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  • GulyJimson16 August 2004
    "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. Lewis.

    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!
  • artzau23 July 2004
    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.
  • 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!
  • Warning: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. ****
  • 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 in 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 . Winston participated in the last charge of Brit brigade in 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 on , 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 , Robert Shaw and Anthony Hopkins are magnificent . This was the first of five films that Richard Attenborough and Anthony Hopkins worked together on . They later worked together on Magic (1978), A bridge too far (1977), Chaplin (1992), and Shadowlands (1993). Very good support cast , actors Ian Holm, John Mills, Jack Hawkins , Patrick Magee, Anthony Hopkins and Edward Woodward all received 'special appearance' credits and debut theatrical feature film of actor Nigel Hawthorne . The sensitive and romantic music score was masterfully composed by Alfred Ralston . The motion picture was well directed by Richard Attemborough .
  • qorda1 September 2003
    This is a movie worth seeing not because it is a well made one but because Churchill's early life was full of adventures no less than Indiana Jones; and all real! Richard Attenborough has tried to cover them all. Starting from clash with Pathans followed by charge against Sudaneese fakirs and fight against Boers. However, flash back technique has been used. So the viewers are transported from adulthood to childhood and back. This rather diminishes the impact of various events on Churchill's life and gets confusing for the viewers unfamiliar with his life history beforehand. Attenborough's depiction of this remarkable life is often quite dull and any strength in this film is due to Churchill's own writings on which the script is based rather than any effort on the part of director and adaptor writer. The director has failed to elicit thrill and suspense from various scenarios when there were numerous opportunities. Story seems to end abruptly. It should have continued to a certain phase in his career e.g. till when he assumes his duties in admirality in twenties or perhaps when he assumes prime ministership. A touch of romance and some view of his married life would have given some diversification to this movie.

    Music, cinematography, costumes and makeup are fine, as is the acting and these with Churchill's own writings save this movie from declining into a very monotonous presentation.
  • 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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Young Winston is perhaps one of the forgotten films of the early 1970's, and there may be no better explanation for it besides the fact Hollywood pumped out a plethora of artistically successful productions as well as films successful at the box office. Richard Attenborough directs another all-star British cast, as he did in his first film, along with a main actress of the day to play Churchill's neglectful mother: Anne Bancroft. The film stars Robert Shaw as Churchill's impossibly over-bearing father Lord Randolph, whose bout with syphilis led to his slow decline. Simon Ward plays the young Churchill from his late teens into his mid 20's as an equally adventurous, arrogant, brash, and ultimately courageous young man coming into his own after failing to meet his father's ridiculous standards for achievement and success.

    The film is slow-moving in the first half with the not-too-original background of a young boy mistreated by parents, aimlessly searching for direction in life. Writer Carl Foreman's Oscar-nominated screenplay heats up in the second half with Churchill's adventurous exploits as a lieutenant and a journalist. Attenborough is best at panning the majestic landscapes and filming action scenes peppered with intense emotion, as during Winston's escape from Pretoria. Ward is the very embodiment of a young Churchill, and it's his voice imitating the famous elder Churchill's that narrates the film. The film benefits immensely from its strong British cast, including Jack Hawkins, Ian Holm, Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Magee, Edward Woodward, and John Mills. Look for an appearance by Jane Seymour and Nigel Hawthorne in his film debut. The film was Oscar-nominated for its Art Direction and Set Decoration as well as its costumes. The film climaxes somewhat unexpectedly when Ward gives a speech in Parliament, echoing a battle Lord Randolph fought years before. It's a deliberately paced film telling a story about one of the twentieth century's most important figures. *** of 4 stars.
  • Warning: 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.
  • jack-smales22 September 2003
    This is incredible.The Churchhills look just like the real people.The acting is brilliant and so is the music. I am very surprised that on the Rotten Tomatoes there were no comments for it at all. I recommend this film.
  • 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.
  • Winston Churchil is one of the great men in world history. Politician, Prime Minister, Military Commander, Prize-winning Writer, Painter, etc. He was the First Sea Lord of Great Britain during World War I, and he lead England through World War II.

    Unlike many great figures in history, Winston's early life was quite an adventure and it is this story which the movie tries to convey. This film is unabashedly sympathetic to Churchill, there is no dark side to his character in this film.

    The film does not dwell on the complexities of the situations which Churchill faced when he was young (the details of which are likely to be only of interest to the serious historian).

