Winston Churchill:  The Wilderness Years (1981)

 

 

 

Director:     Ferdinand Fairfax.

Starring:     Robert Hardy (Winston Churchill), Siān Phillips ( Clementine Churchill), Nigel Havers ( Randolph Churchill), Tim Pigott-Smith (Brendan Bracken), Peter Barkworth (Stanley Baldwin), Eric Porter (Neville Chamberlain), Edward Woodward ( Sir Samuel Hoare), David Swift (Professor Lindemann), Sherrie Hewson (Mrs. Pearman), Robert James (Ramsay McDonald), Marcella Markham (Nancy Astor), Chloe Salaman (Sarah Churchill), Derek Ensor (Speaker of the House), Paul McDowell ( Butler at Chartwell).

mini-series on two discs; in 1929 Churchill was nearly cut completely out of power; 10 years later he makes a come-back

 

 

Spoiler Warning:

 

Episode 1.  Down and Out.

Men are out hunting deer.  King George V fires two shots at a male with huge antlers.  The King asks Winston Churchill if he wounded the poor thing?   Winston says:  "He may be wounded, sir, but he has the light of survival in his eyes."

October 1928.  Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Samuel Hall come to see the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin.  Baldwin is rather busy because Winston is coming in with his preliminary budget proposals.  Well, it's Winston who they have come to talk about.  Hall says the man has become somewhat of a liability.  Chamberlain says the Conservative party doesn't like him.  He adds that Winston isn't trusted in the party because he's always out for office, and yet never prepared for opposition  Winston has also been having secret meetings with the Liberals.  In fact, he met with Lloyd George ten days ago.  The men say that Winston could be moved from Treasury.  Baldwin responds:  "What?  Sacked as Chancellor, my right hand man?  Just before a general election.  It would be madness.  Besides, I'll need his budget."

The visitors say Baldwin could wait until after the election and then move to the Foreign Ministry.  Right now there's nothing much going on in foreign affairs and Churchill could be left alone to plan wars in places like Afghanistan. 

After the two men leave Baldwin's office, Winston comes in.  He wants to know what the two men wanted.  Baldwin says they presented some of their views, but Winston need not worry for he told the men that the budget will be left in Winston's capable hands. 

Clementine Churchill is Winston's wife and they live in a mansion, Chartwell.  At night she speaks to Winston about a problem Randolph's having at shool.  One of the boys won't even speak to Randolph saying that Randolph's father was responsible for his father's death in the Dardanelles [in WWI in the disastrous Dardanelles strategy to come at the Germans through the Dardanelles.  The disaster at Gallipoli was one of the results.]  This talk disturbs Winston.  He says he had to take the blame for the Dardanelles and it hurts him, but he didn't think the subject would be brought up to him in his own home.  Clementine tries to sooth her husband.

1929.  Ramsay MacDonald of the Labor party wins the election for prime minister. 

Blenheim Palace, June 1929.  [Blenheim Palace is a monumental country house situated in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England and is the principal residence of the dukes of Marlborough.]  Winston is there to speak to his cousin Sonny.  He says his father told him to always believe in democracy. 

Winston has the Duke of Marlborough read a passage from a book out loud.  "They're doing strange things in Great Britain.  They have overturned our Captain General Churchill and we are without a head.  They have driven him from all his public offices, and but for . . ."  Winston says he's nearly 55 and it's a rare Churchill who can live beyond 60.  He says he's finished in politics, at least at the minister level.  So he decides to go to the United States to earn some money.

Churchill goes out to Monument Valley, Arizona, as a guest of William Randolph Hearst of the newspaper empire.  They are watching a cowboy and Indian movie being shot.  With him is his son Randolph.  Hearst asks Churchill to write some articles explaining British politics to the Americans. 

Churchill gets money from his many speeches in the USA.  By the time he reaches Chicago he hopes he has $20,000 dollars to be invested. 

Stanley Baldwin and Samuel Hall come to see Ramsay MacDonald, prime minister.  They want to talk about foreign relations.  MacDonald says he wants to offer India dominion status.  Baldwin and Hall remain silent about the idea for awhile, but then Baldwin says they will get onboard with this one idea.  MacDonald says he's worried about Winston and his imperialistic crowd.  Can the party leaders hold Churchill in abeyance?  Hall says well fortunately Churchill is in the USA now.  And Hall adds that he will discredit Churchill's ideas by November. 

Winston arrives in Chicago to give a speech.  He tells Bernard Baruch that this is his and his wife's 21st wedding anniversary.  Baruch congratulates Winston.  He says it's hard communicating with his wife by telegrams.  He misses most being able to talk to his wife.  So Baruch makes it possible for Winston to talk to his family over the phone.  He talks with Clementine and then with his two daughters. 

The British Viceroy in India has made a public statement promising the Indians dominion status.  This premature statement is going to make political trouble for the Tory party. And Winston is surely going to be upset at the news.  Baldwin tells Stanley Hall that he will have to defend the dominion status to the Tory party. 

Churchill's investment adviser tells Winston that his stocks are down by several points.  Winston tells him to continue to invest in the stock market.  Obviously he didn't know there was a depression coming. 

In New York, Winston realizes he has lost every penny he made and invested  in the USA.  He is with Baruch and they hear a commotion on the street.  They look out a window and see a man has killed himself by jumping from a high building down to Wall Street.

Winston returns home and finds one of his favorite trees cut down in his absence.  He is not pleased.  He is also not pleased when his friend Brendan Bracken tells him about India being given dominion status.

