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.
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 >
The Crown, season one, produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television, distributed by Netflix, initial release date 4 November 2016.
Sonia Purnell is the author of First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (2015). Her article about Clementine starts on page 17.
The words exchanged at the weekly audience between the British monarch and her prime minister are meant to remain private in perpetuity. It is all part of the mystique and majesty that make the British monarchy probably the best known but least understood institution in the world.
Very occasionally the royal door is opened a little—Tony Blair was once indiscreet about an exchange he had had with Queen Elizabeth II on the subject of Princess Diana’s funeral. A predecessor described the Queen during these encounters at Buckingham Palace as “friendly” but certainly not a friend. Historians remind us that as a constitutional monarch the Queen has only three rights—to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn—and it is likely that she exercises all of them, particularly in these troubled times.
Yet even with such meagre fare, Peter Morgan offers us a credible depiction of Winston Churchill’s audiences with the Queen in the new Netflix series The Crown. Skillfully Morgan plots the transformation of a privileged, under-educated, flesh-and-blood young woman into a monarch anointed in an abbey and answerable to God—a journey of self-sacrifice and personal transformation in which Winston Churchill, her first premier, is one of her greatest guides.
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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.