Brian Cox as Churchill: An Interview on Charlie Rose

Brian Cox as Churchill: An Interview on Charlie Rose

The Bri­an Cox film “Churchill” con­tin­ues to receive a dai­ly gush of cred­u­lous reviews by the inno­cent that demon­strate the onward march of invin­ci­ble igno­rance. One batch of Google Alerts includ­ed a ringer: a Bal­ti­more Sun cor­re­spon­dent who cites some­thing Churchill didn’t do (fire-bomb­ing Dres­den) to explain how Sir Win­ston would han­dle today’s terrorists.

Andrew Roberts, a reli­able his­to­ri­an who always cuts through bunk, wrote the best review one can read of this film. On that basis I res­olute­ly declined to watch it. Why raise my blood pres­sure to relive the “per­verse fan­ta­sy” Mr. Roberts had to sit through?

Alas I can’t avoid receiv­ing emails ask­ing “what do you think” of the lat­est out­burst of pub­lic­i­ty. This includes inter­views with Mr. Cox him­self, which run far and wide, even in a mag­a­zine Churchill would have enjoyed, Cig­ar Afi­ciona­do

Cox on Rose

In an inter­view with Char­lie Rose, Mr. Cox man­aged to utter all of these in just twen­ty minutes:

Winston’s grand­fa­ther was the “Earl of Marlborough.”

Lord Ran­dolph Churchill had syphilis and was “out of it” most of the time.

Jan Smuts cap­tured young Win­ston in South Africa.

Churchill knew King Edward VIII was a “no-hop­er” and there­fore want­ed “Bertie” (George VI).

WSC put Collins and Car­son in a room togeth­er and the result was Collins’ assassination.

Churchill was always ill.

He drank amaz­ing­ly: cham­pagne for break­fast, brandy for lunch, whisky and wine all day.

He slept only four hours in twenty-four.

Clemen­tine didn’t like the 1954 Suther­land paint­ing; WSC didn’t see it until the unveiling.

Mr. Cox cites oth­ers who have played Churchill. There was “Lar­ry” Olivi­er (best buds?). Also, “there’s an actor named Robert Hardy.” Nice. Robert Hardy‘s mul­ti­ple per­for­mances as Churchill set a stan­dard which has nev­er been equalled.

Second World War farrago

Off the cuff on World War II, Mr. Cox dis­plays the min­i­mal research he did before tak­ing on the role. He assert­ed that:

Churchill made the 1940 sug­ges­tion of com­mon Anglo-French cit­i­zen­ship.

He did not want D-Day (Oper­a­tion Over­lord) to happen.

He pre­dict­ed trench war­fare after the inva­sion of France.

His demur­ring on D-Day is in the Eisen­how­er and Brooke diaries.

Churchill had an alter­na­tive plan to D-Day…

…which was to come through the under­bel­ly of France via Bordeaux…

…to “ratch­et up” in Italy and come into Ger­many through the Alps…

…while com­ing down from “the Baltics, from Norway”…

…because Churchill was “real­ly afraid of amphibi­ous landings.”

The barest dab­bling in mul­ti­ple sources would inform Mr. Cox and his pro­duc­ers (and Mr. Rose) that Churchill’s alter­na­tives to D-Day were expressed in 1942 and 1943… That by the time of the actu­al inva­sion he had spent months help­ing to plan it… That his own plan­ning dat­ed back to 1941… To the “Mul­ber­ry Har­bor” scheme, which he first con­ceived of in 1917…  That the “under­bel­ly” he envi­sioned was Italy, not France… That the post-D-Day inva­sion of the South of France was a super­flu­ous sideshow which he opposed (and it accom­plished noth­ing)… That Churchill nev­er pro­posed invad­ing Ger­many through the Alps… That Churchill nev­er pro­posed an “inva­sion from Nor­way.” Wouldn’t that have involved the amphibi­ous land­ings he was “real­ly afraid of”? How afraid was he of the land­ings in North Africa, Sici­ly, Saler­no and Anzio?

Arn­hem and the Bat­tle of the Bulge stopped the war from “pro­pelling like it could have done,” added Mr. Cox. The impli­ca­tion is that Arn­hem and the Bulge might not have occurred had the Allies launched D-Day earlier.

Fake history, fake detail

Mr. Rose presents five excerpts from the film, which, as Mr. Roberts not­ed, are as bad in detail as in broad his­to­ry: “Cox – Churchill wears white tie and tail­coat in the after­noon; Mont­gomery is giv­en a field-marshal’s uni­form when he was at the time a gen­er­al; Churchill wears workmen’s over­alls rather than his vel­vet siren-suits; Com­bined Chiefs of Staff top-secret plan­ning meet­ings are held in the open air on the lawns of coun­try hous­es.” Mr. Cox, although British, pro­nounces Clemen­tine like they do in Arizona.

To all this Mr. Rose con­tributes sev­er­al banal­i­ties and errors. It was cold at the Bat­tle of the Bulge. (Yes.) Roo­sevelt caught Churchill walk­ing naked in the halls of the White House. (No.) A two-front war could not begin until the Allies invad­ed France. (A two-front war had begun when they invad­ed North Africa in 1942.)


It is depress­ing and dis­heart­en­ing for any­one who knows the barest facts to hear his­to­ry told by actors, with real­i­ty turned on its head under guise of entertainment.

Invent­ed dia­logue and sce­nar­ios are of course nec­es­sary for dra­mat­ic effect. Robert Hardy’s scrupu­lous­ly accu­rate por­tray­al of Churchill’s “Wilder­ness Years” doesn’t devi­ate an iota from fact or believ­abil­i­ty. Yet it is at least as dra­mat­ic as this lat­est dose of Fake His­to­ry. The Churchill saga is high dra­ma on its own. Why embell­ish it with nonsense?

The film “Churchill” joins such recent lash-ups as “The Crown” and “Viceroy’s House,” which also had gush­ing reviews all over the media and inter­net. Like it or not, the web is where most peo­ple now get their news and views. They are get­ting a dread­ful dose of dis­tor­tion from enter­tain­ment cloaked as real­i­ty, and actors as his­to­ry teachers.

4 thoughts on “Brian Cox as Churchill: An Interview on Charlie Rose

  1. This has all been very infor­ma­tive and inter­est­ing. I look for­ward to read­ing your books on Churchill.

    Thank you.


  2. Very nice com­ment. Of course, that’s because you go ad fontes…to the sources.

  3. Dear Richard – Thank God we have you. The film is ridicu­lous. Is it so much eas­i­er to get it wrong?
    Real­ly, I’m so glad there is some­one on this earth who knows the truth of WSC and cares enough to hon­or it. 

    I know where to go for the truth. It’s to you.

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