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Breakfast Friday, 12 July, 2002, 05:20 GMT 06:20 UK
Churchill: the gathering storm
Albert Finney as Winston Churchill
Albert Finney plays Churchill in The Gathering Storm

He's remembered as Britain's greatest ever war leader.

But, many forget that in the mid 1930s, it looked as though Winston Churchill's career was all washed up.

Already in late middle age, Churchill was politically isolated and financially on the verge of bankruptcy.

He'd been an unsuccessful minister during the First World War and was now a lone voice on the British right, warning of the danger posed by the Nazis in Germany.

Dr Piers Brendon, Churchill biographer
the historian: questions the accuracy of the BBC's latest drama
Tonight, a new BBC film looks at Churchill's wilderness years.

As with any dramatisation, The Gathering Storm has stirred up debate among historians about its accuracy.

Breakfast brought together David Thompson from BBC films and Dr Piers Brendon, a Churchill historian.

They disagreed about many aspects of the film - but they did agree that Albert Finney's performance as Churchill was superb


The Gathering Storm by Ridley and Tony Scott charts Churchill's time during the years leading to the start of World War 2.

Churchill's Career
Born in Oxfordshire in 1874
Elected MP for Oldham in 1900
Defected to the Liberals in 1906
Having again joined the Conservatives, lost his seat in 1929
Politically isolated in 1932 after warning of the rise of the Nazis
Following the 1935 election, Churchill fails to win a place in the Baldwin cabinet
Elected Prime Minister in 1940

It features an all star cast led by Albert Finney - an extraordinary Churchill - and Vanessa Redgrave who plays Clemmie, his wife.

The story centres on Churchill's relationship with with a young anti appeaser who worked in the Foreign Office, Ralph Wigram.

Played by Linus Roache, Wigram fed Churchill secret information about the rise of the Nazis and and their attitudes towards Jewish people.

In the film, Wigram emerges as an unsung hero who helped to convince Churchill of the potential risk from the Germans.

The Gathering Storm was written by Hugh Whitemore, and also features Jim Broadbent as Churchill's friend Desmond Morton and Derek Jacobi who plays former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

Ronnie's return
Another familiar face was lured out of retirement for the film.

It's 14 years since Ronnie Barker last appeared in a new TV programme.

A friend of Finney, he plays Inches the butler and says he loved the script. Barker has spent recent years running an antiques shop and writing plays.

The feature length drama follows Churchill's career up to the outbreak of World War 2, which went on to be described as his 'finest hour'

The Gathering Storm: 9pm BBC Two, Friday 12 July

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The Gathering Storm
Preview of the BBC2 film
Breakfast Churchill debate

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