Shedding Light on “Darkest Hour”

“Darkest Hour,” the new Churchill biopic that comes out in general release this week, has generated some controversy about its accuracy and depiction of Churchill in the crucial weeks of May 1940. Steven Hayward, who liked the film, and Scott Johnson, who disliked it, argue it over and break it down for us, and end with a list of Churchill books everyone should read.

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There are 7 comments.

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  1. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane

    I saw the movie and wrote my opinions on Ricochet:

    I think the observation made in the podcast that one must look at a movie in a different way from history is absolutely correct.  Your average American knows very little about any of these events, and I do not think the Churchill drawn here diminishes Churchill.  I really don’t.  I think the story as told will make many want to read one of those books you listed, and that is a marvelous thing.  If they don’t, they’ll still remember Churchill *led,* and that is a great thing, too.

    I am going to go and see the movie again to watch in a different way.  The first time I simply  enjoyed the movie, which is something I think many people will do.  The second time I shall gnash my teeth more at all false depictions… or, at least, I shall also try to better understand why they are so bothersome to so many.  I certainly had no problems understanding the dialogue!

    The funny thing about the French scene…

    I can see the reasons for criticism, but—perhaps amazingly—my reaction was not that Winston was out of sorts. Rather, I felt the French were shown to be arrogant while collapsing.  Of course, I was watching as an audience member, not a historian.  And I think I was on my third daiquiri by then…  (The Alamo Drafthouse is a great cinema.)

    Anyway, I enjoyed your podcast.  It is important to know about how History was changed here, even if I also liked the film (a lot).


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  2. George Townsend Inactive
    George Townsend

    Lois Lane (View Comment):
    Anyway, I enjoyed your podcast. It is important to know about how History was changed here, even if I also liked the film (a lot).

    I was going to write you, Lois, and tell you about this. I enjoyed it too. I enjoyed when Steve Hayward (who is a Reagan Biographer, by the way) wondered whether cinema should be thought of as history, or as art. I agree that it should be art. I have seen many a movie, about real people, and wondered if it was accurate. Some of them are pretty bad in terms of accuracy, and, I think, that is quite sad.

    Incidentally, I hope you and your family have a wonderful and Merry Christmas, and very Happy New Year!

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  3. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane

    Merry Christmas to you, too, @georgetownsend !

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  4. colleenb Member

    Have not seen the movie yet but appreciate the comments and film v. history parts, especially Churchill’s relationship with Chamberlain.  For a tv movie I found the one about Churchill’s stroke and the work to keep it secret interesting (believe it was called Churchill’s Secret).  It would be helpful if the main books referenced could be listed.

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  5. Capt. Spaulding Member
    Capt. Spaulding

    For those of us who are not steeped in the world of Churchill, the flaws of Darkest Hour as enumerated by Scott (and acknowledged by Steven) are almost beside the point. In my view, the film shows how a man burdened with crushing moral decisions struggles to overcome the doubts of his detractors and the fears of his own soul. The precise sequence of what happened and when it happened must be honored by historians, yet the quality of Churchill’s leadership is for each of us to ponder. The inventions in this movie should rightly disturb scholars even as they move an audience in the direction of awe for a towering modern hero. I hope none of the factual missteps and dramatic conveniences discourage a single person from seeing Darkest Hour. And I hope some portion of those moviegoers become motivated to pick up any of the Churchill books recommended herein.

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  6. The Cloaked Gaijin Member
    The Cloaked Gaijin

    (Wrong place.)

    Moved comment here:



    • #6
  7. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):
    (Wrong place.)

    Moved comment here:

    I missed that article, so thanks for posting to it.

    • #7
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