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CHURCHILL AND THE MOVIE MOGUL/BBC 4

I saw and read both sides of the argument yesterday in the Rust. The BBC has lost direction and as often happens where there is an impasse a dominating but not necessarily representative group appears, in this case the sisterhood.

Virtually every arts programme has a feminist contributor who does not so much review content, appeal or quality but how it reckons in feminist criteria.

Yet the Beeb continues to make fascinating documentaries and this was one. It featured the relationship between Alexander Korda, an emigre Hungarian film producer who very much adopted England as his home and Winston Churchill who – in the early 30s when the two met – was in his wilderness years and pleased to receive income as scriptwriter for Korda. He was a lone voice against Hitler but he bore the scars of Gallipoli and crossed the House for twenty years as liberal. He was considered a maverick.

Korda made films that glorified Britain such as Lady Hamilton and Henry VIII which Churchill loved.

In no conflict did film play such a role as in World War Two.

The Nazis used Lena Riefenstahl to glorify the Nuremberg rallies. Churchill used Korda to bring the United States into war.

In the USA the movements and feelings of America first, no more loss of lives in war, dislike of the British Empire and Churchill, who symbolised it all, ran high.

Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt had an uneasy relationship in the First World War when the former was Sea Lord and the latter Secretary of the Navy. This documentary probably over-stresses the importance of Korda in bringing America into the war.

The broadcasts of Ed Morrow from the rooftops, the film Mrs Miniver and admiration for plucky little Britain bearing up to the Blitz was more telling … and of course America may not have entered the war at all but for Pearl Harbour.

It’s always interesting to see who is wheeled out in such documentaries. In this case it was various authorities on Churchill, his descendants, film historian David Thompson and Stephen Fry.

Fry is knowledgeable about most things but I have never seem him as film critic. There were generous excerpts from Korda’s films.

Hitler and Churchill had little in common but one was love of films. Hitler’s favourite film was Tales of the Bengal Lancers and some say this may have generated his aspirations to repossess the world.

Although the film did not tell me too much about Churchill I do not know, I was interested to see for the first time actual footage of his address to both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There was his characteristic wit:

I had an American mother and English father. Had it been the other way round I may not have not needed you to stand here.

About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts