“Churchill and the Movies”: Hillsdale Lecture Series, March 24-28th

“Churchill and the Movies”: Hillsdale Lecture Series, March 24-28th

The Movies

In 1927, Win­ston Churchill wrote to his wife Clemen­tine, “I am becom­ing a film fan.” He had pro­jec­tion equip­ment installed at Che­quers, the coun­try home of British prime min­is­ters, in 1943, and at his fam­i­ly home Chartwell in 1946. “Churchill and the Movies” is the fourth and final event of the Cen­ter for Con­struc­tive Alter­na­tives in the 2018-19 aca­d­e­m­ic year. We will view and dis­cuss two films wide­ly regard­ed as Churchill’s favorites, and two Churchill bio­graph­ic movies in their his­tor­i­cal context.

Hillsdale’s Cen­ter for Con­struc­tive Alter­na­tives (CCA) is the spon­sor of one of the largest col­lege lec­ture series in Amer­i­ca. CCA sem­i­nars are held four times each year. Stu­dents are required to com­plete one CCA sem­i­nar dur­ing their under­grad­u­ate years. They may elect to enroll in more. Lec­tures are open to the pub­lic, and out-of-town guests are wel­comed. There is no reg­is­tra­tion fee and the pro­gram includes din­ners and lunch­es. “Churchill and the Movies” is now sold out, and up to 400 guests are expect­ed plus stu­dents. Watch this space for the web stream video locations.

Partial Schedule:

Sunday 24 March

movies4:00pm Show­ing of That Hamil­ton Woman (1941, 125 min­utes). Pro­duced and direct­ed by Alexan­der Kor­da, this was Win­ston Churchill’s clear favorite among movies. It stars two actors he vast­ly admired, Vivien Leigh and Lau­rence Olivier.

8:00 p.m. Film­mak­er John Fleet: “Churchill and Alexan­der Kor­da.”  Mr. Fleet has made a study of their long and fruit­ful rela­tion­ship might have pro­duced sev­er­al more epic movies, had not World War II intervened.

Monday 25 March

10:00 a.m. “Assault on Churchill”: John Miller inter­views Richard Lang­worth on Radio Free Hills­dale, 101.7 fm. The sta­tion will offer an audio stream.

4:00 p.m. Show­ing of Hen­ry V (1944, 137 mins.) Arguably run­ner-up in Churchill’s affec­tions was the 1944 British Tech­ni­col­or adap­ta­tion of William Shakespeare’s “Hen­ry V.” The on-screen title is “The Chron­i­cle His­to­ry of King Hen­ry the Fift with His Bat­tell Fought at Agin Court in France” (derived from the title of the 1600 quar­to edi­tion). It stars WSC’s long­time friend Lau­rence Olivi­er, who also directed.

movies“The Play’s the Thing…”

8:00 p.m. Richard Lang­worth: “Churchill, Shake­speare, and Hen­ry V.”  Excerpt:

How well did Churchill know Shake­speare? Well enough, I think, to ace a Hills­dale Shake­speare course. Both by for­mal quo­ta­tions, and by well-known phras­es almost hid­den in his text, Churchill draws allu­sions and under­stand­ing from six­teen Shake­speare plays, from Mac­beth to A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream—though not, sur­pris­ing­ly, the sonnets.

The pro­duc­er Mar­lo Lewis says Hen­ry V intro­duces us “to urgent prob­lems of states­man­ship and, through them, to ques­tions of polit­i­cal philosophy….the del­i­cate mat­ters of legit­i­ma­cy and the found­ing of regimes.” I think that is an aspect, but not the most impor­tant aspect. Above that and first, the impor­tance of Hen­ry V is what it teach­es about leadership.

