‘talking pictures’ and turned the dining room at Chartwell into a cinema room so that we could watch movies in the comfort of his own home. He often stayed up late into the night, particularly during the Second World War, relaxing from the tensions of the day. He particularly enjoyed the film Lady Hamilton (That Hamilton Woman in the US), Alexander Korda’s 1941 patriotic epic starring Laurence Olivier, as Nelson, and Vivien Leigh as Lady Hamilton.
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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.