How accurate are the events of the movie “The Darkest Hour” to the actual historical events?

By Sunil Kumar

Watched this a few weeks back and the movie sticks close to fact; but adds a little bit here and there for dramatic effect. Cinematography and acting by Gary Oldman as the old man is engaging; obvious that Churchill is a hero in Western eyes; however repulsive and genocidal he may seem to some people in India and other former colonies.

Now; facts that do not match real history:

The movie shows that Churchill did not want the former king to abdicate due to his affair with divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson. He had actually supported the English King Edward VII during the abdication crisis(1936); and pushed for more time so the King might fall out of love with the twice-divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Churchill’s predecessor Chamberlain resigned due to a loss of confidence in his foreign policy of appeasement that began shortly after Hitler’s ascent to power in 1933 Germany. The Allies were forced to retreat from Norway, which resulted in Nazi occupation of that country. The former PM had colon cancer; from which he died later in 40. There’s a scene where he takes morphine; so that’s logical from a historical perspective.

According to the movie; confidence in Churchill was low and he was shaky when he took office. As Lord of the Admiralty(Naval in-charge) under PM Chamberlain; he was perceived to be responsible. Churchill had a long history of important positions in the U.K from his time in India to the Boer War and Gallipoli campaign in World War I; a disastrous campaign which resulted in him getting demoted before resigning from the government.

Many in his party(The Conservatives) thought his opponent Lord Halifax was a better bet.

Churchill was often mean to his staff like shown in the movie. His secretary Elizabeth Layton confirmed this fact in her biography; but also held him in high esteem as Britain’s national icon. Her depiction in this movie is fictional; as she became his secretary in May 5, 1941; a time when London was getting pounded every day by the German Luftwaffe.

His opponent Halifax did not get support from the opposition Labour party; which also felt that Chuchill would be Britain’s best bat during wartime. Two facts shown in the movie; his attachment to wife and near-bankruptcy are true.

The “War Rooms” which figure in most lists of London’s tourist attractions were not used by Churchill until after September 40; so their depiction in this movie is fictional.

The movie plays up emotions and dramatic outbursts for obvious reasons. A scene in which Churchill travels by the London underground to gauge public sentiment has never been “recorded” to have actually happened. Unlike the present-day where politicians do actually travel by public transport to show their empathy with the vast majority; this was a different era altogether. Churchill is also never believed to have been “indecisive” about peace negotiations with Germany.

America did not want to take part in Europe’s war; and did not enter fully until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Churchill wrote a letter to the American President which is fictionalized as a phone call via a direct line; kind of how modern-day leaders operate. He was also not as chummy with the King George VI as shown and a late-night visit by the royal apparently did not take place.

The movie ends with the phrase by Halifax; “He mobilized the English language and sent it into war”. This was not said in the exactly same way; and is a mix of later quotes and statements made about the British PM. Also; an accurate portrait of Churchill as a supremacist and responsible for atrocities like the Bengal Famine in 1943 etc; his imperialist beliefs and faith in colonialism is outside the scope of this movie which portrays him as a great individual. Despite all of that; Churchill’s oratory is certainly acknowledged even by his most fervent opponents.

Source: Read Different Biographies of Churchill and Online News.

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