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The Gathering Storm (1974)

TV Movie  -   -  Biography | Drama  -  29 November 1974 (USA)
8.1
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The story of British prime minister Winston Churchill, focusing on his place in British life just prior to World War II.

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Title: The Gathering Storm (TV Movie 1974)

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Cast

Credited cast:
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...
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Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Robin Bailey ...
Geoffrey Bayldon ...
Kurt von Schuschnigg
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Patsy Byrne ...
Cook
...
Mary Churchill
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Edward Evans ...
Clive Francis ...
Laurence Hardy ...
Speaker
Verna Harvey ...
Junior secretary
...
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Storyline

The story of British prime minister Winston Churchill, focusing on his place in British life just prior to World War II.

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Genres:

Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

29 November 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Gathering Storm (#24.2)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Trivia

Two articles written by Richard Burton attacking Churchill, one entitled "To Know Him is to Hate Him", caused great offense in the UK and the US when they were published in November 1974 before his program was broadcast. Burton's younger brother Graham Jenkins contended they were in poor taste after playing Churchill in a favorable light with considerable help from the wartime leader's family. It lead to the blacklisting of Richard Burton from British TV drama for the rest of his life. See more »

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Version of The Gathering Storm (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Concise
7 November 2014 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

I'm tempted to put a check mark in the spoilers' box because I suspect the outcome of this historical tale will be news to many Americans, especially the young ones, a substantial percentage of whom believe that World War II teamed up America and Germany in a war against the USSR. One in five of us can't name the country we achieved our independence from. (Wrong answers on that 2011 poll included Mexico and China.) And here we have the story of a man named Winston Churchill (Burton), entangled in a tar baby of crucial decisions involving countries and parts of countries (eg., the Sudetenland) that nobody has ever heard of.

Yes, I think this will be news to many people. If that's the case, it might better have been presented as a documentary with a narration and lots and lots of colorful maps with moving arrows and other glitzy graphics. "Poland? You mean as in Poland Water?" It's unfair to the unknowing to hear Churchill making a brief, one- or two-sentence description of Norway being a passageway for Sweden's steel shipments to Germany, and a cut to Churchill's wife (McKenna) holding a newspaper whose lead says something about an attack on Norway. I just don't know how many of us are ready to make that logical leap.

As Churchill, Burton does a pretty good job of imitating Churchill's public voice, although when he becomes angry he brays. He gives us a gruff Churchill, whose only humor is expressed through sarcastic insults toward his fellow pols, the foreign office, and Herr Hitler.

The Germans are no more than stereotypes. Von Ribbentrop (Hardy) is one of those smilers with a knife. I'm afraid Ian Bannen -- a fine, innovative actor -- is lost in the role of Hitler. He looks and sounds like Ian Bannen with a mustache and a funny haircut. Neville Chamberlain is played as a weakling and a fool by Bailey, although Churchill gets to mouth some sensible words in his defense. Nobody ever claimed that Neville Chamberlain was a tower of strength and resolve, but I've always thought he got a bad rap on Munich. He came home with a treat signed by Herr Hitler promising that no more territory would be bothered by the Nazis. What else could he have done? Would he have prevented World War II by declaring war on the spot? His humiliation when he's replaced as PM is very moving.

In the final scene, Churchill delivers his stirring speech about "blood, toil, tears, and sweat", and it's very effective because Burton has a greater capacity for bombast than Churchill, even though Churchill was a politician. Churchill, as much as anything else, was a fine writer and speaker, precise and articulate, and this film captures those qualities well.


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