Yesterday Scott and I teamed up to revive our dormant podcast to talk through our divergent opinions about Darkest Hour. I agree with Scott in one major way—that the film takes huge liberties with the facts and interpretation of things, and we spend a good deal of time breaking down some of the historical defects and explaining the deeper story behind some of the truncated and altered scenes. But we agree to disagree overall: judged as a historical film, it is indeed hugely flawed; judged as an artistic film designed to convey the majesty and precariousness of Churchill during those crucial three weeks in May 1940, I think it is more worthy. In any case, we close out the show with a short list of good Churchill books that interested listeners should read.
We did forget to mention one major annoying liberty the filmmakers took in the very last scene. After Churchill closes out the Dunkirk speech in the House, the camera pans up to Churchill’s nemesis in the film, Lord Halifax, sitting up in the visitors gallery. Why is the foreign secretary sitting up in the visitor’s gallery and not on the Treasury bench with the rest of the Cabinet? Because as a Lord, Halifax was not allowed on the floor of the House of Commons, which was one reason he was thought unsuitable to be a wartime Prime Minister for an all-party unity government on May 10, when Chamberlain stepped down. Anyway, someone asks Halifax, “What just happened?” And Halifax replies, “Winston mobilized the English language, and sent it into battle.”
That is an actual observation about Churchill’s oratory, but the remark was made in the 1950s by the journalist Edward R. Murrow—not Halifax in May 1940. Once again, the screenwriter couldn’t resist moving the noted phrase around and putting it in another context—a frequent temptation of many screenwriters who try to capture the fullness of Churchill.
Anyway, you can listen or download the episode below, or access it through our hosts at Ricochet. But everyone should go see the film and make up his own mind.