Friday, September 17, 2010

Churchill Speaks in Montreal 1900

Harrow School.

I just watched the 1972 TV movie Young Winston. I remember watching it and liking it A LOT when I was 17. I can't imagine why. I wasn't into history then. Not a bit. The movie has no romance at all and lots of war scenes. And as for those Edwardian fashions, well, at that time I couldn't care less.

I remembered just one aspect of the movie: the fact that Winston Churchill had been a lousy student. (I didn't recall that funny scene where he writes nothing on the examination paper for entry into Harrow, but gets in anyway. (Digression: I visited Harrow in 2006, as my cousin teaches there. I was offered a nice meal at the cafeteria. My son was there,too. We two often joke how impressed we were as James Callis, who played our favorite character Baltar on Battlestar Galactica, attended that school. Some other famous people too, apparently!)

Upon rewatching Young Winston, just one scene seemed like deju vu: the one where the shop keeper tells Anne Bancroft, playing Lady Randolph Churchill, that he'd never get out of bed if he was married to her. (Something to that effect.) That scene is especially ironic, in that the couple were no longer having sex, but I missed that back then too. (In fact, Churchill's portrayal of his parents (cold to children, preoccupied with social standing and together only as a business proposition) seems cliche, with respect to Edwardian marriages. I guess cliches start somewhere.)

Anyway, at the end of the movie, it's made clear that Churchill, a self-promoter (perhaps trying to prove himself to an unloving, legendary father)made headlines for his Boer war exploits.

Well, this isn't 1972, it's 2010, so I went straight to the page on my computer with Google News Archives and punched in "Winston Churchill" for 1900. Sure enough, it was true!

And even better, there was a Montreal Gazette article from December 1900, reporting on a talk Churchill gave in the Windsor Hotel.

Well, he gave a speech chronicling his war exploits (which were already well known through his newspaper stories) to a crowd of 200 VIPS, including the Master of Ceremonies, Hon. Senator Drummond (the hubby, I guess, of Julia Parker Drummond, social activist.)

"Lord Randolph's son has a very taking way with him and after the first few sentences of his talk, caught the interest and sympathy of his audience and kept it throughout. His humourous asides and running comment were not the least effective of his methods in attaining this result, and that he knows how to get in touch with his hearers was incontestably proven last night."

The Mayor of Montreal also was there. I wonder if my own grandfather was. Not that likely. Churchill was taken to dinner at the Mount Royal Club after it all. (He also spoke at Yale on the same tour.)

Now, as I watched, I thought Anne Bancroft's costumes were too soft and pretty for the era, but looking at pictures of Lady Churchill, I can see she was a real clothes horse, with a great figure and unique dress style, lots of feathers and furs and frou frou (a rather severe expression in her pictures; the same severe expression that served her son so well in his later days.)

Churchill, of course, would visit Quebec, twice, I think, during the war...

Young Winston (which has a young Ian Holm which would impress my son) ends with film footage of Old Winston on that balcony with King George VI and Queen and Princess Elizabeth. I couldn't help thinking That's the King Colin Firth plays in The King's Speech.

It's a little humbling: More time has passed since Young Winston was made (38 years) than had passed between WWII and the year the movie was produced, 1972...32 or so years.