Young Winston (1972)

PG | 143 or 145 mins | Biography | November 1972

Writer:

Carl Foreman

Producer:

Carl Foreman

Cinematographer:

Gerry Turpin

Editor:

Kevin Connor

Production Designers:

Geoffrey Drake, Don Ashton

Production Company:

Open Road Films, Ltd.
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HISTORY

Working titles for the film included My Early Years , My Early Life , The Young Winston Churchill , The Young Churchill and The Churchill Story . Simon Ward's name is repeated at the bottom of the cast list in the end credits with the words: "And Sir Winston Churchill's voice by Simon Ward." Carl Foreman's onscreen credit reads: "Written for the screen and produced by." A number of persons and places are acknowledged in the end credits "with gratitude for permission to photograph scenes at." These included Harrow School, Blenheim Palace, Chartwell, Sandhurst Military Academy, the Indoor Riding School at Beaumont Barracks in Aldershot, His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco and the Moroccan Armed Forces.
       When Young Winston opened in Britain, the Var review listed its running time as 157 minutes. Press information for the film's American release listed a running time of 143 minutes, although most American reviews listed it as 145 minutes, the length of the print viewed. Filmfacts and other contemporary sources reported that the shortened American version was excised of approximately twelve minutes of the story, principally a three-minute epilogue showing an elderly Winston Churchill (played by Sanders Watney) sleeping in front of one of his unfinished paintings and dreaming of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (Robert Shaw), who expressed his continued "bewilderment at the behavior of his son." In addition to Watney's role, scenes involving actors Willoughby Gray, Raymond Huntley and George Mikell were also cut from the American release. Modern sources include Kevin Hudson in the cast.
       The film opens with actual black-and-white newsreel footage ... More Less