 

Episode 2.  Politics are Foul.

Chartwell, October 1930.  [Chartwell is located 36 miles southeast of London and two miles south of Westerham, Kent, England.]  Randolph wants to make some money on the lecture circuit in the USA.  Winston will let him go, but only after he and Randolph work out the lectures together. 

Winston comes to see Stanley Baldwin and Samuel Hall.  They talk about the fate of India.  Winston notes that full independence for Indian means war between the Muslims and the Hindus.  Baldwin and Hall disagree.  They also say that some people are saying that Winston is trying divide the Tory party.  Winston doesn't like that talk and walks out.

Baldwin hears criticism that if Winston can't tow the line, then he should be dismissed from the shadow government.  [A shadow government is like a shadow cabinet which is a group of prominent members of the parliamentary opposition who are expected to hold positions in the cabinet when their party assumes power.]

Clementine tells Winston that in January she wants to hop on a boat and go see Randolph in New York.  Winston becomes furious saying:  "Damn it Clemmie, don't chatter. In January I must make the greatest speech of my life.  I may unseat Baldwin and you propose to be absent.  Why?  . .  . Why Clemmie do you want to leave me?"  She says that Winston doesn't really need her.  Winston gets furious again and says:  "Go to New York.  I don 't give a damn.  Go to the boy if you think he needs you more than I do."  He leaves the room 

Winston gives his speech to Parliament.  He wants the United Kingdom to keep India.  And he goes after MacDonald.  Baldwin gets up and refers to Winston's speech as intemperate and based on personal animosity to MacDonald.  Winston was surprised the Baldwin so clearly came out in defense of the existing government and promised to continue the India policy of the Labor government.  Winston comments to a friend:  "Politics are too foul.  Too foul for words."

Winston tells Baldwin and Hall that he can no longer be a part of the shadow cabinet. 

February 1931.  Winston notes that Baldwin suffers some loss of support, while his own support grows daily.  Baldwin may be driven from office pretty soon.  His friend, Max, however, doesn't think that his support for keeping India is not going to be strong over the long run.  Winston remains strong in his support for a British India. 

February 1931.  Winston says that he cannot speak out against Stanley Baldwin.  His friends, however, can.  Winston thinks that Baldwin may soon be driven from office himself.  He says:  "India is the grand issue."

Neville Chamberlain and Samuel Hall talk to Baldwin saying that Winston has a lot of support for his stand on India.  Baldwin asks Chamberlain if he's anxious to get rid of him?   No.  Baldwin says he's not resigning.  Rather he has decided to go down fighting. 

Churchill doesn't like Gandhi.  And now the Viceroy of India has given Gandhi status as an equal negotiator in a new conference.  Winston comments:  "If Baldwin is fool enough to approve, then Hallelujah, I've got him."  He writes:  "India for the agitators!  Never!  Never!"

Baldwin goes to see MacDonald.  He tells the prime minister that Winston plans to speak at the Albert Hall (located on the northern edge of South Kensington, London).   MacDonald says that Churchill has been a real thorn in Baldwin's side.  Baldwin replies and a thorn in the side of the government for his party has never been so divided as now.  Winston's speech will divide the party even farther.  This may weaken the party's support for the government's India policies.  MacDonald says then Baldwin must make a speech of his own on India.  Therefore, MacDonald will push back the date for the vote on India to give Baldwin time to speak out publicly. 

Baldwin speaks out to Parliament.  He doesn't name Churchill, but everyone knows who he's talking about.  He says Churchill ". . . has consistently made such dangerous appeals in relentless opposition to all settlement in India.   . . . determined to throw obstacles in the way of those who seek only the well-being, the prosperity and survival of the British Empire with justice and self-determination for all it's people."   Churchill responds but to a negative reception. 

Churchill is despondent as he returns home.  And at home, he has to speak to Randolph about his overspending in the USA.  He says his son has such great gifts but lives a life "of such thoughtless and lavish folly and wanton extravagance."  He shouts at his son to go away!  Randolph leaves. 

Later he makes up to Randolph with a gift of his father's watch to Randolph and has drinks of champagne with his son.  Later in their robes they walk down by the pond.  Winston bashes MacDonald's stand on India and says his passion for disarmament blinds him to the new German militarism.

The headline in the Daily Express is that "Government Crisis Continues.  King Asks MacDonald to Form National Government.  But Will Baldwin Join?"   Winston is on holiday and there's going to be a general election in a few weeks time.  The Labor party has collapsed.  MacDonald wanted to resign but the King has asked MacDonald to stay on and form a national government if he can.  And in the new government they will want Winston on the team.

Winston returns from holiday and speaks with Baldwin, who asks for Winston's old loyalty.  Winston says Baldwin can count on his support. 

In the National Government the National Conservatives will hold ten cabinet posts.  Baldwin tells MacDonald that there is one more National Conservative cabinet post.    That one more is for Churchill.  MacDonald says no.  He then asks Baldwin what would he have done, if MacDonald had accepted Winston?  Oh, Baldwin would have to talk him out of it. 

Clementine is livid, saying that Baldwin tricked Winston.  Winston says he was tricked, but he was also betrayed by his own vanity and ambition.  He then tells Clementine to come with him to America and he will make a fortune.

New York, December 1931.  Winston is struck by a car in front of the Adelphi. 

