Young Winston (1972)

 

 

Director:    Richard Attenborough.

Starring:    Simon Ward (Winston Churchill),  Anne Bancroft (Lady Jennie Churchill), Robert Shaw (Lord Randolph Churchill),  John Mills (Gen. Kitchener), Jack Hawkins (Mr. Weldon),  Patrick Magee (Gen. Bindon Blood),  Ian Holm (George E. Buckle), Jane Seymour (Pamela Plowden),  Edward Woodward (Captain Aylmer Haldane),  Anthony Hopkins (David Lloyd George), Laurence Naismith (Lord Salisbury). 

Follows the early career of Winston Churchill.  He was a journalist in South Africa. 

 

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Winston Churchill sits on his horse atop a small mesa.  One officer asks:  "Who's that bloody fool on the gray?"  The reply is:  "Someone who wants to be noticed, I should imagine."  The officer who asked the question says that the lad is going to get his head blown off. 

As narrator Churchill says:  "On the 16th of September, 1897 at the age of 22 I found myself taking part in a punitive expedition of the Malakand Field Force on the northwest frontier of India."  He called in a favor on August 5 from General Sir Bindon Blood:  "Sir, I do hope you will not be annoyed if I remind you that you once promised me that when you had your next command you would try to find a place for me."  Blood wrote back saying there are no vacancies, but he should come as a correspondent and he will try to fit Churchill in somewhere.

In India Blood's force splits in two and correspondent Churchill tries to decide which column would most likely give him the best war story.  He follos the main column. 

Churchill says he never wanted to be a soldier.  His interest lay in politics and parliament. He sought out wars as a way for him to establish a good name and reputation.  One of his problems is those days were ones of his not having much money.  His mother, the American lady Jennie Randolph Churchill, would write him saying that he is irresponsible about money. 

Blood asks:  "Who's that bloody fool on the gray?"  The fellow will get his head blown off.  That fellow on the gray calls out to the general, saying:  "Lt. Churchill, sir.  4th Hussars."  He says also that he is a correspondent for the Pioneer and Daily Telegraph newspapers.  Blood says they don't care much for war correspondents, so if he is coming along, he must keep out of the way. 

Churchill gets off his horse and starts walking up a mountain along with the Indian troops.  As narrator, he says that he desperately needed lots of medal to establish a reputation. 

They reach a village at the top of the mountain and the officers start to relax because there is no one in the village.  Blood tells his right hand man Willie to cover them as he descends back to ground level.  When they are half way down, they will then provide cover for the last half of the unit.  The village houses are set on fire. 

Churchill remains behind thinking of what he could write about this little adventure.  Looking through the smoke from the fires, he sees an enemy force about to descend on his unit.  Churchill has to duck down quickly to avoid being killed or wounded.  Gen. Blood gives the order to fall back and then he gets shot and has to be carried away from the action.  In the action Churchill distinguishes himself.  A wounded man is being hacked to death by enemy swordsmen.  This makes Churchill  boiling mad and he rushes the group with pistol in hand.  He fires at the men so fast and with so many hits that the lead troops retreat.  Someone behind him yells:  "Come on, you idiot, get out of it!"

The colonel on the expedition commends the courage of Lt. W. L. S. Churchill in a battlefield dispatch.  Narrator Churchill says:  "And thereupon, I sat down and wrote a book."

Flashback.  Narrator Churchill says:  ". . . when I was but 7, I was cast out of my happy home and sent away to school.  I left behind me all who were dear to me, especially my nurse, Mrs. Everest  . . ."  He also comments that he missed his nurse most of all. 

Back to the present.  Winston writes to his mother that Gen. Kitchener is going to fight the dervishes in the Sudan, below Egypt, Africa.  He asks mother to use all her charm to get him under Kitchener's command.  He says to him his mother was much like a fairy princess.  He describes her as a "radiant being" with limitless riches and power.  "I loved her dearly.  But at a distance."  His father, however, had the most influence over his early life.  He was a Tory member of the House of Commons.  And yet, he even spoke less to his father than his mother. 

Flashback.  Winston's father knew so many influential people.  He knew the leader of the Tory party, Lord Salisbury.   At the time the conservative party was in opposition.  Salisbury's nephew was Arthur Balfour.  And then there was Joseph Chamberlain.  It would be these men who would form the government whenever the conservatives were to be put into power again. 