Working titles for the film included My Early Years , My Early Life , The Young Winston Churchill , The Young Churchill and The Churchill Story . Simon Ward's name is repeated at the bottom of the cast list in the end credits with the words: "And Sir Winston Churchill's voice by Simon Ward." Carl Foreman's onscreen credit reads: "Written for the screen and produced by." A number of persons and places are acknowledged in the end credits "with gratitude for permission to photograph scenes at." These included Harrow School, Blenheim Palace, Chartwell, Sandhurst Military Academy, the Indoor Riding School at Beaumont Barracks in Aldershot, His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco and the Moroccan Armed Forces.
       When Young Winston opened in Britain, the Var review listed its running time as 157 minutes. Press information for the film's American release listed a running time of 143 minutes, although most American reviews listed it as 145 minutes, the length of the print viewed. Filmfacts and other contemporary sources reported that the shortened American version was excised of approximately twelve minutes of the story, principally a three-minute epilogue showing an elderly Winston Churchill (played by Sanders Watney) sleeping in front of one of his unfinished paintings and dreaming of his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (Robert Shaw), who expressed his continued "bewilderment at the behavior of his son." In addition to Watney's role, scenes involving actors Willoughby Gray, Raymond Huntley and George Mikell were also cut from the American release. Modern sources include Kevin Hudson in the cast.
       The film opens with actual black-and-white newsreel footage of cheering crowds outside Buckingham Palace in London on 8 May 1945, "VE Day," marking the end of European hostilities during World War II. The credits then roll over shots of Churchill's study in his home, Chartwell, followed by still photographs and intermittent archival footage of events throughout his life. The action starts as a photograph of Ward as Churchill dissolves into a sequence set before a battle in India.
       During the early parts of the film, the progression of the action frequently switches back and forth between different time periods in Churchill's life, sometimes interspersed with actual photographs or newsreel footage of the era. At the beginning of the film, the action in India is intercut with scenes of varying lengths of a seven-year-old Churchill, then Churchill as an adolescent, switching back and forth between what was happening while Churchill was a reporter/soldier in India and other events in his life. From the point in the film at which Churchill reaches early adulthood, the action proceeds in chronological order.
       The last lines of dialogue are spoken in voice-over by Ward as an older Churchill and are very close to the final words of My Early Life , in which Churchill wrote of his future marriage to Clementine Hozier in 1908, approximately seven years after the action of the book and film ends: "and [I] lived happily ever afterward." The final shots of the film return to historical footage of VE Day, in which the real Churchill is seen with King George V and Queen Elizabeth, waving to cheering crowds from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
       Voice-over narration recurs throughout the film, with Ward and other actors portraying Churchill's voice at different ages, from early childhood through the time period when the book was written. At various times actual letters, news reports, portions of speeches or passages from My Early Life are recited, sometimes by Churchill at different ages, other times by his mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill (Anne Bancroft), his father, Lord Randolph Churchill (Robert Shaw), or other, minor characters. Various speeches, newspaper reports and letters are recreated, sometimes verbatim, from actual speeches, such as the "tattered flag" speech before the House of Commons, and other historical documents.
       At one point in the film, the action seems to stop and Bancroft is shown playing the piano in a drawing room where she, as Jennie, is being questioned by an offscreen interviewer, presumably a reporter, who comments on recent and past events, raising pointed questions about her behavior. In the scene, Bancroft speaks in direct address, answering Jennie's critics. Some time later, a similar scene shows Ward as the young adult Churchill being questioned by the same interviewer. Ward at first gives answers in direct address, then moves back, assumes a familiar Churchillian pose and delivers one of the future prime minister's actual speeches. As he does so, Ward changes the cadence of his voice to more closely mimic that of the real Churchill.
       Some of the film's action does not advance the plot per se but evokes characterizations and the historical era in which Churchill's early life took place. For example, at one point Jennie visits a butcher (Colin Blakely) to seek the man's vote for her husband, and the butcher's reaction to a woman trying to influence him on politics, as well as his reaction to her beauty and charm, establish her character as well as the social life of the time.
       Sir Winston Churchill (1874--1965), British Prime Minister (1940--1945 and 1951--1955), Nobel Prize-winning author and painter, was the son of Lord Randolph Churchill and American-born Jennie Jerome Churchill. Young Winston was based on Churchill's first autobiographical work, My Early Life: A Roving Commission , published in 1930 and covering his life to age twenty-eight. The book was written at the beginning of a period in Churchill's life that ran from approximately 1929 to 1939 (sometimes stated as 1931 to 1939) that often has been called "The Wilderness Years," during which the future prime minister was not in the cabinet and was considered persona non grata in British politics.
