Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years (1960–1963)

TV Series   |    |  Documentary, Biography

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11 December 2007 | redryan64
| Carefully Researched Telling of The Great Statesman's Life Story, Going Back to early days for Background! Question: Hey BBC, So Where're the DVD's Already?
Although we were "boomers," individuals born in the Post War Baby Boom, knowledge and even a sort of artificial "memory seems to exist concerning WORLD WAR II. This appears to be a widespread symptom that is present in a large portion of the Boomer Population in general. Just what causes this? Why does "our" pampered, spoiled brat of a group, the collective offspring of what many believe to be the greatest generation in the history of the World possess what no other has had ? Perhaps we can offer a theory as to the whys and hows, even as to the validity of the existence of this phenomenon.

Well, I started this and I'll finish it, by Dr. Spock!! World War II was the greatest single struggle in World History. Unlike the First World War, there was no great feeling of futility following its successful conclusion. Clearly the Good Guys won. Oh sure, we had a couple of questionable characters fighting on the side with the Allies.

These Buzzards, namely Stalin and Mao, were about as big a pair of heals that have ever walked the face of the Earth. They each may well have topped the Nazis and Der Fuehrer's head count of innocents killed.

The magnitude of the War in both the actual numbers of men under arms, the number of Nations participating* and the long lasting effects thrust on our World cannot be overstated. This fact is indisputable, and was well realized by those who were true veterans of active participation in the hostilities in any of the Theaters of War.

And out in front in the Post War world, serving as Evangelists of the non-denominational Gospel of the True History of the events were the Veterans of the War themselves. And let's not forget that there were millions of them in the United States alone. In our family we had my father, Clem Ryan (Navy)as well as uncles John "Bro" O'Connell (Navy-Seabees), Robert F. Ryan (Navy), Bernard E."Gene" Ryan (Coast Guard), Walter Fuerst (Coast Guard)Edward Ryan (Army) and Walter Sattler (Marine Corps). So, our family was well represented and had plenty of first hand stories told to us young 'uns! Next we had great pop fiction as in all those Hollywood Wartime Movies, which were then trickling down to us through showings on Television. Added to those was our generations first run Armed Service anthology TV series, such as:"NAVY LOG", "CITIZEN SOLDIER" and "THE SILENT SERVICE".

Even more of an impression was left by a small number of well made, beautifully mounted documentaries. With use of literally thousands of hours of American, Allied and Captured Axis news film and official government filmings of the actual events leading up to and occurring during the seemingly endless conflict. Much like today's currently running "Ken Burns' THE WAR", these televised showings brought the War to our living rooms and magically transported us to places like Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor, The Ardennes, Guadalcanal, Stalingrad and Iwo Jima. We didn't realize nor appreciate at that time how great a service this was, nor how these were all recent historical events, and just how recent.

The other great documentaries included: "VICTORY AT SEA"(NBC, 1951), BBC's "THE WORLD AT WAR" (1974), ABC's "CRUSADE IN EUROPE" (1949), Time Inc.'s "CRUSADE IN THE PACIFIC"(1951) and lastly we have today's subject, the BBC's Production of "WINSTON CHURCHILL: THE VALIANT YEARS".(1960).

This Valiant Years production was second to none in its use of archival motion picture footage. It also went that extra step in obtaining the services of two top acting talents of the English speaking world in American Gary Merrill as the Narrator and British (Welsh Born) Richard Burton. The decision was a sound one as both men were well known on either side of "the Pond", as well as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa. Both had magnificent sets of pipes, which added to the effect and appeal of the film record unfolding.

And one other thing comes to mind. Mr. Churchill's own mother was an American, a fact that would seem to bind the two countries & peoples together. It also was a sound sales point for the American Broadcasting Company, who was the premier outlet for the series in the States.

The beautiful, majestic theme music and the incidental music in the original score are most haunting and unforgettable. They were composed by the American, Richard Rodgers; famed as half of the teams of Broadway's Rodgers & Hart and Rodgers & Hammerstein. In addition to nearly innumerable Broadway successes, Mr. Rodgers was the man responsible for the immortal score for NBC's "VICTORY AT SEA".

As a point of a truly trivial nature, we remember that the first run of The Valiant Years had as a sponsor, Meade-Johnson & Company, makers of "Metracal, Dietary for Weight Control", a very popular product for dieters back in the day. Well, one of their commercials told about hazards of overweight and difficulties in reducing. All of off-screen voice over was spoken by an unknown gentleman; who was obviously a Brit. As for the on screen man in the visuals; he wears a black overcoat, black Hamburg hat and dark gloves. The commercial presented the images of an obviously older, portly gentleman strolling somewhat belabourdly through a snow filled park. We only see him from a distance and from the rear.

NOW QUESTION, PLEASE: Is this commercial, which was only shown on the Sunday evening's Telecasts, supposed to look like Sir Winston, himself? We know that it was not him, but the resemblance is too much to ignore. We thought then and now that that was taking product placement and subliminal persuasion just a little too far!

NOTE: * Just try looking up World War II in the Encyclopedia to see just how many Nations did actually declare war, though most of their participation was minimal.


Release Date:

27 November 1960



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