Winston was put in a boarding school. He was not happy about it at all.  Winston is very critical of things and he asks a lot of questions.  The head of the school tells him that if students are impertinent then they are severely punished.  And soon enough Winston was being whipped on the behind by the head of the school. 

When the next election rolled around, Jennie Churchill would go out and meet the constituency and ask people to vote for her husband.  Her good looks helps her to talk easily with the men.  When Jennie goes back home, Winston's nurse asks to speak.  Winston lays in bed and appears to be ill, but that's not the worst of it.  She pulls down Winston pajamas to show Lady Churchill the welts on the boy's rear-end from the excessive whippings.  She then tells her employer that they are removing Winston from that school immediately.  "Won't we, milady?"

Lord Randolph is interviewed by a journalist.  The news is that Randolph has tendered his resignation to Lord Salisbury.  The journalist asks if there was a fight with Lord Salisbury and if Lord Churchill tried to replace Lord Salisbury as prime minister?  Randolph says he won't comment on this.  He doesn't want to encourage rumors and gossip.  Randolph is asked about the Irish question.  He replies:  "That, I'm afraid, will never be solved."

At the age of 12 Winston enters into the world of examinations at school.  He admits as an adult that he did not do well on them.  "I should have liked to be asked to say what I knew.  They always contrived to ask what I did not know." He had a particularly hard time on the examination to get into Harrow.  He wrote nothing down on paper on the exam.  And yet the head of the school passed him to go on to Harrow. 

Lord Churchill goes to the editor of the London Times to say that he is resigning from the government.  The editor tells him not to do it.  Randolph tells him he has already done it and the Prime Minister has accepted it. 

In the morning Jennie learns the news from the newspaper.  She is absolutely shocked and comes to ask her husband about it.  A Mr. Moore comes in to see if the story of his resignation is true.  Yes, it's true.  As Moore is going out he tells Jennie:  "He has flung himself from the top of the ladder.  He will never reach it again."  Jennie is still shocked and upset.  She goes back up to her room. 

Winston recites a long poem of around 1,000 lines and presents it before a large crowd.  His parents had never been to see him at Harrow and he wrote a letter to them to come down and see him recite his poem.  But only his beloved nurse came to hear him recite his poem. 

Dr. Roose comes to see Jennie.  With him is Dr. Buzzard.  They report that her husband has an incurable disease of which he will died within five or six years.  Dr. Buzzard says:  "Let us call it an inflammation of the brain."  He will deteriorate consistently.  He will have paralysis of his limbs and impaired speech.  His mind will also be impaired and he will suffer from periods of violence.  Dr. Buzzard asks Jennie when was the last she she had sexual intercourse with her husband?  She wants to know why does he ask?  He says it is a matter of importance.  She says she has not had sex with Randolph for some considerable time.  Dr. Roose is so relieved to her this.  Now Buzzard tells her that she and the kids will not be affected, but there must be no physical relations with her husband. 

When Winston comes to breakfast his father bitterly tells him to go up to his room and stay there until he has learned some civilized manners.  Winston is shocked at his father's reaction.  He leaves the table to go upstairs.  Jennie asks her husband if he doesn't think his reaction to Winston was excessively harsh?  His answer is:  "Nonsense!"  His wife replies:  "Well, if you ever spoke to me like that, I'd feel as if you didn't care about me at all."  So father goes up to speak with Winston.  His father says he went too far with Winston.  As an adult, Churchill wrote:  "It was one of the three or four long, intimate conversations with him which are all I can boast."

Randolph tells Jennie that Winston should go into the army and that means they will have to get him into Sandhurst. 

Winston had to take three separate exams before he passed to get into Sandhurst.  He is very pleased to tell his father, but dad says he did terribly, finishing seventh from the bottom of the class.  He adds insult to injury by saying:  "You're my greatest disappointment. . . . Nothing but trouble and heartache."  He goes on to say that if he doesn't buckle down and do well at Sandhurst then:  "I can accept no further responsibility for you after your 21st birthday." 

