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44 out of 47 people found the following review useful:
Rule Britannia!, 16 August 2004
Author: GulyJimson (GulyJimson@aol.com) from Los Angeles, CA
"Young Winston" released in 1972 was a no expense spared, beautifully
mounted, all star, "thinking man's epic" recounting the childhood and early
manhood of one of history's great statesmen, Winston Churchill. It was among
the last in a long honorable line of historical epics whose golden era began
with Robert Rossen's "Alexander the Great" (1956) followed by "A Night to
Remember" (1958) and "Spartacus" (1960) and for many reached a zenith with
David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962). The era continued with "The
Longest Day" (1962) "Cleopatra" (1963) "Zulu" (1965) "Khartoum" (1966) "Is
Paris Burning?" (1966) "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1968) "The Battle of
Britain" (1969) "Cromwell" (1970) "Tora, Tora, Tora" (1970) "Patton" (1970)
"Waterloo" (1970) "The Red Tent" (1971) and "Nicholas and Alexandra" (1971).
It was Richard Attenborough's follow up to his spectacular film version of
the stage hit, "Oh! What a Lovely War". He would follow up "Young Winston"
with the equally spectacular "A Bridge Too Far" (1977). Attenborough was at
home mixing the grand with the biographical, and in addition to "Young
Winston" he made an epic film on "Gandhi", (1982) for which he won the
Academy Award for Best Director, with the film winning for Best Picture and
Ben Kingsley for Best Actor. This he followed with a somewhat less
successful film, "Cry Freedom" (1987) notable mostly for Denzel Washington's
charismatic portrayal of Steve Biko, and an even less successful film
followed this on the life of "Chaplin" (1992) again, notable for the
remarkable performance by Robert Downey Jr. in the lead. The following year
Attenborough returned to form-sans epic aspirations-with another adaptation
of a stage hit, "Shadowlands" with Anthony Hopkins wonderful as C.S.
Among Attenborough's chief attributes is being especially good at getting great performances. This is not unusual since he is himself a marvelous actor and coming from a theatrical background he knows dramatic material when he sees it. He also has a fine eye for period detail. "Young Winston" excels in all these departments. Carl Forman's screenplay, adapted from Churchill's memoirs is a veritable Boy's Own Adventure yarn. Charmingly narrated by an unseen older Churchill, (an uncanny vocal performance by Simon Ward) recounting his early life, it moves sprightly along following the young Churchill from childhood to boarding school, his travails with his parents, to his escapades in the Sudan as soldier and the Boer War as war correspondent and climaxing with his winning his father's seat in Parliament. And it is Churchill's need to win his father's love and approval that thematically dominates the film. Lord Randolph Churchill was by all accounts an imposing figure and the part is well served by Robert Shaw in what is certainly one of his finest performances. The scene where Shaw, coping with the ravaging onset of syphilis, attempts to express his love for his son, is in the opinion of this commentator, the finest piece of acting he ever did. Shaw was never a vulnerable actor, and this is one of the very few times we glimpse a tender side to his personality. It is an extremely moving scene, beautifully played. Anne Bancroft as Jenny Churchill captures all the vivacious charm and steely fortitude as his mother, the other dominating influence in his early life.
Attenborough wisely choose to go with an unknown for the pivotal role of Churchill. It was a fortuitous decision that brought spectacular results. Simply said, Simon Ward is Churchill. Not only does he look like young Winston, he is by turns sensitive, haughty, dashing, and always winsome. His embodiment of Churchill's physical gestures and vocal intonation are truly amazing. In what seems to be traditional for the historical epic, the supporting cast is first rate. Along with Shaw and Bancroft, Jack Hawkins, John Mills, Pat Heywood, Ian Holm, Patrick Magee, Anthony Hopkins, Edward Woodward, Laurence Naismith, Robert Hardy, and Colin Blakely all have effective cameos. Hawkins is especially good as Mr. Welldon, Headmaster at Harrow. in a subtle comic turn and without saying a word Hawkins uses his very expressive face to register his total perplexity as to how to grade a blank piece of paper young Churchill has turned in. Equally good is John Mills. Mills made a cottage industry at playing stiff upper lip types, such as Scott of the Antarctic. As Lord Kitchener he is at his most stiff upper lipped. He is perfect as the Great Man with the steely blue eyes, (Kitchener's face was used for the British equivalent of the Uncle Sam, "I Want You!" recruiting poster in WWI) who personified the Victorian soldier hero. "Young Winston" is a grand, rousing historical epic beautifully capturing the pageantry of Britannia at the height of Empire while never losing sight of the young man who one day would become one of her greatest sons. Rule Britannia!