    The film is great fun to watch, especially the battle in the Sudan, and his adventures covering the Boer War as a War Corespondent.

    I saw the film when I was a teen-ager and enjoyed it a great deal. In retrospect, I was the perfect audience for the film. The movie is not really aimed at adults and is too historical for young children (though the scenes of Winston's boyhood in Blenhiem Palace were very entertaining).
  • What can one say about Winston Spencer Churchill ? Lots of things and almost as many of them as bad as good but what ever disasters he may have responsible for he made up for them in the years 1940-45 . Of course as Orwell said " he who controls the past controls the future . He who controls the present controls the past " . What Orwell meant by this was people paint themselves in glowing colours and have always sang from the same hymn sheet even if this has no basis in reality . This was never truer than between the wars when Winston Churchill was a lone voice warning against fascist expansionism and the need for rearmament . Of course once war broke out everyone in the political classes said all along that Hitler must be defeated but this wasn't actually the case . More than a few people in the ruling class were quite happy to appease the Nazis and Churchill seen as a dangerous maverick became Prime Minster through default more than anything else but it was a happy accident in Britain's finest hour

    With a title of YOUNG WINSTON the film doesn't concern itself with Churchill's role as PM during Britain's finest hour but on his early life . It's somewhat ambiguous to say the least . Churchill is portrayed as a rabid ego maniac who joined the army solely to make a name for himself . After all who's going to vote for someone from a privileged background who has seen the square root of nothing except a University class room ? Oh hold on ? Isn't that every PM we've had since I can't remember when . Fair goes to someone who loves the swashbuckling side of life and who has actually fought in bloody battles . You can see the likes of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown watching this film feeling bitter resentment at their own inadequacy as both men and politicians

    There is an element of poor little rich boy to Attenborough's film . Churchill was brought up as an unloved child whose parents didn't really care for him , whose father died of syphilis , who only felt close to his nanny as a child and who suffered cruel physical abuse at school . There is a strong element of manipulation to this but Attenborough could really have gone overboard but has resisted the temptation though not totally successfully . From a technical point of view the film is well made especially in the fields of cinematography and editing , though at some points it does seem slightly over long . The print I've seen is also missing a scene at the end when Winston , an old man is visited by the spirit of his father which has been stated the American print of the film
  • Solid biography of the early life of Winston Churchill. The casting is top notch, it's a pity we don't get to see more of Anthony Hopkins, but it was an early appearance for him. The boy that played kid Winston and the guy who played young man Winston have a extraordinary resemblance to the real Churchill, and they perform their parts very well too.

    The story is directed well enough to keep you entertained for 2,5 hours. The only hindrance is Churchill's annoying voice-over; although the manner of speaking may be historically correct, it distracts from the story with its quaint intonation. This may be a minor issue to some, but the distraction keeps coming back.

    All in all a well-directed biopic, which will also appeal to non-connoisseurs.
  • Young Winston shows how the British film industry uses creative casting, brilliant dialogue, costumes and beautiful cinematography to make a period in history great popular entertainment. Examples abound in many productions on television and in the movies, from the ground-breaking television series Upstairs Downstairs in the 1970's to more recent stories such as Amazing Grace.

    This movie focuses on the early life of Winston Churchill. Simon Ward gives a brilliant performance and a glimpse of the force of personality that would one day roll out on the world stage. The sets, sweeping photography, scenes of military action, oratory in the House of Commons, the music of Edward Elgar with vignettes such as Churchill's handling of a tough interview all make this a production that can be viewed 40 years on and still give great entertainment value.

    Director Richard Attenbrough, who would later film the epic Gandhi, has mounted a superb production here and used some of the finest actors of his time to portray the Churchill family and the political era at the turn of the 1900's: Robert Shaw as the brilliant but erratic Randolph Churchill, Ann Bancroft as his elegant American-born wife, Anthony Hopkins as David Lloyd George, and John Mills as Lord Kitchener. Jack Hawkins, Patrick Magee, a young Jane Seymour, Robert Hardy, and other notables also appear.

    Definitely for history buffs, this movie will also whet the appetite of viewers to learn more about one of the great figures of the 20th century and the aristocratic world of his youth.
  • In the second half of the twentieth century the biographical epic came into its own. The past hundred years had thrown up a lot of inspirational figures in politics and war, and as that generation of heroes began to die off, and the big motion picture developed an intimate streak, high-budget biopics became a matter of course. And, like anything that is produced often, there soon becomes a standard way of doing it.