Winston writes that when he became a gentleman cadet at Sandhurst, he acquired a higher status in the eyes of his father.  Of his little walks in Society, Winston remarked:  "I dearly loved these outings "  On one of the outings Winston is introduced to General Bindon Blood.  It's at this time that Gen. Blood promised to find a place for him in his unit.  "I give you my word."  A little later on, Winston asks if he couldn't be his father's secretary or assistant secretary?  Randolph just starts talking about the horses running in the upcoming race. 

Randolph speaks in the House of Lords.  He does so badly that he has to be helped out of the chamber.  Winston and Jennie were in the balcony witnessing this.  Winston writes:  "He was only 46.  Had he lived another four or five years he could not have done without me.  But all my dreams of comradeship with him of entering parliament at his side and in his support were ended."

Randolph was buried near Blenheim where he was born.  (Winston was born in the same place.)  Winston speaks of vindicating his father's memory. 

Winston graduates from Sandlurst with honors.  He was eighth of 150 in his class.  He became a second lieutenant.  

Four months later his beloved nurse dies.  He spoke to her again just a little before her death.  She asks him how is it going for him in the cavalry?  Winston turns out to be a terrible horseman and keeps being thrown off by his horses. 

Jennie loses most of her money in an American stock market swindle. 

Winston in India writes his mother that he simply must go to the Sudan with Kitchener.  He asks her to talk to everyone she can.  In his letter he tells her about Pamela Plowden  -- the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

Jennie contacts Kitchener but he writes her that he has no room for Churchill and he will choose his own officers, thank you. 

A journalist interviews Jennie and tells her that she basically ignored Winston throughout his youth.  Jennie says that is just not the case.  "My son never lacked a mother's love."   The journalist says the Prince of Wales often uses her as a hostess for his many parties.  Jennie says there was never a hint of impropriety between her and the Prince of Wales.  Now the journalist asks her about the well-known sportsman,. Count Charles Kinsky.  She responds:  "We are friends."  The journalist talks about a possible divorce between her and Randolph.  She replies:  "There was never a possibility of divorce."  The journalist now tries to get her to tell him about her husband's illness.  Jennie becomes angry and starts to leave the room.  The journalist suggests that it was syphilis.  She answers:  "Are you content?"

A vacancy comes up in Kitchener's crew heading to the Sudan.

 

Intermission.

 

Churchill is now in the Sudan with the 21st Lancers.  He is told to report to Colonel Martin.  Col. Martin has a message he wants Churchill to deliver.  He says they estimate that some 60,000 of the enemy are headed right for them.  He wants Churchill to ride up and get a better idea of the number of enemy racing toward them.  When he comes back he is to report to Gen. Kitchener.  Churchill dreads meeting Kitchener.  He thinks the general might go off on him.

Churchill tells Kitchener that the dervishes are advancing between the general's forces and the city of Omdurman.  [Omdurman is the largest city in Sudan and Khartoum State, lying on the western banks of the River Nile, opposite the capital, Khartoum.]  He estimates that Kitchener only has an hour or an hour and a half before the arrival of the enemy.

Kitchener's men are ready for the arrival of the dervishes.  Artillery pieces fire away at the oncoming enemy and breaks their lines.  The next day Churchill participated in a mopping-up operation.  He was thereby a participant in the last full charge ever of British cavalry.  A group of enemy soldiers were firing at them, so the cavalry charged.   The set-up was a a trap because just behind the firing line and out-of-sight were thousands of enemy troops.  Churchill and the others are surrounded by the enemy and many of the cavalry men were pulled off their horses and killed.  Churchill killed or wounded many a man as he had a pistol with him and the enemy was extremely close to him. 

Now Churchill is back home in England.  He is introduced as a war correspondent, author, recently resigned from the army and candidate for parliament for Oldham at the age of 24.  He is asked a lot of tough questions, but he comes off  looking very bright and very well-spoken.   

Back to the present.  Churchill's run for parliament ended in his defeat.  So he leaves for South Africa to work as a war correspondent on the British fight against the very racist Boers of South Africa.  Churchill writes that he was very fortunate to meet up with Captain Aylmer Haldane again, who he had known while in India.  Haldane invites him to go out with his unit on a reconnaissance.  They travel by train.  They get to the end of their route and then head back to base.  On the trip back, however, the Boers situated on top of a mesa opened up with artillery and rifle fire.  The British fire back from the advancing train.  The train is moving away from the ambush, but right into a pile of rocks laid out on the railway tracks.  One of the cars filled with British soldiers jumps the track spilling out all the soldiers onto the ground.