23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Rich, if Uneven Tapestry of Churchill's Early Years..., 6 September 2003
Author: Ben Burgraff (cariart) from Las Vegas, Nevada
YOUNG WINSTON was a film that director Richard Attenborough said was very
difficult for him to make...his reputation as a director, in 1972, rested
solely on his only previous film, the anti-war cult classic OH! WHAT A
LOVELY WAR (1969), and with YOUNG WINSTON, he was expected to tackle a
subject that was directly opposite to his point of view. Winston Churchill
was the moral center of Great Britain in WWII, staunchly pro-Empire, and
anything but anti-war. Yet his early life was an fascinating saga of
contradictions, and the director felt that if he could focus on the personal
odyssey Churchill experienced, against the backdrop of the dramatic events
of the time, it would be a story worth telling. While the end result of
Attenborough's labors would not be entirely successful, YOUNG WINSTON is
still a rewarding, entertaining movie.
Told as a series of flashbacks, narrated by the older Winston Churchill (mimicked very accurately by the film's young star, Simon Ward), we jump from battlefields in the Sudan to a childhood in Blenhiem Palace, at an occasionally dizzying pace. The son of a brilliant yet self-destructive MP (played, with élan, by Robert Shaw), and his dazzling American wife (the radiant Anne Bancroft), young Churchill worships his parents, but is largely ignored by them, except when the cruelty of a boarding school would become too apparent. Only an average student through most of his youth, he seems destined to a life of mediocrity, at least in his father's eyes, and the parent's cold indifference would only become more pronounced as he experiences the ravages of syphilis, which destroys his career, and would kill him. Too late to win his father's love, Winston blossoms as a student, and determines to win fame, first as a soldier/journalist, then to take up his father's banner in Parliament.
Self-centered, opinionated, and glory-hungry, Winston attracts the animosity of Britain's war staff, yet seems to be anywhere history is being made, from tribal rebellions, to the last cavalry charge in history (seeing Churchill sheath his sword and pull out a pistol as his weapon is a telling sign that the era was ending). Behind the scenes, his widowed mother, trading on her legendary beauty and string of admirers, makes up for her earlier aloofness by using her contacts to help her son 'get ahead'. Yet Winston feels his progress is too slow, and decides to go to South Africa, where the Boer War rages.
As a journalist, Churchill is captured, but, taking advantage of the British prisoners' escape plans, manages to break out of prison, and elude the Boers, while all England watches. By the time he finally reaches safety, the entire world is celebrating him as a hero, and he easily wins his father's seat in Parliament...and takes up the same unpopular issues the elder Churchill had championed, and gone down defending. As Anthony Hopkins, playing Churchill friend David Lloyd George remarks, "A young lion is loose in Parliament."
With an all-star cast (including Jack Hawkins, Patrick Magee, John Mills, Edward Woodward, and a very young Jane Seymour), the greatest credit must go to Simon Ward, the oldest of the three young actors portraying Churchill through his early years. Ward is astonishing, not only physically resembling Winston, but giving the character a humanity that makes his opportunism and ambition far more palpable.
Of note, as well, is Gerry Turpin's cinematography, with it's sweeping vistas of the British army in the field, and Alfred Ralston's rousing score, drawing heavily from Elgar's marches.
While the sheer scope of the story, and flashback approach, ultimately defeat the 'intimacy' Richard Attenborough had hoped for, YOUNG WINSTON is still well worth watching, and helped him prepare for his next film, the even more challenging A BRIDGE TOO FAR.
It is a wonderful film adventure!
13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Jolly Good!, 23 July 2004
Author: artzau from Sacramento, CA
This fine film of Richard Attenborough with Simon Ward really does have
great legs, just like Ann Bancroft. What a great film with a splendid cast,
John Mills, Robert Shaw, Patrick Magee, Tony Hopkins, Ian Holm and the great
Jack Hawkins! I had not seen it since its release back in '72 and it was
just as delightful seeing it tonight as it was back then.
History buffs may take a few shots at the unevenness of the story line and the flash-backs-- especially, the interviews with Bancroft and Ward-- are a bit distracting but the writing, the script and the film all work together in the hands of a real master, Richard Attenborough. It helps to no end that Ward had the face of the young Winston Churchill and is able to subtly portray the young man burning with ambition. The supporting cast is superb. The events are gloriously Victorian and it leaves not a whit of doubt about the origins of the last of the old imperialists, Sir Winston. The final scenes with Ward giving the speech on the floor of Parliament are wonderful and suggestive of the great oratory that was characteristic of the old British Lion. A great picture of Sir Winnie's rhetoric was given in Harry S. Truman's notes on meeting with him at Potsdam who observed how "[he] spoke in sentences formed into well-formed paragraphs...a master orator." Young, proud, vain, arrogant, ambitious, full of himself and self concerned, and fiercely intolerant of opinions differing from his own,Sir Winston Churchill was indeed one of the controversial albeit great men of our last century. This fine film stands as a fitting tribute to him.