    The writer of Young Winston was Carl Foreman, of High Noon and Bridge on the River Kwai fame. He had a strong starting point – the writings of Churchill himself, full of the man's sense with words and subtle humour. Foreman structures the first book of Churchill's biography into a coherent and entertaining screenplay – sensibly opening with a burst of action from a period in Churchill's adulthood, which not only hooks the audience but also gives us a promise that this adventuresome time will be returned to later. This is especially important since there are moments in the first hour or so where Young Winston threatens to become a dry, domestic biography. But Foreman makes an error in his striving to get various supporting details across. There are several of these bizarre "interview" segments, where major characters are grilled by an unseen questioner, clunkily breaking up the flow of the story. The revelations in the interviews are important, but a writer of Foreman's calibre should have known better and woven them into the regular narrative.

    Foreman also produced, and he selected Richard Attenborough on the strength of his debut Oh! What a Lovely War. Attenborough seems perhaps a little overwhelmed by all the gadgetry of a larger production. His work looks pretty, but doesn't seem to have much point to it, especially the many slow zooms which become a little irritating. Still, there is his ability to create memorable and iconic imagery, both of actors and of landscapes. He also takes care to make the final shot of one scene dovetail somehow into the first shot of the next. For example a slow tilt upwards following Anne Bancroft on a staircase cuts to an opposing downward tilt to bring us in on the teenage Churchill's speech in the school hall. Such smooth linking devices are useful in a picture like this that has many sudden changes in place and tone.

    Attenborough was apparently also chosen for his ability to pick a decent cast. He pushed hard for Simon Ward in the title role, and on the whole made a good choice. The fresh-faced Ward deftly depicts Churchill's transition from eager teen to levelheaded military officer. However his adoption of the real Churchill's famous mannerisms and speech patterns in the final scenes verges on the ridiculous. Anne Bancroft gives a steady performance as his mother, although she is perhaps too good at playing cold-hearted women, and when her character's tenderness begins to sour towards the end of the picture it suddenly appears Lady Churchill is going to turn into Mrs Robinson. The finest turn is that of Robert Shaw as Winston's father. He makes Lord Churchill's descent into syphilis-induced dementia poignantly real – you can see the man he was in there still, disintegrating. There are also plenty of big name cameos, but frankly these are far too brief to be of any note or impact on the picture.

    So, altogether a mixed-bag of a life story. Everything we need to know is there, it just seems that on all accounts this was not a very cohesive effort, in which script, performances and general production have no particular aim or arc. As such, there are some great set pieces, and considered in bits most of Young Winston is very well done. As a whole however, it has neither the sweep nor the power to give us the impression of a life lived.
  • Young Winston definitely shows Attenborough on a large scale - one can see where some of the crowd scenes in Gandhi came from - and is a cracking film.

    Entertaining from start to finish with a riveting performance from Simon Ward, who never quite reached these heights again and went on to light adventure roles like the Duke of Buckingham in the Three Musketeers.

    All in all, this is history light, but it completely watchable. It cleverly mixes the battle scenes and the politics to produce a Boy's Own adventure with great costuming and nice attention to details.

    Helped along by an excellent all-star cast you can't really go wrong if you like adventure history films - the last half hour is superb, and a two hours long it doesn't waste time but never rushes.

    Great fun, and just serious enough to remind you why the Churchill myth, rightly or wrongly (and the film never touches the darker side of Churchill) meant that in 2003 he was voted the greatest Englishman of all time.
  • Niv-126 August 2008
    Young Winston directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Anne Bancroft, Robert Shaw and Simon Ward as Winston Churchill is a good movie. Anne Bancroft gave an excellent performance. For a movie that got Oscar nominations she should have been a supporting actress nominee. The device of having an off camera reporter interview the three main characters was best for her interview. Shaw was excellent when his mind goes during a parliament speech.

    A lot of time is spend in Africa where there are big action scenes. If it was all in Africa it could have been titled Winston of Africa because there the movie strives to be something like Lawrence of Arabia.

    Ward was kind of a blank but did narrated well as Old Churchill.
  • Largely based on the Winston Churchill's autobiography "My early life: a roving commission", the movie is above worth for Simon Ward's performance, despite an excessive and almost pathetic effort to characterise Churchill's early ineptness on the battle field.

