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Thursday, December 28, 2017

WINSTON CHURCHILL and J. PAUL GETTY: Part 1

Winston Churchill could well have been the most important "modern" person who ever lived.  He ranked #37, compared to Hitler's #7, in the ranking I used in my posting of Jesus Christ on Christmas, but he was the only British leader who had the audacity with little reason to continue fighting the Nazi onslaught, leading to the rescue at Dunkirk and eventual victory over Germany in World War II.  The World, as captured in Netflix's The Man in the High Castle, could well have been the actual reality had there been no Churchill.  The world today would have been totally different.

I went to see two films this week, Darkest Hour, about those few days before World War II, and All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III.  I'll detail the second film and J. Paul Getty tomorrow.  

The Darkest Hour got decent reviews from Rotten Tomatoes:  84% from reviewers and 83% from audiences.  The film industry should have planned better.  Dunkirk came out earlier this year, focusing on that rescue of 300,000 British soldiers (essentially their entire army).  Darkest Hour was why that happened.

The saving of the World today was a matter of timing and courage.  Hitler had rolled across Europe, and during this fateful three week period from the end of May till June 14, 1940 (note, this was before the U.S. entered the war), when German troops marched into Paris, the evacuation of 338,226 allied soldiers (about 140,000 French, Polish and Belgian) saved the Free World.   However, 40,000 British troops were captured as POWs  The United States in 1940 was not exactly a friend, for President Franklin Roosevelt was reluctant to be of any aid, and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Kennedy (father of John, etc.), thought Churchill was a fool to continue fighting.

Nine hundred and thirty three ships, nearly 700 little, mostly civilian, craft were used, and one-fourth were sunk by the Luftwaffe and submarines.  Both the RAF and Luftwaffe lost around 150 planes.    Three thousand five hundred were killed at sea.  The advantage of these smaller boats was that they could get closer to the beach.  Winston Churchill is given credit for seeking civilian help.

His we shall fight on the beaches speech to the House of Commons on June 4, while victorious, made clear that the ultimate war is not won with an evacuation.  So World War II was won before it started because of tactical errors by Hitler, this turning point marshaled by Churchill, the later German attack of Russian and entry of the USA.

Winston Churchill (left) was not the ideal person for much.  He drank and smoked too much (I do still, now and then, enjoy a Churchill), he was not a nice person, and he is also remembered for Gallipoli, a World War I disaster.  He was at first only very reluctantly supported by King George VI, who you remember in the film, The King's Speech, derided by Hitler as "your stammering King."  

Like Churchill, however, George was the right man for the time, as he came around and become Churchill's strongest supporter, and, of all the ironies, this was made possible because his older brother Edward (left), abdicated to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson.  Hitler considered Edward, a Nazi sympathizer, to again become King.  George (right) was a chain-smoker who died at the age of 56 from lunch cancer, and was replaced by his daughter, Elizabeth II, in 1952.  Again, how the World could have been so different if just one thing did not happen.

Gary Oldman as Churchill will almost surely be nominated for Best Actor.  His competition will be Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee in The Post (already in limited release) and James Franco in The Disaster Artist.  Oldman was born in London and, with prosthetics, was perfect for the role.  His first important film in the U.S. was playing Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's JFK in 1991.  He has been the villain in a range of productions.  You might remember him in Harry Potter, Batman and Planet of the Earth films.  John Hurt, who passed away last year, was supposed to be Neville Chamberlin.

Tomorrow, I'll focus on All the Money in the World about the life of the J. Paul Gettys and the kidnapping.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 24,838, yes, another all-time high.

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