14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
It's a good adaptation about Churchill's autobiography during his childhood and youth, 22 June 2005
The picture is based on Winston Churchill's autobiographic book titled
: ¨My early life : a roving commission¨ . The movie talks about infancy
, the school times with a strict discipline , the young military and
journalist career and the election as parliamentary at the early age
twenty six years old . He intervened against the rebels in India , at
defense of the British Empire . Participated in the last charge of Brit
brigade on Sudan war along with general Kitchener (John Mills) in
command the Army against Derviches that had formerly vanquished general
Gordon (1884 , Khartoum, events narrated in the film with the same
title with Charlton Heston ). Later on , he was to South Africa as
journalist in English-Boer war ( 1899-1902 , the leaders were
Rhodes-Kruger respectively ) that Kitchener would finish ( though there
he would create the first concentration camp ) . Churchill is
imprisoned but he breaks out from Pretoria . After the spectacular
getaway which obtained world fame he was elected as Parliament member
where he speaks an overlong speech that makes it a little bit boring .
He subsequently becomes Tory (or Conservative) Party leader confronting
Prime Minister Salisbury (Laurence Naismith) and later facing LLoyd
George ( Anthony Hopkins) , Liberal Party leader .
The film won several Oscar nominations or Academy Awards , to original screenplay (Carl Foreman), Production design (Geoffrey Drake) and Costume (Anthony Mendleson) but achieve none . Simon Ward is enormous and Anne Bancroft and Robert Shaw are magnificent . The sensitive and romantic music score is composed by Alfred Ralston. The motion picture is well directed by Richard Attemborough .
8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
A Film well remembered, 5 February 2007
Author: Tirogesflair (firstname.lastname@example.org) from London
Like most reviewers here - I saw the film originally on the big screen back in 1972. As an eager young historian then - I recall how much this film helped bring to life Winston Churchill and political and social life of Great Britain in the decades before the First World War. Simon Ward was brilliant as the young Winston but Robert Shaw's tortured performance as Lord Randolph Churchill stand out - especially the scene where he is addressing the House of Commons when clearly his mind was fast gowing. Anthony Hopkins does have a small - but crucial role in the film as Liberal M.P David Lloyd George. It was his friendship with Churchill and the then political issue of tariffs v Free trade that led to Churchill leaving the Conservatives and becoming a Liberal for the next 20 years. I do also recall the final 'ghost' scene - so i will be interested to see what the new DVD will do about that as a missing scene from the earlier video release.
9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
an excellent snippet of the life of Churchill, 19 July 2005
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
This was an excellent and engaging film about the early years of Winston Churchill. The acting and writing were superb. The directing was generally good as was the writing, though there were a few moments when the movie was a bit slow or skipped over a little too much of his life--though certainly not in the last half of the movie when he is involved in the Boer War. About my only serious gripe about the movie was that once it was finished, I was left wanting to know more. This would have been a much better mini-series than a movie. That's because I think the movie attempted to do too much in too little time. However, what it did do, it did very well and the movie offers excellent insight into the man's formative years.
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
British version contains a terrific final scene missing from USA version., 8 September 2006
Author: bwburton from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the British version in 1973 in Oxford, UK, the evening after my first visit to Blenham. About 15 years later I purchased the American VHS version and discovered a vital 5 minute epilog is missing from the American. In the epilog, the portly, now retired Churchill is snoozing at his painting easel. The ghost of his long-dead father Lord Randolph shows up for a conversation. The father is vitally interested in how the young chaps of Edwardian England, such as Chamberlain, made out and did they reach 10 Downing? The sleeping Winston, in the tones of Simon Ward's voice-over, explains that "yes, such men reached the P.M.'s office." Before leaving, Lord Randolph finally asks Winston what he did with his life? Modestly, Churchill says he's written several books and Lord Randolph, with a touch of patronizing, approves, after all any larger greatness was probably out of reach for his limited son. The audience at Oxford was almost standing on their chairs screaming "Tell the bastard you saved Western Civilization!!!" A far more powerful ending than young Winston making his first political mark after his Boer War adventures.
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Churchill's Formative Years, 6 August 2008
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
Young Winston is based on Winston Churchill's early life from childhood
until his first speech in Parliament circa 1901. I well remember when
Sir Winston Churchill gave up that seat in 1961. Except for two years
in the Twenties it's the longest tenure in the British House of Commons
and I was 14 at that time.
Carl Foreman's screenplay and Richard Attenborough's direction were no doubt tempered with some historic reading about Winston Churchill's early years. What you see here is the standard interpretation given to those years and how they shaped him personally and the views he had on various issues.