Churchill again proves his courage by organizing the soldiers to push one of the damaged cars off the tracks so the train can proceed.  They manage to push it somewhat off the track.  Now Churchill gets the engineer to push the rest of the car off the track.  The engine did get by the obstacle and it falls right back on the track behind the engine.  This means the locomotive is blocked from going back and picking up the other stranded cars. The wounded are brought up to the engine and some of the men have to run alongside the engine as it moves away from the ambush. 

On the downgrade the engine picks up speed and leaves the British soldiers behind and exposed to enemy fire.  With the engineers and Churchill, the conductor manages to force the brakes on and the train stops.  Now Churchill gets off the locomotive to run back to get Haldane.  But between Haldane and Churchill are some Boer troops.  Churchill turns around and starts running back, but then climbs up the hill and runs into another Boer. 

The Boers consider Churchill a bigwig of a prisoner and say that they will never let Churchill go until the end of the war.  Churchill, however, has other plans.  He has been observing POW Haldane and another man, named Brockie, plotting an escape.  Churchill pleads with Haldane to let him come along on the escape.  

While checking on their chances of escaping, Churchill has an uncontrollable impulse to go for it.  He shimmies over a wall and then a fence.  He talks to a British soldier at the urinals to go tell Haldane and Brockie that Churchill is over the latrine wall and the fence.  Meanwhile, Churchill takes off running.  He catches a ride on a passing train.  As he nears the border between the two enemies he jumps off the train.  He  walks toward the border and stops for help.  A man tells Churchill to come into his house.  There the man, Mr. Howard, holds a pistol on him and tells him to tell him the truth.  Churchill tells him the truth and now the fellow says he is also British.  He will help Winston get over the border. 

Howard takes Churchill down into the mine.  He stayed there for three days and nights.  Then he is shown the way to get onto a train moving into British controlled territory.   Now the world press starts wondering where in the world is Winston Churchill?.  At the time Winston was not aware ". . . that I had leapt from a latrine into world celebrity." 

Churchill gets passed the border and into British territory.  He comes out of hiding, stands up and shouts that he is Winston Churchill and he is free, while firing off his pistol.

Churchill went on helping the British cause.  By the time he reached England he was a hero to the nation.  He receives a tumultuous reception at a political event.  His mother is very proud of him. 

And this time Winston won the Oldham election and was sent to "the mother of parliaments". 

After a year in parliament, the newspapers write that Winston Churchill is making the same mistake that his father did.  This worries Jennie and she tells her son in a restaurant that she got a letter from Arthur Balfour that the prime minister is very angry with her son.  She tells him it's suicidal to attack the three most important men in the Tory party.  These people will not forgive and forget.  Winston sees Lloyd George sitting alone at a table and he acknowledges his presence.  His mother turns, sees Lloyd George and tells her son:  "I do wish you weren't so friendly with Lloyd George.  Such an odious little man."  She hates the man looks at women. 

Churchill in parliament says tonight: "I speak on behalf of military economy and retrenchment."  He speaks about his father who was destroyed by this matter never to rise again.  Then he speaks out against the talk of a European war because it will bring great destruction in its wake. 

Back at home Winston speaks with his mother about whether he will still have a political career.  He also mentions that he saw a good looking young woman and wondered if mother could tell him who is she.  Yes, she knows.  It's Clementine Hozier. 

Narrator Churchill says:  "It was an end and a beginning.  . . . seven years later Clementine Hozier and I were married and lived happily ever afterwards."  [Clementine was the daughter of Lady Henrietta Blanche Hozier (1852–1925), daughter of the 10th Earl of Airlie and second wife of Sir Henry Montague Hozier (1838–1907).]

 

 

Very good biography of the early years of the life of Sir Winston Churchill.  There is quite a lot of action scenes involving Churchill's actions in war.  He is portrayed as being quite courageous in battle in India, the Sudan and South Africa.  He also made a daring escape from a Boer prisoner of war camp.  This made him quite famous in Great Britain and also known in many countries of the world as it was a long escape under dangerous conditions.  Winston had an emotionally rough life when he was a youngster.  His mother and father mostly ignored Winston putting him in schools away from them.  Maybe this is why Winston so cherished his mother and father.  He was always searching for their approval.  And he was ambitious as a man.  He went to so many wars not because he wanted to be a soldier, but because he wanted to build a reputation as being courageous and bold.  Since he survived, his strategy was successful.  He had a proud military tradition on which to boast and build a political career.

