US newspaper review of a TV programme based on Churchill’s book, The Gathering Storm, 28 November 1960
Gathering Storm [first episode shown]
By Bob Williams
This looks to be the beginning of a very interesting TV series. This first episode set out the background to the Second World War – the years 1931–39. This was a time when Churchill was a lone voice warning against Hitler. By the end of the program Churchill had been asked to join Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government.
There were no new TV techniques so the programme relied on the wonderful words of Winston Churchill, read by the British actor Richard Burton. The words are majestic and are the star of the show.
The Evening Bulletin
Philadelphia, Monday, November 28, 1960
Around the Dials
‘Gathering Storm’ Opens Churchill Tribute
By Bob Williams
WINSTON CHURCHILL – The Valiant Years, holds promise of developing into a stimulating and engaging television series.
”The Gathering Storm”, first of 28 projected filmed episodes scheduled by the ABC network, was shown last night on Channel 6. It established the background for the period of Churchill’s career to be covered by the remaining ones – World War II.
After tracing Sir Winston’s family roots in America and Britain, the program moved rapidly through war’s prologue period, from 1931 to 1939, when Churchill, a statesman in discard, a lone voice whose vibrant words were ignored, was forecasting the holocaust which Adolph Hitler would unleash.
At program’s end Churchill had been recalled by the Chamberlain government to his old post as First Lord of the Admiralty. Hitler’s conquest soon would establish Churchill in 10 Downing st.
Newsreel clips, still photos and re-enactments provided the visual portion of the program. Producer Ben Feiner Jr.’s handling of these stock TV documentary components did not introduce any new techniques.
The distinction, therefore, stems from another source – Churchill’s own comments, written or spoken as each new “bloodless” Nazi conquest propelled his nation and the world toward the inevitable.
The famed Churchillian prose is the star of the show, in the entertainment sense. Since no one in our time has matched its majesty. The Valiant Years is endowed with an ingredient that seems almost foolproof. As spoken by English actor Richard Burton, these glowing phrases ring and rumble with Churchillian authority, even though Burton, in attempting to duplicate Sir Winston’s style of delivery, does not try to imitate the statesman’s voice.
What is this source?
This is a review in an American newspaper of a TV documentary programme about Churchill’s role in the Second World War, the first in a series of episodes. The article was published in November 1960.
Background to this source
After the Second World War Churchill began work on The Gathering Storm, the first volume of his monumental six-volume history of the Second World War. This was an account of the years leading up to the Second World War and his role in those years. The book was published in 1949 and the TV series being reviewed here was based on that book.
Churchill’s account of the origins of the war became extremely influential and was probably the most widely accepted view of what happened. The fact that his war leadership was successful tended to give greater authority to his account of the pre-war years.
How can we use this source in the investigation?
Remember, we’re hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating how far people agreed with Churchill’s views on appeasement in the 1930s. Sources usually help historians in two ways:
- What events were covered in the TV programme?
- What techniques did the producer use?
- How would you describe the reviewer’s feelings about Churchill’s words being read out?
Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?
|On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?||Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?|
|Churchill was a lone voice in criticising appeasement.|
|The programme was dull.|
|Churchill was a hero.|
|Churchill’s writings have had little influence.|
Need help interpreting the source?
- In this source, tone is an important element. The tone is clearly respectful and reverential and this helps us to see that the account provided by Churchill has been accepted almost without question.