April 1932.  Churchill is still in a wheel chair.  Three school boys interview him for a class assignment. 

 

Episode 3.  In High Places.

Munich, September 1932.  The Churchills settle into their hotel in Munich.  Hitler sees Winston and his retinue go down to supper in the hotel dining room.  Adolf stands back so they don't see him.  At dinner Randolph says the men around Hitler mean to start a war.  Winston asks their German host if Hitler will win this next election?  The German says if not this election, then the next.  Winston asks then about Hitler's Jewish policies, which Winston doesn't like.  Of course, his host justifies the anti-Semitic policies.  Winston replies:  "You may tell your boss from me, if I am not given a chance to do so myself, that anti-Semitism, though it may be a good starter, is a bad stickup."

Hitler, looking like an evil specter, peers through the glass windows into the dining room.  Winston's host is notified to go see Hitler.  Hitler and the host speak in German.  Anyway, the host comes back to the table and looks rather downtrodden.  Hitler never meets with Churchill.  So Churchill and company leave Germany.  He does tell his host that if ever Hitler would come to Britain, he would be glad to meet with him. 

Speaking to Parliament, Winston warns the M.P.s  that Germany is looking for weapons and that would mean there's a good chanse of war again.  Of course, no one wants to consider the possibility of another war with Germany.  They just dismiss the idea.  They say Winston's wasting his time ranting on about the Germans. What worries Samuel Hall, Secretary for India, is not Hitler and German rearmament, but Winston's planned move against the India policy once again.  So, Hall speaks with Lord Derby to get him to soothe the way for the policy by speaking to the cotton merchants who engage in trade with India and are concerned about the India cotton trade being hurt. 

Speaking with his friend Max, Winston says that if Hitler becomes chancellor, then there will be total rearmament for Germany, military superiority and domination of Europe. 

Mrs. Churchill does not like Winston's advisor Brendan Bracken, because he has been promoting the rumors that he is the bastard son of Winston Churchill.  When Brendan comes over, Clementine tells Winston and Brendan that Randolph told her that in Brendan's home he has a picture of himself right next to a picture of Winston and that Brendan has been telling people, especially Randolph, to notice the similarities between the photos.  It's obvious that Clementine is upset with Brendan, and that makes Winston upset at Brendan.  After Clementine leaves, Winston scolds him for promoting that lie.  He calls Brendan an Irish mountebank and tells him to get out. 

Winston works on building his brick wall once more, but this time an illness afflicts him and if he had been alone, he would have fallen off the scaffold.  He is taken to the hospital in an ambulance.  His sister-in-law, Gooney, comes to see Winston.  Winston enquires about Clementine, but is informed that Clementine sent her instead, saying that Gooney would do more to cheer up Winston than she herself would.  Winston asks Gooney if she would speak to Brendan for him, because he treated the man rather shabbily.  Gooney says she won't do it because she too dislikes Brendan and because Brendan told Randolph that he is the bastard son of Randolph's father.  She says she's sorry that the party conference threw out Winston's plans to save India for the British.  Winston almost starts to cry saying that he has been very depressed as of late. 

January 1933.  Winston returns to Parliament, walking with a little assistance of two men.  Winston sits down by Brendan, who is thrilled by the older man's gesture to him.  Baldwin slides over to wish Winston welcome back.  He says things have been dull without Winston around. 

Winston butts heads with Hall over the India committee, saying that three-quarters of the committee members have already declared for letting India go on their own.  Hall says then Winston should accept his invitation to Churchill to sit on the committee.  Winston says no.  He becomes angry and says he will not join Hall's little circus:  "You will not muzzle me!"

Hall goes back to Lord Derby to speak again to the cotton merchants before Winston gets a chance to speak with them.  Derby says he believes that they have already drafted their evidence to the committee.  So Hall wants to see the evidence.  Darby asks if that is "proper"?  Hall replies:   "I must see it before anyone else does." 

Derby speaks with the cotton merchants about sending the evidence to Samuel Hall.  The merchants give a copy to Derby, who takes it to Hall, who goes ballistic over the exaggerated demands of the cotton merchants.  He suggests that the merchants may even have to withdraw their evidence.  Hall also asks the question if one could image what Winston would do, if he had that evidence in his hands?  

Hall changes the evidence presented by the cotton merchants and gives a copy to Derby.  He tells Derby to copy the changes down in his own hand and get the merchants to accept the changes. 

Hall and Darby have a meeting with the cotton merchants to seal the deal.  But evidently, he didn't seal the deal because two months later the merchants have still not agreed to change the evidence.  The president of the organization, Mr. Barlow, wants a knighthood if he brings his members decides to change the evidence as Hall wants.  Hall doesn't like the idea, but he resigns himself to it and tells Derby:  "Very well."

House of Commons.  Joint Select Committee on India.  Mr. Barlow is asked if he has suggested changes to the India bill?  Barlow says a simple no.  That shocks the committee, but Barlow does not say anything more. 

Churchill is told by a Mr. Robbins of what happened to the cotton merchant's evidence and how it was manipulated before being presented to the Joint Select Committee on India.  Alone with Churchill, Brendan tells Winston that when all this comes out, Sam Hall will have to go and the government's wretched plans for India will go along with him. Brendan says he will get all the evidence Mr. Robbins has.  Churchill says:  "When we have that evidence, Brendan, then I shall ask a question in the house, there will be an uproar in the Commons, the press will take it up and the whole nation will join me in a shout of righteous wrath!"

