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Mortgaged to the Yanks (2007)

Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to 2003, tells the story of the US post-war loan to Britain, that was finally paid off in 2006. In 1945, Britain was ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Tony Benn ...
Kenneth Clarke ...
Denis Healey ...
Christopher Meyer ...
Presenter (as Sir Christopher Mayer)
Karl Rove ...


Sir Christopher Meyer, British ambassador to Washington from 1997 to 2003, tells the story of the US post-war loan to Britain, that was finally paid off in 2006. In 1945, Britain was practically bankrupt and the economist John Maynard Keynes hoped that America would give Britain a grant to recover from the war, so he was sent to Washington to try to convince the Yanks. Written by Will Gilbert

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3 January 2007 (UK)  »

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The material is fascinating but the delivery is cluttered and far from what it needed to be
17 February 2007 | by See all my reviews

Before I saw this film I'd seen an excellent documentary on Clement Attlee's post-WWII Labour government and the challenges they faced once the war was over and (onVJ day itself!) the Americans cut off all their wartime aid. Attlee was left with no choice but to take a massive loan from the US to try and kick start the economy. For those interested in the challenges facing this government and their successes and failures I can heartedly recommend "The Improbable Mr Attlee" because although this film touches on the government of the time the focus is very much on the loan.

Presenter Sir Christopher Meyer spent years as the UK's ambassador to the US but he says that he had no idea that, until the end of 2006, we were still paying back this loan and of course if he didn't then how the heck was I supposed to know!? So the documentary begins with Meyer filling in the history behind the multi-billion pound loan to the UK. This includes the indignation of the US at the idea of helping the UK more (the administration seeing them entering WWII as being help, rather than being late) but also the naïvety of the Attlee in thinking plan "justice" would work (the plan essentially being "give us money cause we bore the brunt of the war while you sat on your ass" – funny it didn't go down well).

The film does go deeper into the story of the loan, looking at the fallout in the US and also the influence (good and bad) that Churchill had on this. It is all very interesting but the delivery is dragged down slightly by mostly useless contributions. The makers have got great access to a lot of people but they don't use them that well. Meyer puts "justice" to Armitage and Rove to obvious responses – I can see the film was trying to show the debate but it could have done it much better than this as neither of the men were that good. These gimmicks are inherent in the film, which has far too many scenes of cars driving etc and a soundtrack that is unnecessary. Likewise we have the newspaper headlines of the day discussed with a journalist from the Mirror; again the point is made but it could have been made in a much better way. The material is still interesting enough to cover up for it but it does seem that more effort has been put into locations for Meyers to narrate in than getting him a clear and crisp delivery.

Overall then the material and the insight into a historical problem that we have only just cleared is fascinating. It is a shame then that the delivery is not as good and feels a bit gimmicky and cluttered with unnecessary contributions and locations.

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