Churchill wrote in his His­to­ry of the Eng­lish-Speak­ing Peo­ples that when one of Henry’s offi­cers “deplored the fact that they had ‘but one ten thou­sand of those men in Eng­land that do no work to-day,’ the King rebuked him and revived his spir­its in a speech to which Shake­speare has giv­en an immor­tal form: ‘If we are marked to die, we are enough To do our coun­try loss; and if to live, The few­er men, the greater share of hon­our.’” Com­pare that to Churchill’s great­est speech, 18 June 1940: “If the British Empire and its Com­mon­wealth last for a thou­sand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Tuesday 26 March

4:00 p.m. Show­ing of Young Win­ston (1972, 143 mins.)

8:00 p.m. “Young Win­ston and My Ear­ly Life,” with James W. Muller, Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka Anchor­age. An expert on Churchill’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Pro­fes­sor Muller is well qual­i­fied to sur­vey of this remark­able 1972 biopic, star­ring Simon Ward as Young Win­ston. The cast was sen­sa­tion­al. Anne Ban­croft as Lady Ran­dolph, is leered at by Lloyd George (Antho­ny Hop­kins). Robert Shaw is Lord Ran­dolph (remem­ber “Quint” in Jaws?). Young Winston’s evil head­mas­ter at St. George’s School is the great Robert Hardy, who would mem­o­rably play Churchill many times in lat­er years.

Wednesday 27 March

John Lith­gow as WSC in “The Crown.”

2:00 p.m. Richard Lang­worth: “Cur­rent Con­tentions- Win­ston Churchill and the Inva­sion of the Idiots.” A review of the vir­u­lent attacks on Churchill in the wake of Gary Oldman’s Oscar for his role as WSC in Dark­est Hour. We will dis­cuss four slan­ders in detail: Fake his­to­ry in the tele­vi­sion series The Crown. Churchill’s alleged 1930s “secret affair” with Lady Castlerosse. The con­tin­u­ing fable that Churchill exac­er­bat­ed the 1943-44 Ben­gal Famine. And a renewed “gold­en oldie” beloved of social­ists for a cen­tu­ry: the Tony­pandy riots of 1910. Excerpt:

Netflix’s The Crown is a not-so-crown­ing-achieve­ment about the present Queen’s ascent to the throne and her first years as monarch. It starts off well enough. Claire Foy is an hon­est Eliz­a­beth II.  Matt Smith is a gaudy Prince Philip, act­ing the fool­ish play­boy. Dame Har­ri­et Wal­ter plays a grace­ful Clemen­tine Churchill.

John Lith­gow as Churchill is good on the voice and man­ner­isms, min­i­miz­ing his 6-foot-4 stature with a stoop, and by sit­ting down a lot. But the script gives him a car­toon­ish image, far from real­i­ty. All too quick­ly, Lith­gow becomes a wheez­ing old gaffer, cling­ing stub­born­ly to pow­er. Pro­duc­tions like The Crown sug­gest that truth and accu­ra­cy mat­ter less than style and per­cep­tion; that real­i­ty must bend to fit the creator’s mindset.


* * *

4:00 p.m. Show­ing of The Gath­er­ing Storm (2002, 96 mins.) Stars the late Albert Finney as Churchill and Vanes­sa Red­grave as Clemen­tine. This is one of the bet­ter World War II bio­graph­i­cal movies. Even in a cyn­i­cal and anti-hero age, film­mak­ers still can avoid reduc­ing Churchill to a flawed bur­lesque or a god­like car­i­ca­ture. Except for huge gap in the sto­ry line, The Gath­er­ing Storm is out­stand­ing. (The gap is Munich, because the film skips it in the rush to war.)

8:00 p.m. Hills­dale Col­lege Pres­i­dent Lar­ry P. Arnn: “Churchill as War Leader.” Dr. Arnn is co-edi­tor with Mar­tin Gilbert of The Churchill Doc­u­mentsFew schol­ars have devot­ed more time over the years to study­ing Churchill’s states­man­ship; his remarks stand to be the out­stand­ing fea­ture of this event.

Thursday 28 March

4:00 p.m. Fac­ul­ty Round Table: Daniel Cou­p­land, James Bran­don, Dar­ryl Hart, David Stewart

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