    The original music score, however, was quite disappointing, taking out all excitement of exciting moments, such as the cavalry charge. I guess Richard Attenborough still wanted to pass an anti-war message nevertheless... I could have done without.

    However, if I had to put it shortly... If you liked this movie, wait until you read the book... If you didn't like this movie, wait until you read the book!
  • Simon Ward is "Young Winston" in this 1972 film, directed by Richard Attenborough with a all-star cast including Anne Bancroft, Robert Shaw, Jack Hawkins, John Mills, Pat Heywood, Ian Holm, Patrick Magee, Anthony Hopkins, Edward Woodward, Laurence Naismith, Robert Hardy, and Colin Blakely.

    The film is based on Churchill's book about his early life, which is far superior to the film because it encompasses so much more detail. We see Churchill in his early life going off to a series of schools, an original thinker who could do well in school if he put his mind to it. He adores his parents from a distance; his father (Shaw), a controversial figure in Parliament, dies a slow death from syphilis. His mother, Jenny (Bancroft), a great beauty, has a series of lovers, which is not covered here. Not considered a great scholar, rather than following his father into political life, he seems destined for a military career. His soldiering leaves something to be desired, though he acquits himself well when, as a journalist, he is caught in battle. He writes books about the war campaigns and becomes known - and sometimes not liked. Churchill does enter politics at a young age and loses. Undaunted, he keeps going, finally entering Parliament.

    Young Winston captures the different eras beautifully and is absolutely huge in its scope. The battle scenes are tremendous, and there are plenty of them for lovers of adventure films. The film was made in an era of the big, sweeping epic, and it doesn't disappoint.

    It's also helped by the fabulous performances. We have all seen the heavy, bald Winston Churchill, but of course he wasn't born that way. Simon Ward is the absolute picture of the young Churchill and does a brilliant job portraying a hard-working, ambitious, proud and sometimes haughty youth. Robert Shaw is wonderful as Lord Randolph, showing a powerful man and his slow decline. Anne Bancroft's performance may have raised a question or two. She speaks with a British accent, yet Jenny was an American, from Brooklyn, no less. Her accent is actually an informed choice - and who could expect less from such a stunning actress. Firstly, as the daughter of a millionaire, she attended the best schools, where upper class people were taught to speak with a British affectation; secondly, having lived in England, she naturally took on a stronger version of the accent. Bancroft gives Jenny the vivaciousness, intelligence and charm that the actual Jenny possessed.

    Some of the greatest British actors of the day have small roles, truly elevating the film. Notable is John Mills as the irascible General Kitchener, who emphatically does not want Churchill serving under him. Anthony Hopkins pops up as David Lloyd George; Patrick Magee as General Blood. Jane Seymour has an early small role as Pamela Plowden.

    I'm not sure audiences have the patience any longer to sit through a sometimes slow, historical epic like this that isn't riddled with special effects. I highly recommend reading the book "My Early Life" and then seeing the film for a more complete look at one of the most important figures of the 20th Century.
  • rmax30482325 January 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    It's a "big" movie, narrated by Simon Ward, who plays Winston Churchill, in that magnificent and ironic voice. Most of the narration seems taken from Churchill's own writing and speeches. It covers his youth from what the Brits call "public school" and we call "private school" to his adventures as a lieutenant and war correspondent on the frontiers of the British empire -- India and South Africa.

    Churchill was evidently always an ambitious young man, anxious to live up to the unreasonable expectations of his stern and distant father. The movie makes fun of Churchill's rash behavior, but it's gentle fun. His heroism on the battlefield I take to be accurate, though I don't know.

    A considerable number of distinguished British actors have accepted small parts in the film -- John Mills, Jack Hawkins and the like -- and the sweep of the story is impressive.

    Much of the story depends on Simon Ward's rendition of the Great Man, and he's not bad. Except for one scene, in which he gives an important speech in Parliament, suggesting a switch from conservative to liberal, or at least moderate, in which he looks and sounds very much like an actor.

    The director, Richard Attenborough, is intelligent, articulate, quick-witted, and has an elegant sense of humor, but his direction, here and elsewhere, leaves me wondering if he has the necessary skill to capture the sorts of monumental subjects he's drawn to. "Gandhi" was a little dull, and "A Bridge Too Far" was edited into an incomprehensible mess.

    Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. None is a total failure but neither are they are gripping as the subjects might allow. There is a battle scene here, involving a partially derailed train under fire from the Boers, in which Churchill saves the day and distinguishes himself. It's exciting but it's equally confusing.

    The emphasis throughout is on the character of Churchill. We never do get a clear idea of the political and military context in which he must operate. Anthony Hopkins appears briefly as Lloyd George, generally thought of as a dove, while John Mills has a few seconds on screen as Kitchener, a real bastard. You wouldn't know it from the movie. Nor would you know who the Boers were -- let alone what the war was all about.

    The film tells us a lot about Churchill's youth, until he was 25 years old. It's "educational" and never dull. If it doesn't quite satisfy its own ambitions, well, so what?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Interesting film highlighting the younger years of Winston Churchill would have the film viewers wanting to grasp for even more.

    To me, the picture was rushed, especially towards the end of this biographical film.

    There is a wonderful supporting performance by Robert Shaw as his fatally ill father. Anne Bancroft was correctly cast as his wife, American born Jenny Jerome.

    While coming from a home of privilege, Simon Ward, excellent in the title role, revered his father and was at a loss to explain his rejection of him at times.

    The film showed that Conservative Churchill understood the working person. (That didn't help much when he was voted out of voice despite leading England to victory in World War 11.) He was able to carve out relations with the Liberal Party opposition.

    The cinematography is great, especially the battle scenes during incursions in India as well as the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century.

    At age 24, Churchill showed himself as a force to be reckoned with. I just wish that the film had gone into more depth.
  • When I watched this picture on DVD I had in hand The late Roy Jenkins massive biographical study of Winston Churchill and therefore I could compare the action and story line of the with a written source.Pivotal events of young Churchill's life were described both in book and movie as for example, his difficulties as a young pupil as well as his faultless recitation of Macauley's Ruins of Ancient Rome, when in Harrow. His problematic relationship with his father was also portrayed convincingly.Afterwards his journalistic/military adventures, as his participation in a punitive expedition and mainly his escape from the Boers which catapulted him to world fame. I found that the movie gave the established version of events as well as providing memorable quotes which may be a mark of authenticity or a symptom of cliché depending on personal viewpoint. For someone who is not British the evocation of the British Imperial establishment in the movie has an air of historical accuracy as far as manners and ways of life are concerned, the veracity of which I can not check since neither me nor my ancestors had experience of that environment. The movie is picturesque and has aura of adventure when describing the various imperial fronts that it's dashing hero traversed in his young adventurous days. It also emphasizes the importance that social connections played in British society for the advancement of a young aspiring politician. The movie shows the development of a human, if extraordinary, character in the manner of a novel, that Germans call Bildungsroman, that is a story about the evolution and crystallization of a human character. I would compare it in cinematic terms with Abel Ganz's Napoleon, an other earlier movie that explores the formative years of an other Titan of European history, Bonaparte. Young Winston of course relates to a smaller part of it's subject's life in the sense that it ends with his break into politics and also covers barely 4 chapters in Roy Jenkinks massive book from a total of over fifty such devoted to the great man. Clearly it strives to portray solely the early beginning but that it does so very ably. P.S. After I had written the above part of the review I read Churchill's own "My Early Life" on which the movie is based according to the titles of the beginning. I have to admit that it follows "My Early Life" in the content of the events described although not in the sequence since there exist numerous flashbacks. The important thing to point out is that having as a previous written source Roy Jenkins' biographical study I had a sympathetic although supposedly neutral source, while "My Early Life" is as all autobiographies a unabashedly self-justifying piece of writing and that quality is reproduced in the movie. One has to note that the filmic text follows the written text and many narrations in the movie supposedly made by Churchill speaking as an old man, are verbatim reproductions of the text of "My Early Life" which serves as inspiration. Truly reading the book and watching the film is an experience that marries two different forms of art. Also the content of the movie, not only the verbal narrations follows the book and memorable incidents, such as the report to General Kitchener and the presence of the wife of Mr. Dewsnap in the Oldham election meeting stand out. One of course has to observe that everything had been exceptional about Churchill's early life, including his boyish naiveté before the master of his first school, to exclaim that he never speaks to a table as Latin grammar would have him do-an incident described in the book where a small board containing the first declension of the noun mensa=table in Latin is contained. Clearly it offers a lot of insight to it's subject.
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