He was elected to parliament from his district of Oldham and so his political career took off.  Some years later he married Clementine Hozier and, as he says. lived happily ever afterwards.

Simon Ward (as Winston Churchill),  Anne Bancroft (as Lady Jennie Churchill) and Robert Shaw (as Lord Randolph Churchill) were all very good in their roles.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 


Historical Background:

1874  --  birth of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill and his mother was Lady Randolph Churchill (née Jennie Jerome, daughter of American millionaire, Leonard Jerome; Jerome Avenue in the Bronx was named for her father).

Churchill was primarily educated in boarding schools, such as Headmaster's House at Harrow School.  He was very attached to his mother and would write her letters begging to come home.  His mother rarely visited him and he had a distant relationship with his father.  He had, in fact, a lonely childhood.  About his only consolation, was his nurse, Elizabeth Anne Everest, who he nicknamed "Woomy" (for woman).

He was rebellious and therefore did not perform well academically at Harrow, with the exception of his favorite classes (mathematics and history).  He refused to study the classics.

Churchill attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. 

1894  --  at age 20, he graduated from Sandhurst.  He joined the army as a Subaltern of the IV (Queen's Own) Hussars Cavalry regiment stationed in Bangalore, India.  He dislocated his shoulder at the dock, an injury which plagued him in later years.  His main preoccupation in India was playing polo for his regiment.

1895 (July 3)  -- Churchill was deeply saddened at the death of his nurse. 

1895  --  he and Reggie Barnes were granted leave to observe the Spanish attempt to put down the Cuban revolt.  On his way, Churchill visited the United States where Bourke Cockran, one of his mother's lovers, introduced him to New York society. 

In Cuba, Churchill wrote about what he observed for the the Daily Graphic newspaper.

1897  --  he visited England, but rushed back to India when he heard of the outbreak of the Pathan revolt on the North West Frontier.  Churchill participated in the six week campaign under Sir Bindon Blood.  He also wrote articles for home newspapers. 

1897 (October)  --  Churchill back in Britain.  He published his first book The Story of the Malakand Field Force, dealing with the struggle on the Indian campaign on the Indian North West Frontier.

By pulling political strings, Churchill was able to join the expedition of Lord Kitchener in the reconquest of the Sudan. He was made part of the 21st Lancers.  And once again he performed the role of war correspondent.  He  participated in the Battle of Omdurman, the last British cavalry charge in battle.

1898 (October)  --  Churchill returned to Britain.

1899  --  he published the 2 volume The River War.

1899  --  Churchill left the army for a parliamentary career.  As a Conservative candidate, he came in third in the election in Oldham constituency.

1899 (October 12)  --  outbreak of the second Anglo-Boer War between Britain and  the Afrikaners in South Africa.  The Afrikaners were the Dutch settlers of an earlier South Africa that held extremely racist views (something like the American South).  Churchill went as a war correspondent. 

Churchill was captured by the Boers (i.e., Afrikaners) after they ambushed and exploded the train on which he was riding.  He was placed in a POW camp in Pretoria.  Churchill escaped, traveling almost 300 miles to Portuguese Lourenco Marques in Delgagoa Bay. The escapade made Churchill a minor hero in Great Britain. 

The war correspondent took a ship to Durban where he rejoined General Redvers Buller's army on its march to relieve Ladysmith and take Pretoria. Churchill was given a commission in the South African Light Horse.  He fought at Spion Kop.  He was also one of the first British troops into Ladysmith.  In Pretoria, he and his cousin, the Duke of Marlborough, got ahead of the rest of the troops into Pretoria and forced the surrender of 52 Boer guards of a prison camp.

1900 (May)  -- he published London to Ladysmith via Pretoria.

1900 (October)  --  he published Ian Hamilton's March.

1990  --  Churchill won a set in Parliament in the 1900 general election.  He then went on a speaking tour throughout the UK and USA to raise money.  In the United States Mark Twain introduced one of his speeches and he dined with New York Governor/Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt.

1901 (February)  --  Churchill arrived back in Britain to enter Parliament

 

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