       Although some critics charged that the film idealized or glossed over various aspects of Churchill's life, it briefly touches upon many actual incidents, including his imprisonment and escape during the Boer War, and his father's resignation as Chancellor of the Exchequer and eventual death from syphilis. Although much of Churchill's international fame as a statesman and writer came years after the events of the film, there are allusions to some of them, including the start of his temporary break from the Conservative (Tory) party in 1904, his stand against Fascism in the 1930s and the shots of what, arguably, was the highpoint of his political life, VE Day in 1945. Shortly after VE Day, Churchill was ousted from office, but again became prime minister, serving from 1951 to 1955.
       The film adaptation of My Early Years developed over a period of more than a decade. A 3 Oct 1960 HR news item reported that Paramount producer Martin Rackin had secured a deal with Churchill to produce a film based on My Early Life , tentatively to be called The Young Churchill , after an earlier agreement between the statesman and M-G-M, reportedly for a $100,000 initial payment and a promise of an additional $75,000 upon mutual agreement of the screenplay, had failed to produce a satisfactory script. The article speculated that the Paramount deal with Churchill would be the same as M-G-M's. In Mar 1961, according to a 20 Mar 1961 DV news item, Borden Chase was assigned to write the screenplay on the project, which was to be produced by Hugh French under the working title The Churchill Story , from a treatment by C. S. Forester. However, in Jul 1961, DV reported that Guy Trosper was to write the screenplay based on Forester's treatment, which was based on both My Early Life and The World Crisis , a multi-volume Churchill book about World War I.
       By late 1963, however, the Paramount deal had fallen through, as reported in a 6 Dec 1963 HR news item, which explained that producer Carl Foreman had secured the rights to My Early Life and The World in Crisis and immediately would begin work on the screenplay. The article continued that Foreman's Open Road Films, Ltd. and Highroad Productions, Inc. would produce the picture for Columbia and that French, who had helmed the project while it was at Paramount, would act as an advisor to Foreman. The production credits of the released film contain a small statement reading "An Open Road--Hugh French Presentation," and preview programs included the statement "A Highroad--Hugh French Presentation at the bottom of the printed credits. However, neither Chase, Trosper nor Forester were listed in later sources and the extent of their respective participation in the final production has not been determined.
       Other news items in Dec 1963 reported that production would begin at actual locations covered in the books "next summer." According to the NYT review and other contemporary sources, Churchill was such an admirer of producer Foreman's 1961 film The Guns of Navarone (see above) that the statesman himself suggested to Foreman that he adapt My Early Life to the screen.
       Various contemporary sources from 1963 through 1965 related that, after Churchill's Jan 1965 death, Foreman continued working with the former prime minister's heirs and had intended to start production of the film in late 1965, but an outbreak of hostilities between India and Pakistan delayed the project. A HR news item on 16 Feb 1965 announced that Albert Finney was wanted to portray the young Churchill at that time. DV news items in late 1967 reported that English actor James Fox was set to take on the lead.
       As noted in the onscreen credits, interiors for this British-American co-production were shot at Shepperton Studios, London. The onscreen acknowledgments, press materials and reviews add that exteriors were shot in London, at various locations throughout England, in Swansea, Wales and in the Atlas Mountains and other areas of Morocco, where the Indian, Sudanese and South African scenes were shot. According to an article by director of photography Gerry Turpin, the film's period hues and frequently changed landscapes were shot with the Colorflex camera process that he developed to create layers of color and light. Young Winston marked the feature film debut of actor Nigel Hawthorne and the first onscreen film billing for actress Jane Seymour, who was then married to Attenborough's son Michael.
       Young Winston had several charity premieres, including a gala, two-theater London premiere that was attended by many members of the Churchill family and then Prime Minister Edward Heath, and a New York premiere attended by the Duke and Duchess of Kent. On 9 Nov 1972, it was the opening night attraction for The Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex), followed by a premiere the next day in Beverly Hills. The picture received mixed reviews, with some critics acclaiming the acting, particularly of Bancroft and Shaw, while others expressed displeasure with what they deemed a traditional, uncritical biography. Critic Judith Crist of New York magazine applauded the film's innovation, concluding, "The canvas is a large one--and every brush stroke perfection; the total emerges as a glowing and inspiring work." The opposing view was expressed by critics such as Charles Champlin of LAT , who called Young Winston "admirable and consistently interesting [but]...not as continuously engrossing or as affecting as I think the makers themselves might have wished." The film received three Academy Award nominations, for Art Direction, Costume Design and Adapted Screenplay. The film was also selected as the Best Picture of the year by the London Film Critics Association and its screenplay was named the best of the year by the Writers Guild of Great Britain.
