Churchill and the Movie Mogul – BBC4

BBC4’s new documentary, Churchill and the Movie Mogul, reveals how Winston Churchill and film director Alexander Korda joined forces during World War Two

In 1934, Winston Churchill was paid a staggering £10,000 to write screenplays for London-based Hungarian film director Alexander Korda, as told in BBC4’s one-off documentary Churchill and the Movie Mogul.

This documentary examines the collaboration between the pair and how the Prime Minister believed that if he could capture the essence of England on screen, that romantic image might persuade a reluctant America to join the struggle against the Nazis.

When war broke out in 1939, Churchill was immediately made Lord of the Admiralty and called upon his old friend.

‘Korda promised Churchill that if war was declared, the next day he would turn the whole of Denham Film Studios’ resources over to making a propaganda movie and have it out in a month,’ said revered film director Michael Powell.

‘In return, Korda asked that the British film industry be made an essential war weapon.

‘He got his agreement.’

Korda’s patriotic films reassured the British public, yet Churchill knew his greatest task would be to persuade a reluctant America to join the war.

Alexander Korda Churchill and the Movie Mogul

Director Alexander Korda teamed up with Winston Churchill, as seen in BBC4’s Churchill and the Movie Mogul (Getty Images)

After becoming Prime Minister in May 1940, he sent his friend to Hollywood to make films that would boost pro-British feeling.

‘Many Americans didn’t like the old-fashioned Britain with its imperial history,’ said Sir Winston’s secretary, John Peck.

‘He [wanted] to strengthen their resolve against Hitler.’

The documentary’s director John Fleet was surprised to discover Churchill’s interest in storytelling.

‘His whole life seems to have been characterised by a fascination with history and trying to fashion it into a story,’ says John.

‘He wrote many historical biographies and won the Nobel Prize in Literature.’

Main picture: Getty Images

TV Times rating: ****