 

Episode 4.  A Menace in the House.

April 1934.The Indian Empire Society is going to have a dinner and lecture by the Right Honorable Winston Churchill on April 21. 

Mr. Robbins comes early to the meeting.  Winston and Brendan then come in to ask Robbins if he has brought all his evidence?  Yes, he has.   

Churchill gets up in the House of Commons to announce his charges against Samuel Hall and Lord Derby.  Winston gets what he wanted.  A committee is appointed to look into the charges against Samuel Hall and Lord Derby.  Randolph and Clementine are very proud of their political warrior.  Many others are also proud of Winston. 

Clementine asks her husband if all this scandal will be over by August?  Winston says yes, of course.  She then mentions that the vote did not indicate that Samuel Hall was guilty, but only that he should have a chance to clear himself.  She then warns Winston if he goes too hard at Hall and Derby, it might look like Winston has a case of excessive ambition.   

Churchill presents his evidence before the committee.  At lunch time MacDonald tells Baldwin that Winston is presenting an impressive case against Hall and Derby.  There is, however, a considerable amount of reluctance to ruin Samuel Hall's political life.  The key thing needed for Winston to prove his case is if the committee can get hold of the correspondence between Hall and the cotton merchants, but that correspondence is in the India office run by Hall. 

Hall speaks with a lawyer, who wants to know, in plain words, what did Lord Derby do?  Hall says he put down the changes in the Manchester evidence that Hall requested.  And he spoke to the cotton merchants association.  Hall, meanwhile, wrote letters to certain of the cotton merchants.  Hall says if he had to produced those letters, it would . . .   Here the lawyer jumps in saying that it would finish Hall, wouldn't it?  The lawyer suggests that Hall release some of the less ambiguous letters and then use his wits to explain to the committee that the letters were proper seen in context. 

So Hall speaks to the committee.  One of the members of the committee tells Hall that what one side sees as persuasion, another side might see as political pressure.  Hall uses words that make what he and Lord Derby did seem to be within the bounds of ordinary politics.  He says Lord Derby was simply acting as a friend to the cotton merchants.  Furthermore, Hall's dinner with Derby and the cotton merchants was a harmless social occasion.  And Hall denies that he tried to get the merchants to change their evidence to be presented to the committee dealing with the India policy. 

Winston's advisors think that Hall came out pretty well in his committee presentation.  Winston, however, says it's plain to see that Hall just trotted out a few letters that were not very incriminating against him.  So they will keep asking for more and more letters from the office of Samuel Hall. 

Winston writes a letter to the committee asking for more letters from Hall.  MacDonald, however, agrees with Thomas Inskip that there is no need for the committee to rush.  Perhaps in two weeks they will ask for other letters from Hall.  MacDonald observes:  "Oh, it's all very distressing."  Inskip speaks with Baldwin, who tells him that Randolph Churchill has written a very nasty article in the Daily Dispatch (May 30, 1934) against Inskip.  Winston gets very angry at his son for writing the article.  He says you never should abandon civility to other politicians, and that includes your opponents. 

To his lawyer, Hall expresses how much this whole affair has distressed him.  He declares:  "Those Churchills are a frightful brood." 

Hall tells the committee that he can't give them more letters because they are protected by departmental privilege.  The documents are of a confidential nature and bear on national interest.  Further exposure of papers would prove injurious to his office.  The man seems quite desperate, saying:  "I am not a crook -- I am not." 

Inskip and Baldwin do not want to find against Hall.  So they will say that the committee was not constituted in the normal, the judicial way.  Then there will be no breech of privilege. 

Winston is furious at the "rogues".  He can't wait to speak before the House of Commons against Hall.  A Mr. Morris gets up and denounces Churchill as a menace in the House of Commons. 

Clementine asks Brendan to talk to Winston, who is so down in the dumps.  Brendan goes to Winston and starts trying to cheer him up, but something else bad has happened.  Winston's cousin, Sonny, has died. 

Winston goes on holiday to the south of France, but he keeps on working.  A man from the Foreign Office, named Ralph Wigram, tells Winston about the nightmare that is happening in Germany.  He says Hitler has begun the systematic destruction of freedom in Germany.  He will exterminate the Jewish people.  The man is continuing his massive rearmament program.  Churchill says no one really listens much to him these days.  The Foreign Office man, as Winston calls him, says that people still listen to the voice of Winston Churchill.  He urges Winston not to lose his courage now, for he is known as a champion of democracy.  The problems the nation faces now, will be nothing as compared to what this man Hitler has in store of all of Europe.  Winston slowly says:  "I know that, Mr. Foreign Office man."

 

Episode 5.  The Flying Peril. 

November 1934.  Winston warns the House of Commons about Hitler and Germany.  Germany is rearming.  He says he will focus on the danger in the air, for modern airplanes can reach all their cities now traveling at 240 miles per hour.  The bombing of London would leave 30 or 40 thousand people killed or maimed.  He says they must match the Germans in their air power.  At the rate of expansion of the German air force, by 1937 their air force will be twice the size of the British air force.  He ends with:  "Do not think too poorly of the greatness of our people.  Let the House do its duty, let the government give the lead and the nation will not fail in the hour of need."  Churchill gets a standing ovation.

Baldwin denies that Germany is quickly matching British power in the sky, but he formally pledges to the House and the British people that the government is determined to never accept any position of inferiority with regard to whatever air force Germany may raise in the future.  