       Churchill has been the subject of many television biographies, and has appeared as a minor character in numerous feature films, but Young Winston was the only theatrically released film in which he was the protagonist. Various dramatized television programs include the 1981 British television mini-series, Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years , starring Robert Hardy and Siân Phillips and the 2002 British television drama The Gathering Storm , starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Jan 1973
pp. 30-33, 70-71, 83.
Box Office
6 Nov 1972
p. 4537.
Box Office
11 Jun 1973.
---
Daily Variety
20 Mar 1961.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1961.
---
Daily Variety
3 Feb 1965.
---
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1965.
---
Daily Variety
7 Sep 1965.
---
Daily Variety
9 Aug 1967.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1972.
---
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1972.
---
Daily Variety
22 Sep 1972.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1973.
---
Film Daily
3 Sep 1965
p. 1, 6.
Filmfacts
1972
pp. 309-13.
Films and Filming
Oct 1972
p. 49, 51.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Oct 1960.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Dec 1963
p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 1965.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1971
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 1971
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
28 Sep 1972
p. 3.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
12 Jul 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Jun 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
4 Nov 1972.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1972
Section IV, p. 1, 23,
New Republic
4 Nov 1972.
---
New York
16 Oct 1972
p. 82.
New York Times
11 Oct 1972
p. 54.
New Yorker
14 Oct 1972.
---
Sight and Sound
Oct 1972
p. 232.
The Times (London)
20 Jul 1972.
---
Time
30 Oct 1972.
---
Variety
11 Dec 1963.
---
Variety
26 Jul 1972
p. 14.
Variety
27 Sep 1972.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Carl Foreman--Richard Attenborough Production
A Carl Foreman--Richard Attenborough Production; An Open Road--Hugh French Presentation
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Wrt for the screen by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Spec photog
Spec photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Const mgr
Const mgr
Const mgr
Chief standby props
Dressing props
Dressing props
COSTUMES
Ward supv
MUSIC
Orig score comp & cond and excerpts from the works
SOUND
Unit sd rec
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing ed
Sd boom op
VISUAL EFFECTS
Main title des
Spec eff
Spec eff
Matte painting and process
MAKEUP
Chief make-up
Chief hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod supv
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Cont under Carl Foreman
Horse master
Armourer
Camp mgr
Casting
Researcher
Prod secy
Prod secy to assoc prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book My Early Life: A Roving Commission by Sir Winston Churchill (London, 1930).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Churchill Story
My Early Life
My Early Years
The Young Winston Churchill
The Young Churchill
Release Date:
November 1972
Premiere Information:
World premiere in London: 20 July 1972
New York opening: 10 October 1972
Filmex screening: 9 November 1972
Los Angeles opening: 10 November 1972
Production Date:
early May--mid November 1971 at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Middlesex, England
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
20 July 1972
Copyright Number:
LP41644
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Eastman Color; Colorflex process
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
143 or 145
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1897, newly commissioned Second Lt. Winston Churchill, the twenty-three-year-old son of Lord Randolph Churchill, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and notable Conservative member of Parliament, is in India to fight rebel forces as well as report the action as a correspondent for the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph . Despite the disdain of his superior officers, particularly commanding general Lord Kitchener, for what they perceive as Winston's naiveté and fool-hearted bravery, Winston is determined to act both honorably and heroically: As a boy of seven, Winston is taken to boarding school by his American-born mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill, a fashionable, socially prominent woman, whom young Winston adores as a "fairy princess." Despite his frequent letters imploring them to visit, Jennie and Randolph rarely see the lonely boy, whose most beloved companion is his nurse, Mrs. Everest, whom he calls "Womany." When Winston is cruelly beaten for a minor infraction by his sadistic headmaster, Womany firmly tells Jennie that he will not return to that school. Throughout his adolescence, Winston works hard, first at the prestigious public school Harrow, then at Sandhurst, the British military academy, but he is a poor student, much to the consternation of his stern father. Some time after Randolph resigns his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer following a political disagreement ... +


