The Churchill Incident

Pray propose to me the measures necessary to stop this foolish production before it gets any further. I am not prepared to allow propaganda detrimental to the morale of the army, and I am sure the cabinet will take all necessary action.

Winston Churchill

At the same time as appearing in Blimp, Anton Walbrook was also contracted to perform in Watch on the Rhine in the West End. Only on matinee days did this cause real inconvenience, when the actor had to be whisked away by waiting car at noon on the dot. One evening during the play’s interval, there was a knock on Walbrook’s dressing-room door. There stood Winston Churchill, redfaced with anger. The Prime Minister proceeded to berate the actor for taking part in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp: `What’s this supposed to mean? I suppose you regard it as good propaganda for Britain?’ To which Walbrook replied: `No people in the world other than the English would have had the courage, in the midst of war, to tell the people such unvarnished truth.

Emeric Pressburger: The Life and Death of a Screenwriter – Kevin Macdonald

…we ran into trouble with the M of I who read the script and said they thought it was defeatist – they never did appreciate the fact that as an artist or storyteller you have to show what’s bad before you can show what’s good. You can’t go out saying we’re bound to be alright because we’re British. You’ve got to show the bad bits first. Propagandists never do. They said: ‘We don’t think you should make this film’. [We said]: ‘Go and fuck yourself!’ They said: ‘All right. But you can’t have Laurence Olivier’. ‘You’re going to stop us making it?’ ‘Oh no, we’re not going to stop you, after all this is a democracy. But we advise you not to make it and you can’t have Laurence Olivier because he’s in the Fleet Air Arm and we’re not going to release him to play your Colonel Blimp’. So we came out of the M of I and Emeric said to me ‘What shall we do?’ and I said: ‘We’ll play Roger Livesey’.

Michael Powell: Interviews – Ian Christie

Nota 1: Alguém deveria filmar o universo Powell & Pressburger no período da guerra, poderia dar um filme espetacular com direito a tretas com Churchill e tudo mais, algo como o que Bertand Tavernier fez com a Continental no seu Laissez-passer (pouco visto, mas um dos melhores filmes dos 00s). As filmagens de A Canterbury Tale também tem coisas interessantes de sobra, especialmente pelo uso de soldados americanos baseados na Inglaterra pré-Dia D.

Nota 2: Tanto em 49th Parallel quanto no Colonel Blimp, Walbrook funciona como alter ego de Pressburger, nos proporcionando monólogos excepcionais, nenhuma outra propaganda de guerra do período teve remotamente a qualidade das coisas que Pressburger escrevia.

One thought on “The Churchill Incident

  1. Pingback: Tudo que é bom vem aos pares: Livesey & Walbrook | Quixotando

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