Clementine is going away on another trip.  At the airport she warns her husband to be careful about his political moves because Baldwin will probably be the next prime minister and he has the political apparatus behind him.  And when Baldwin gets in office Winston must get the man to give him the job of the Admiralty.  Winston says yes, but first he must get Baldwin moving on the defense initiative.

Mr. Foreign Office man gets some data from the Air Ministry and gives the data to Churchill.  After going over the numbers, Churchill comments that his worst fears were more than justified.  It's an alarming state of affairs.  Wigram tells Winston that within a month Hitler will institute a draft and soon he will have an army of over a million men.  Winston warns the man that he has put himself in terrible jeopardy because he gave his oath not to reveal these secrets. The man is willing to suffer the consequences to help his nation. 

Baldwin sees Germany as a strong bulwark against the communists in the Soviet Union.  So he is not as worried as Hall is about German rearmament.  A professor at Oxford photographs the secret information for Winston. 

Winston really gives Randolph a harsh scolding on his newest wrong-headed political idea.  Winston asks the young man why he keeps trying to embarrass his father?  Randolph criticizes his father with great bitterness.  He gets so mad at his father that he leaves the table saying he'll be damned if he continues to listen to his father's insults.  He even says he will not come here again.

March 1935.  Winston gets more information on German war manufacturing from Major Morton.  They are producing over 100 planes a month.  Hitler is definitely putting Germany on a war footing. 

Neville Chamberlain complains to MacDonald how accurate Winston's numbers are in his brief about Germany.  He says Winston could force them into spending a fortune on defense and he must be stopped.  They should find out from where Winston is getting his information.  Chamberlain now brings in Major Morton as someone who might be able to help them.  Morton is in charge of intelligence on German industrial trends.  They ask Morton if he knows from where Churchill is getting his information?  Morton plays dumb, so they give him Winston's speech and ask Morton to come back at 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Winston has dinner with Ralph Wigram and his wife at their place.  Wigram says:  " . . . the situation is now so serious that we can never catch up [with Germany]."

Chamberlain and MacDonald quiz Morton again.  He tells them that actually Winston's numbers have already been provided by his office to the government, so it's not really news.  They ask him again from where is Churchill getting his information?  Does he know?  Morton says a simple "No, sir, I don't believe I can."

Wigram comes over to speak with Winston.  He apologizes for being late but all hell has broken out at the Foreign Office.  He says tomorrow Hitler is going to declare that the German Air Force is as strong as the British Air Force, but actually Hitler's miles ahead of the British Air Force. 

MacDonald tells Baldwin and Chamberlain that they only have 453 airplanes, while the Germans have over 800 airplanes.  Chamberlain actually makes the comment that he's more worried about Churchill than he is about Hitler.  If Britain in dragged into war it will be because of Churchill's irresponsible belligerence. 

Baldwin now admits that he was completely wrong when he estimated Britain's strength in airplanes compared to that of Germany.  He says that now they will proceed to build up the British Air Force. 

Ramsey MacDonald resigns as prime minister.  Baldwin takes the office. 

Winston goes to see Randolph and asks him to come back home before his mother returns.  Randolph agrees to return. 

Clementine was gone with Lord Moyne for five months.  Apparently there was a relationship between the two.  Clementine says the fellow wanted her to love him, and she wanted him to love her.  Winston asked what's he to think of all this?  Clementine says she did fall in love with Lord Moyne briefly but now it's the past.  Winston says he doesn't want to think of it anymore and he will never again speak of the matter.  He leaves the room. 

The Italians have gone into Abyssinia. 

The general election takes place and Baldwin will be the prime minister.  Winston does not get the Admiralty.  He tells Brendan that Britain is lost in a pacifist dream.  "All that we have hangs by a rotten thread.  Will it break?"

 

Episode 6.  His Own Funeral. 

Morpeth Mansions. January 1936.  King George V has died.  His successor is Edward VIII.  Churchill is staying in his apartment at Morpeth Mansions.  Clementine complains that Prince Edward should marry, but he runs with the fast set and chases after married women.  Winston doesn't like such scurrilous talk. 

Baldwin has still not named a man for the defense ministry.  He wonders if Britain even needs such a man.  He says Britain is ready for anything that might happen on the continent. 

Churchill is awakened to get a telegram from Major Morton.  The telegram confirms that Hitler's troops have moved into the Rhineland.  Winston jumps out of bed.  He says:  "Oh, God. It's started."

Nancy Astor has guests to dinner.  The guests don't seemed disturbed by Hitler's move into the Rhineland.  They talk of having had good times visiting Germany.  Goebbels and Goering were such good hosts.  A Mr. McMillan speaks up and says he still thinks Hitler is a fanatic.  Neville Chamberlain totally underestimates Hitler.  Nancy asks McMillan what harm can Hitler ever do us?  She's just afraid that Baldwin might appoint Winston to the Defense Ministry.

Baldwin decides not to have a defense ministry.  Thomas Inskip will perform some of the duties that would have been done by a Defense Minister. 

Winston goes to see Wigram.  Wigram is very depressed saying that war is inevitable now and it's going to be the worst war ever.  He says there will be bombs on his little house.  All that he has done has been in vain and he's a complete failure.  Churchill says to Wigram that he was the one who inspired old Winston and he still needs Wigram's help. 