In 1897, newly commissioned Second Lt. Winston Churchill, the twenty-three-year-old son of Lord Randolph Churchill, former Chancellor of the Exchequer and notable Conservative member of Parliament, is in India to fight rebel forces as well as report the action as a correspondent for the London newspaper The Daily Telegraph . Despite the disdain of his superior officers, particularly commanding general Lord Kitchener, for what they perceive as Winston's naiveté and fool-hearted bravery, Winston is determined to act both honorably and heroically: As a boy of seven, Winston is taken to boarding school by his American-born mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill, a fashionable, socially prominent woman, whom young Winston adores as a "fairy princess." Despite his frequent letters imploring them to visit, Jennie and Randolph rarely see the lonely boy, whose most beloved companion is his nurse, Mrs. Everest, whom he calls "Womany." When Winston is cruelly beaten for a minor infraction by his sadistic headmaster, Womany firmly tells Jennie that he will not return to that school. Throughout his adolescence, Winston works hard, first at the prestigious public school Harrow, then at Sandhurst, the British military academy, but he is a poor student, much to the consternation of his stern father. Some time after Randolph resigns his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer following a political disagreement with his party over support for the military, he begins to exhibit periodic and increasingly erratic behavior. Although only the shattered Jennie knows that doctors have diagnosed Randolph with syphilis, the amiable Winston maintains his respect and love for his father, despite Randolph's almost constant rebukes and frequent fits of anger. After Randolph dies at the age of forty-six, the much younger and still beautiful Jennie is left nearly destitute after the family's money is lost in the American stock market, forcing Winston, who is barely in his twenties, to try to support her in the manner in which she has always lived. Through Jennie's social connections, Winston accepts a commission in the British Army that will enable him to report on battlefield activities in India for The Daily Mail . Despite his bravery and growing fame as a writer, Winston continues to be frustrated in his attempts to advance in the Army and writes to Jennie asking her to seek a commission for him in the Sudan. She then writes a pleading note to Lord Kitchener, who rebuffs her in a scathing note to her, the Prince of Wales and others stating that he has no intention of acquiescing to her demands. A short time later, without Kitchener's knowledge, Winston is sent to the Sudan, where he warns the surprised and irritated Kitchener of the imminent advance of the warring Dervishes. After the British are victorious, the now twenty-four-year-old Winston returns home to England, and is coerced by Jennie to stand as a Tory in his father's old Parliamentary district of Oldham. Winston works very hard to win the election, but his lack of experience and a youthful speech impediment, which he has yet to overcome, lead to his defeat. In 1899, at the start of the Boer War, Winston again gains a commission through his mother's intercession and travels to South Africa, where his seemingly fool-hearted bravery again provokes both amusement and irritation among his superior officers. A short time after his arrival, Winston and fellow officer Aylmer Haldane are captured by the Boers as they valiantly defend a British troop train. Imprisoned with Winston near Pretoria, South Africa, Haldane and another officer plan an escape but scorn Winston's enthusiastic assumption that he will go with them. Reminding Haldane that he could have gotten away had he not gone back to the train to help Haldane, Winston shames him into relenting, and they escape one night through the prison latrine. Winston makes his way through South Africa by hiding in a coal car, then jumps off the train before it reaches the border inspection point. Winston eventually makes his way to the home of a farmer named Howard, who, unknown to Winston is English and has secretly been helping British soldiers to escape. For three days Winston is hidden with several other men in a coal mine, where he meets Dewsnap, an Englishman who says that his wife is from Oldham and is an admirer of Winston. While the world's press recounts sensationalized stories of Winston's escape and supposed recapture, with Howard's help, Winston flees on a train to British territory. Jumping to the roof of the train as it passes the frontier to safety, Winston shoots his pistol in air, yelling "I'm free, I'm Winston Bloody Churchill and I'm free." After rejoining the army and helping to free the remaining British prisoners in Pretoria, Winston returns to England, where he is hailed as a hero and wins the Oldham seat in the next Parliamentary election. Although Jennie is proud of him, she fears that his lack of oratory prowess and frequent agreements with Liberals such as David Lloyd George over leaders of his own party will lead to the same downfall as Randolph. However, one evening, when Winston delivers a moving speech in the House of Commons referencing the "tattered flag" of his father's position on military funding, Jennie beams at him from the gallery. Later, after Winston has received resounding cheers and congratulations for his speech, he listens to Jennie discussing his future and casually asks to be introduced to a young woman he saw in a pale yellow dress. Jennie smiles as she tells him that the young woman's name is Miss Clementine Hozier. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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