Description: Winston Churchill was revered by millions as the saviour of Britain in the Second World War, but he wasn’t just a great war leader – he wrote millions of words of journalism, he painted, he built brick walls, he owned racehorses, he gambled in Monte Carlo casinos and even wrote screenplays. Yet his personality was mercurial; bouts of hyper-activity were interspersed with black days of depression. While he had a loving marriage, he spent long periods apart from his wife and children, some of whom caused him deep anxiety and distress.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, celebrated historian Sir David Cannadine, author of In Churchill’s Shadow, examines the life and career of Winston Churchill by looking at ten different themes that are less well known, but which are crucial to a fuller understanding of one of the most extraordinary individuals ever to occupy No. 10 Downing Street.
Episode 1: The first programme explores how Winston Churchill was a committed bricklayer, and he even joined the bricklayers’ union. But this didn’t mean he had anything in common with the working man. He was surrounded by a retinue of servants, he never even set foot in a shop and he famously got stuck on the Circle Line the only time he used the tube.
Episode 2: Winston Churchill is known to have drunk copious quantities of alcohol. But was he an alcoholic? He developed a taste for Havana cigars while visiting Cuba, but did he actually smoke all those cigars? Churchill was so keen on his food that, during the Second World War, the constraints of rationing were unknown to him. In the second programme of ‘Churchill’s Other Lives’, Sir David Cannadine enjoys Winston Churchill’s prodigious appetite for food, drink and cigars.
As a young man, Winston Churchill discovered his love for words and decided to make a living out of them, initially as a war correspondent. Indeed he became a writer so prolific and unstoppable that when he was hit by a car in a New York street, he dictated a thousand words about the experience from his hospital bed. Sir David Cannadine explores Winston Churchill’s first career as a journalist. With extracts from Churchill’s forgotten early dispatches.
Episode 4: Winston Churchill had an unhappy childhood. His father was distant, drunken and cold. His mother was a spendthrift who had numerous affairs. So how was he able to rise above his difficult upbringing and become the success he did? Sir David Cannadine looks at Winston Churchill’s family life, exploring the legacy left by Churchill’s childhood when he himself became a father.
Episode 5 He may have been one of the most visionary and impressive people who lived, but Churchill had a difficult time at school and a limited education. Today, Sir David Cannadine explores how Churchill’s school days were rebellious and underachieving and how, after leaving Harrow, he applied three times to Sandhurst before passing the entrance exam. Being denied the benefit of an Oxbridge education left Churchill with complicated feelings of regret so, while serving as a young officer in India, he resolved to educate himself. The autodidact who never went to University later became the Chancellor of Bristol University and even had a Cambridge College named after him.
Episode 6: Winston Churchill was a film fanatic and sought an active role in the movie business. He became friends with Charlie Chaplin and collaborated as a screenwriter in the 1930s with the great Hungarian-born director Alexander Korda. A scene set in the trenches of World War One from Churchill’s screenplay – never made into a film – is dramatised here for the first time, as Sir David Cannadine explores Winston Churchill’s love affair with cinema and his growing awareness of the power of the moving image. Featuring Roger Allam as Winston Churchill.>
Episode 7: Winston Churchill never knew the names of his secretaries – calling ‘get me a miss’ when he needed to give dictation. Yet such was his charm that women fell in love with him over the dinner table. How much was he interested in women – or sex? Today, Sir David Cannadine explores Churchill’s attitude to women, his relationship with his nanny Mrs. Everest and with the other central woman in his life, his wife Clementine.
Episode 9: Despite not taking up painting until he was 40, Winston Churchill produced more than 500 canvasses in his lifetime and became an honorary member of the Royal Academy. His show there in 1959 outsold every previous exhibition except one dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. So why was painting such an important part of Churchill’s life? Sir David Cannadine explores the hobby that meant most to Churchill and how it helped to keep what he called the ‘black dog’ of depression at bay.
Episode 10: Sir David ends the series by examining Winston Churchill’s lifelong fascination with gadgets and technology, and by a scientific future – as evidenced by his early delight in the novels of H.G. Wells. During the First World War, Churchill was awe-struck by the potential of the tank and, in the inter-war years, his friendship with H.G. Wells gave him the vision to predict the creation of a super-bomb that would kill millions of people. He later became friends with Professor Lindeman, who would become his scientific advisor during the Second World War.
Featuring Roger Allam as the voice of Winston Churchill. Other parts are played by Ewan Bailey, Jasmine Hyde, James Sobol Kelly and Simon Tchernaik. The theme tune is composed by David Owen Norris.
Producer: Melissa FitzGerald