Winston harasses Thomas Inskip when he reports on defense concerns.  He keeps asking him questions to which Inskip has no answers.  Hall is mad at Winston and runs to tell Baldwin.  He tells Baldwin that Churchill has got Inskip down on the floor and half the defense policy as well.  Hall says they have to stop Winston's momentum.  So they are going to offer something to Winston to get him off their backs. 

A wing commander named Tor Anderson comes to see Winston.  He comes with proof that appallingly little has been done to train and equip the RAF for war.  Winston is happy to get the proof. 

He goes back to Chartwell to get to work on more criticism of the government's defense preparations.  The government is quite unable to enter intro production.  There is a real shortage of all war equipment and gear.  Only 50 new pilots are being trained per year and they are not being trained for night flying nor flying under war-like conditions.  In addition, there is a devastating lack of spare parts for the planes.  Population would be starving in six weeks.  There is no development of radar. 

With all the criticisms of the government's defense policy in their hands, Churchill and his people go in to present their findings. They are surprised to see that the only people who will be listening to them is Baldwin and Thomas Inskip.  The team reports it findings and once again Baldwin dances around the problem.  Evidence be damned, but Baldwin is not going to engage in a war with Hitler.  He says Hitler will be fighting the Bolsheviks and let the two nations kill off their armies. 

Winston and his team leave the room.  At home Clementine sees that Winston is upset.  She says Winston is upset because his daughter Sarah ran away to get married to an American comedian.  Winston says that their daughter is in trouble.  And now Clementine lowers the boom on Winston for never being around helping her and the children be a strong family because he was always into his politics and his writings.  They have a son who is an alcoholic, one daughter divorced and another about to marry a Jewish musical hall comedian.  Winston should be retired and painting and looking after his grandchildren.  But he isn't, and he isn't because they kept chasing the dream that Winston would one day be as great as Marlborough.  Then she says she knows that it will happen for Winston and he can't stop now.  He will be the prime minister, but not just yet.  They have sacrificed so much for the dream, and she tells him not to stop now. 

Baldwin is given a hard reception on his non-plans for the defense of Britain.  He looks very exhausted.  Then Churchill gets up and damns the terrible state of defense readiness in Britain.  His speech is praised. 

At home Wigram tells Churchill that this government will never accept reality until it's too late.  Churchill says they will sufferer many causalities, but they must never give up their faith. 

The Churchill group believes that Winston will be the next prime minister. 

Hall speaks to Baldwin about King Edward's plans to marry the American Mrs. Wallis Simpson once she is divorced.  And it's said that the King wants to get advice from Winston.  Baldwin says the government will have to resign if the King keeps up with his plans. 

Winston says to his wife that the King can't really speak for himself, so he (Winston) must be the King's champion.  He will get the King more time to think about the folly he is about to commit by marrying Mrs. Simpson.  Clementine says that the King will not give up Mrs. Winston no matter how much time he has. 

Winston's attitudes are put in the papers.  Hall tells Chamberlain to let Winston make a fool of himself because it will be his own funeral. 

Winston comes into the House of Commons while Baldwin is just finishing up on his statement on the King and Mrs. Simpson situation.  Brendan tries to tell Winston that he should not make a statement because it seems that Baldwin is agreeing to give the King more time.  But Winston is so wound up that he really doesn't get what Brendan is trying to tell him.  Churchill starts giving his prepared speech and people are not happy with it.  Many tell him just to sit down.  Winston is told to sit down because he's making a speech during a question and answer session.  Churchill restates his position and the crowd really starts yelling at him. Winston goes down to Baldwin and tells him that Baldwin will not be satisfied until he has broken the King.  He now walks out of the House of Commons.

Clementine says that Baldwin will soon resign and the party won't take Chamberlain.  Winston says the party will take Chamberlain. 

The headline in the Daily Mirror December 31, 1934 is:  "Hitler Doubles Army, Increases Air Force."  Wigram reads the headlines.  Then he consumes a bottle full of some type of pills.  Winston attends the man's funeral.  Mrs. Wigram thanks Winston for coming.  She says her husband thought Winston was the greatest of all the British men alive.  Winston tells his wife how brave and noble her husband was to try to save his country against the opposition of so many.  Mrs. Wigram starts really crying and has to leave.  A pilot in a spitfire fighter flies over the burial service and does a full roll in honor of Wigram. 

 

Episode 7.  The Long Tide of Surrender. 

February 1937.  Winston paints at home.  Wing commander Tor comes to see Winston with new information for Winston.  The old man takes a look and gets mad all over again at the government's lack of preparation for war. 

Swinton now pushes for a heavy amount to be spent on air defense, and once again Baldwin and Chamberlain say no.  He says he doesn't want to disturb the Germans while he's trying to get along with them.  He adds that they must not be misled by Churchill and his warmongering. 

Baldwin says to Churchill that he will resign next month.  He goes on to say that Chamberlain will be his successor and he asks Churchill to be the person who seconds Neville's nomination.  Churchill accepts. 

The British Air Force is going to give a presentation to the German air staff.  Tor can't believe it.  He later gets word to Churchill that the British are going to show the Germans the puniness and incompetence of the British Air Force. 

Chamberlain is not the prime minister.  Swinton asks him to accept his defense plan, but Neville is just like Baldwin and cannot see the danger of a rising Germany.  Swinton's plans are rejected. 

Lord Halifax goes hunting with Goering in Prussia.  He comes back and reports that Hitler was very understanding on the British stand for disarmament.  Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden is furious.  He says Lord Fairfax has clearly given Hitler the impression that the British are all for disarmament.  And now Chamberlain reveals that he is going to reduce the defense budget.  He is one big fool.  Eden gets furious at Chamberlain and refers to his policies as those of appeasement of Nazi Germany.  He leaves the room.  He later resigns. 