Churchill was the eldest of two boys born to Randolph Churchill and his American wife Jennie Jerome as played by Robert Shaw and Anne Bancroft. While Shaw was busy on a political career and Bancroft being the social toast of two continents, Young Winston who grew up to be Simon Ward was a lonely kid who was mostly raised by a favored governess.
Randolph Churchill's rise was dramatically cut short in the late 1880s when it was discovered he had the dread syphilis, a social disease not mentioned in polite society. He continued to serve in Parliament with rapidly decreasing health and influence. It was only then that Shaw and Ward begin something of a relationship, cut too short when Randolph Churchill dies in 1895. He died thinking that his son would never amount to much and Churchill spent his whole life trying to prove his disappointed father wrong.
In that he became a young man in a hurry as he tries by every means available to make a name for himself in the process stepping on a lot of important toes. He'd continue to do that his whole life also as he sought to preserve the British Empire as it was in his formative years.
His army commission got him participation in the Sudanese War of the last cavalry charge of the British army at Omdurman. While using his mother's charm and influence to get himself a rather unique status as both army officer and war correspondent, he got captured by the Boers in that war. His dramatic escape provided a media opportunity as they would say no and made his election to Parliament in 1901 possible after sustaining a couple of losses.
Robert Shaw, Anne Bancroft, and Simon Ward are perfectly cast. Shaw's best moment comes during a speech to an almost empty Parliament when you can see the ravages of the disease and what they've done to Randolph Churchill. With both Bancroft and Ward in attendance, it's pitiful to watch.
Attenborough populated the rest of his cast with some talented folks like Sir John Mills as Lord Kitchener, some very prominent toes that Churchill stepped on and a young Anthony Hopkins as David Lloyd George who Bancroft warns her son against associating with that man. In fact much after the events of this film conclude, Churchill's association with Lloyd George proved to be a mixed blessing for the rest of his life.
Young Winston is both a faithful adaptation of Churchill's own memoirs as interpreted by others and a grand historical pageant of the time the sun was not setting on an Empire some thought would last forever. Among those were the subject of this film.
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Well directed biopic, 25 August 2006
Author: Corky1984 from England
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Young Winston chronicles the formative years of one of England's greatest ever statesman. We witness the early childhood of Churchill, pass through his army days and encounter his first forays into the world of Edwardian politics as a Tory MP tempted to switch to the Liberals. With a strong cast, including Robert Shaw as Churchill's coldly distant father, Lord Randolph (briefly Chancellor of the Exchequer), and Anthony Hopkins as David Lloyd George, this is a film that saunters along at a nice pace. The chap who plays Churchill also looks remarkably similar to the great man in his youth, a nice bit of casting. The highlight of the film is the battle of Omdurman, where Churchill took part in one of the British Empire's final heroic cavalry charges, brilliantly portrayed. I would have liked to have seen a greater concentration on this illustrious episode, however, but there you go! Other highlights include Churchill's daring escape from a Boer prison camp and his somewhat hot-headed defence of a train deep in enemy territory during the 1899-1902 conflict. Attenborough is an excellent director and whilst this is not his best work, it merits a viewing. For a readable and concise look at Churchill's life, I would recommend Richard Holmes' In the Footsteps of Churchill.
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
" It may be our empire too is doomed, but for us, there is such a thing as Moral Force ", 23 April 2009
Author: thinker1691 from USA
From the autobiographical works of the Prime Minister of England comes this remarkable chronology of his life. The Film is called " Young Winston " and was directed by equally famous, Sir Richard Attenborough. The film encapsulates Churchill's early life (Russell Lewis) during his formative school years of which he later recalls both the loving affection given by his nanny (Pat Haywood), a woman he fondly remembers in his memoirs and the brutal education system he was subjected to. It is to his credit he relates his Father's (Robert Shaw) struggle to maintain his conservative political status as well as his parental obligations. All the while, Winston tries to earn approval and become a success. His mother, Lady Jennie Churchhill (Anne Bancroft) is seen as both a proper wife and mother as well as a spirited Representative of her family's social affairs. The audience is also privy to the courageous undertakings of the ambitious Churchill (Simon Ward) as he experiences both the hazards of war and the warnings of the political arena. In this he is scrutinized carefully by both friend (Anthony Hopkins) and adversaries like Lord Salisbury (Laurence Naismith) alike. The movie, like his biography, is creatively smooth and contains both the hurtles and inner doubts. As a result, it becomes an exceptional narrative studded with noted movie icons like Jack Hawkins, Patrick Magee, Edward Woodward and John Mills. In addition the colorful costumes, panoramic scenes and exciting action make for an interesting historical film of one of the world's most respected leaders. Superb Movie and definitely a Classic. ****
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