Long View: “Churchill’s Secret Affair,” Gary Oldman and the Oscars

Long View: “Churchill’s Secret Affair,” Gary Oldman and the Oscars

Ms. Camil­la Long (“TV Review, Sun­day Times, March 11th)* has a way with words. Nev­er mind that some of them are so ultra-camp that she could be accused of gra­tu­itous­ly inflict­ing them on the rest of us pro­les with mal­nour­ished intel­lects.

“Hoorays,” “lilo,” “naff,” “pro­to-Wal­lis” and “pan­tomime horse-named” may be dai­ly ver­nac­u­lar in the rar­i­fied atmos­phere of the Sun­day Times Cul­ture Sec­tion. But they’re like­ly to con­fuse any­one who prefers com­mu­ni­ca­tion to obfus­ca­tion. How­ev­er, the Long View of my col­league Andrew Roberts as a “striped-piglet his­to­ri­an” makes me for­give her every­thing. I will dine out on that one many times, not least with the Striped Piglet him­self.

“Churchill’s Secret Affair”

Long deft­ly carves up the non­sense-sto­ry of Churchill’s 1930s “secret affair” with Lady Castlerosse.  “Some­thing I’ve nev­er won­dered is what Win­ston Churchill was like in bed,” she writes. “Not that this has stopped the raunchy old dogs in Chan­nel 4 [from giv­ing us] chew­ing gum his­to­ry [to make] Churchill more ‘acces­si­ble’ and ‘real’ to mil­len­ni­als, none of whom pre­sum­ably know who he was.”

In the TV show, Long con­tin­ues, “No detail was too sala­cious, too small, too sil­ly … pub­lic­i­ty-hun­gry rel­a­tives were dredged up and hosed down to repeat fam­i­ly rumours … Churchill Col­lege, Cam­bridge [was] instant­ly re-imag­ined in my mind as the Dan Brown­ish His­to­ry Col­lege, Oxbridge…”

“Churchill’s Secret Affair fell beneath any kind of sen­si­ble analy­sis,” Long adds. “It obsessed over fan­ta­sy threats to nation­al secu­ri­ty at the expense of details on, say, Doris Castlerosse her­self. A nympho­ma­ni­ac pro­to-Wal­lis [Long means Mrs. Simp­son], she moved from rich man to rich man, gath­er­ing hous­es.”

What about my friend? “Striped piglet his­to­ri­an Andrew Roberts has dis­missed the whole pro­gramme by claim­ing that Churchill couldn’t pos­si­bly have fan­cied Doris because he thought she was ‘dim.’” Well—most edu­cat­ed observers agree with the Striped Piglet. That sort of woman def­i­nite­ly did not appeal to WSC. Clemen­tine Churchill, Vio­let Bon­ham Carter, Lady Diana Coop­er, even, God bless her, Nan­cy Astor—now those were more to his lik­ing.

Long on the Oscars

Com­ing round to the Oscars, Long says Gary Old­man in Dark­est Hour “sees Churchill as an out-and-out com­e­dy act…his Churchill is bum­bling, dither­ing, child­like, human­ly soft.” Indeed he was all of those, on occa­sion. Dark­est Hour excels in por­tray­ing them as part-time, but by no means dom­i­nat­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. Long says Old­man presents a “cen­trist” Churchill. WSC pre­ferred coali­tion to par­ty gov­ern­ment. He switched par­ties twice, railed against Tories and Lib­er­als alike. He would be delight­ed with that descrip­tion.

The artistry of Oldman’s por­tray­al is that Churchill’s human frail­ties do not gov­ern his instincts. Thus they do not deflect from his achieve­ment. His great­ness rests not in win­ning the war—that took more than Britain. It rests in the fact that when every­thing depend­ed on him, he didn’t lose it.

Long’s take on the Oscars makes me almost a a devo­tee of this icon­o­clast writer: “The hideous, self-serv­ing urge to put past wrongs right. The dread­ful, sac­cha­rine seg­ments in which the Acad­e­my promised to hon­our black peo­ple and women—issues that will be aban­doned now they have trag­i­cal­ly found out that sanc­ti­mo­ny doesn’t boost rat­ings.”

Back in the corn­fields and the Ozarks and the off­shore islands, those of us who don’t read the Sun­day Times silent­ly agreed with Camil­la Long—by res­olute­ly switch­ing the Oscars off. And being hap­py for Gary Old­man the next morn­ing.

Well done—I think!


*The Sun­day Times is one of those papers with an hyper-vig­i­lant pay­wall, guar­an­tee­ing itself dimin­ish­ing influ­ence. If they’re not care­ful, they’ll have Don­ald Trump call­ing them “the fail­ing Sun­day Times.” If you can’t read it online with­out pay­ing trib­ute, con­tact me for a sur­rep­ti­tious copy pro­vid­ed by some­one at MI5. But don’t spread this around, lest I become a Guest of The Queen. There is extra­di­tion in The Bahamas.

2 thoughts on “Long View: “Churchill’s Secret Affair,” Gary Oldman and the Oscars

  1. I men­tion Spence’s book in my upcom­ing arti­cle for The Amer­i­can Spec­ta­tor, but I nec­es­sar­i­ly focus on the 2018 sto­ry. One clar­i­fi­ca­tion Spence offers is that when Castlerosse writes WSC, “I am not dan­ger­ous any­more” she was refer­ring to her divorce hav­ing been decreed.
    Spence makes var­i­ous allu­sions to the so-called affair, none more con­vinc­ing than the cur­rent arti­cle and Chan­nel 4 tele­vi­sion show. How­ev­er, the fact that Spence pub­lished over a year before this lat­est ver­sion sug­gests that the sto­ry is not new.

  2. Fur­ther to Vis­count­ess Castlerosse – in the course of my work for the Roy­al His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety today, I came across the fol­low­ing recent pub­li­ca­tion :
    Spence, Lyn­dsy. The Mis­tress of May­fair : Men, Mon­ey and the Mar­riage of Doris Delev­ingne. Stroud: The His­to­ry Press, 2016 (223 pages, ISBN 978-0750967150, hard­back)
    I won­der whether it con­tains any allu­sion to “that night with Churchill”.

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