Winston is very upset that Anthony Eden resigned, saying that he was the last man left who was capable of standing firm against Chamberlain.  And now Chamberlain has put in that buffoon Lord Edward Halifax. 

Chamberlain goes to see Horace Wilson in his office.  He wants Horace to become his personal advisor at Number 10 Downing Street.  Chamberlain is still under the illusion that he can get Hitler and Mussolini to sit down with others and speak on reasonable terms.  And Horace is a man who can talk to people.  "We can create a lasting peace in Europe."  He then asks if Horace thinks he can talk to Hitler?  "Why not?"  Horace himself uses the word "appeasement" in a positive way, and not the negative way the word is used now. 

The government ministers meet with Herr Joachim von Ribbentrop, German ambassador to Britain.  They invite Churchill over and then Hall and Wilson.  Churchill can't help but give the ministers some jabs by jabbing at von Ribbentrop.  He then leaves. 

A messenger brings in a telegram and Wilson grabs it, reads it and sticks it in his pocket.  Churchill loudly asks if there's any news in the telegram Wilson just got?  Chamberlain wants to see the telegram.  It says that there are heavy German troop movements on the border with Austria.  Von Rippentrop assures the Prime Minister that it's nothing serious.  It's probably spring training.  So Chamberlain dismisses the matter.  Winston walks away in utter disgust. 

A message comes over the teletype saying:  "German troops invaded Austria 0430 hrs."  Swinton begs Chamberlain to put forward his new defense plans.  Halifax sides with Swinton.  Chamberlain says they don't want another World War I.   He is pursuing a policy of positive appeasement to build British trade and industry.  Chamberlain is going to continue the reduction in defense. 

Winston has been given the sack by the Evening Standard.  He tells his daughter Mary never to be a journalist.  And now Mary gets mad at Randolph for goading papa saying that journalism is a good occupation.  He says:  "Why should I live in my father's shadow?"

Winston tells Clementine that he's in debt by 18,000 pounds.  Clementine is shocked at the size of the figure.  His American stocks have collapsed and he owes the American brokers that amount.  His wife is so upset that Winston says then he will sell Chartwell.  She doesn't like that idea at all. 

Clementine telephones Brendan.  She says that she needs his help. 

Winston bashes the appeasement policy brilliantly.  The speech is received well in the House of Commons. 

Brendan speaks with Winston telling him that now he doesn't have to worry about the 18,000 pounds and The Telegraph would be delighted to take Winston's articles and at a  higher fee.  Winston replies:  "You really are a friend indeed, Brendan."  Brendan suggests that perhaps Winston could go on a speaking tour. 

Swinton is let go.  He resigns. 

An anti-Nazi German Major von Kleist tells Winston that Czechoslovakia will be invaded.  There are 1.5 million German troops on the Czech border before the end of September. 

Chamberlain doesn't want to do anything to stop the invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Now even Hall says that something must be done.  Chamberlain says:  "No.  I find Hitler's anger quite understandable." 

Winston wants to speak with Chamberlain, but Chamberlain tells Wilson to tell Winston that the Prime Minister is very busy right now and make an appointment on another day.  Wilson, however, suggests that Chamberlain speak to Churchill and just pretend to agree with him.  And so Chamberlain just lies to Winston saying he's in agreement with the man. 

Winston returns home in a very good mood.  He says it's a cause for celebration today.  Randolph stands up and tells his father that Chamberlain has tricked him.  The Prime Minister is planning to fly to Germany to meet with Hitler and agree to all his demands about Czechoslovakia.  Winston now knows he has been lied to by the Prime Minister.  And he says he knows who's all behind this:  Horace Wilson.  He bitterly comments:  "Chamberlain had the choice between war and shame.  He has chosen shame now.  He will get war later."

 

Episode 8.  What Price Churchill?

Heston Airport, September 1938.  The fool Chamberlain thinks he comes back to England as a hero.  He says they have worked out the Czechoslovakia problem and will work out one for the peace of the whole of Europe.  And here he has in his hand a signed document by Chancellor Hitler and himself. He also says:  "Farewell, gentlemen, this is peace in our time."

In the House of Commons, Winston speaks.  He says Britain has suffered a terrible defeat.  The agreement reached gives away Czechoslovakia to Herr Hitler.  There is silence in the House of Commons as Winston sits down. 

Despite what Winston thinks, Chamberlain is satisfied with the public response to the agreement with Hitler.  Wilson tells him that the Prime Minister has never gotten such a high level of support before, and that the people see Chamberlain as their savior.  Chamberlain says they will continue ignoring Winston.

Chamberlain is astounded when the Germans start moving troops up to Czechoslovakia.  He repeats that Winston is just being irresponsible in his demands for an increase in defense.  Then they start saying there must be some way to shut Churchill up. 

Hall is up to his nasty tricks again.  He calls over to the Conservative Association in Epping (Winston's district) and offers the director, Thornton Kilmsly,  a chance to stand for Parliament one day soon.  All he wants is the man's cooperation in getting Churchill kicked out of the association.  [Epping is a market town and civil parish in the Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England.]  So Thorton calls in Winston and insists that he resign as member for Epping.  Churchill says he will not resign unless forced to do so.  He says he's being hounded by the government for insisting that Germany's intentions are to go to war.  But what if Churchill should be wrong?  Churchill says he hasn't been wrong yet.  And now Czechoslovakia is going to be dismembered by Germany.  [The date for this was September 21, 1938.]

March 15, 1939.  Hitler makes farther inroads into Czechoslovakia.  Hall tells Chamberlain and the other ministers that they have been deceiving themselves for too long. 

And now the tide is turning to Winston Spencer Churchill.  Churchill rallies important people around him and sends a memorandum to Chamberlain asking for increases in the budgets of the navy and the RAF immediately.  Then he asks his supporters if they would support a government of all parties?  Everyone raises their hands. 

Chamberlain is again furious at Churchill about the all parties government.  Wilson asks him what should they do about Poland.  Chamberlain does say that:  "We better do something."  Wilson says they better give Poland a guarantee in case they are attacked by Germany.  Chamberlain agrees. 

Mussolini has invaded Albania.  Winston swings his team into action.  He forces Chamberlain to create the long demanded Ministry of Supply.  But Winston will not be leading it. 

Winston tells the press they need a military draft and a mobilization of the armed forces. 

Poor delusional Chamberlain still trusts Hitler.  Chamberlain now finds out that Wing Commander Tor Anderson has been providing intelligence to Churchill.  Chamberlain says the man should be court-martialed, but later he changes his mind.

Billboards asking "What price Churchill?" go up all over London.  They disturbs Chamberlain.  He sends the House of Commons away until October 1939.  And the Prime Minister is off to Scotland tomorrow to go fishing.  Winston is furious.  He says he will go to France and take a look at the enemy before it's too late. 

Hitler forms an alliance with the Soviet Union.  This forces Chamberlain to return from his holiday to speak in the House of Commons.  Chamberlain says that Germany is going to attack Poland.  And he calls for military mobilization.

September 1, 1939.  Hitler invades Poland.  And now Chamberlain asks Winston if he would be a part of his cabinet? Yes, is the answer.  Winston wants to know when will he send an ultimatum to Hitler?  Chamberlain says Winston mustn't push him. 

Winston says an entire 24 hours has passed and yet there is still no ultimatum. 

Chamberlain is all alone against his ministers who demand that an ultimatum be send.  He gives into his ministers.  But first Chamberlain sends out peace feelers to Hitler in despite of all the pressure for an ultimatum.  Chamberlain is roundly criticized by a major part of the members of the House of Commons. 

And Winston has still not heard from Chamberlain about his being part of the cabinet.  Brendan tells Winston that he must speak up in the House of Parliament and against Chamberlain.  But Winston is still hoping he will be made a member of the cabinet.  Brendan tells Winston he should not become a member of the cabinet.  He should march himself down to Parliament and call for the ouster of Chamberlain.  And then Churchill should take the man's place.  Churchill says it's impossible because he himself is not fitted to be Prime Minister.  He only wants to serve his country.

Hall goes to see Chamberlain.  He says the ministers had a meeting and agreed that what Chamberlain told the House of Commons was not what they agreed to in the cabinet meeting with Chamberlain.  They want an ultimatum issued or Chamberlain will not survive in the House of Commons.  Chamberlain asks if they are giving him an ultimatum?  Hall says no, he is merely stating the facts.  And the ultimatum must be written up immediately and a time must be set for an answer to be delivered.  They want to know by noon time tomorrow if Germany is willing to withdraw from Poland or Britain will be at war with Germany.  Chamberlain finally gives in.  Hall says, thank you, and then leaves. 

September 3, 1939.  No word from Germany as of yet.  Chamberlain tells Wilson to tell the BBC that he's ready.  Chamberlain says that no answer having come from Germany to their ultimatum, Britain is now at war with Germany. 

Air raid sirens go off and the people rush to the bomb shelters.

Chamberlain tells Wilson to get him Winston.  Winston shows up.  The Prime Minister says only Hitler has won and that all his peace efforts were a tragic waste.  He offers Winston the Admiralty.  Winston accepts the job. 

Chamberlain says they are up against a formidable enemy and a leader with no scruples at all.  Churchill says:  "That is all true, Prime Minister.  Every word of it.  This country has never had to face such evil before.  Never in all our history.  But I remain confident of one thing.  With it all, we shall have him!"

 

May 10, 1940.  Churchill became the new Prime Minister. 

 

 

This is a great film because it goes into detail about how solidly the British were in self-delusion about the plans of Herr Hitler.  Both political parties, Tory and Labor, were behind an appeasement policy toward Hitler.  They kept denying that Hitler was a real threat to Europe and Britain.  And they kept underestimating the military strength of Hitler, while overestimating the strength of the British military.  And the appeasers in their self-delusion kept lying to themselves and others, even when Churchill provided rather accurate numbers on Germany's strength and Britain's weakness.  It was painful to watch the self-delusion of the appeasers, which at first was the majority group in both parties.  (In those day, they thought of appeasement as a good, sound word and a good, sound policy.)  I was severely tempted to fast forward through the leaders' appeasement remarks, but I knew I had to write down the stupid remarks. 

I did find the long section on Churchill trying to hold on to India to be a bit boring and a slog to get through, but that was Winston's key issue in the early years of his being in the wilderness in British politics.  But the last part of the film makes up for the drag on India. 

The acting was superb, especially by Robert Hardy (as Winston Churchill) and Siān Phillips (as Clementine Churchill).

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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