Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Churchill Movie a Fitting Tribute

Cleveland Press December 18, 1964

Documentaries, by their very nature, are informative, seldom entertaining. That there is entertainment in "The Finest Hours," a very informative documentary, is to the credit of both the film's subject and the men responsible for the motion picture.

Though there is abundant use of newsreel films, this production is no mere collection of clippings. Through it all there is a fine sense of balance, of careful construction, of contrasts.

THE FILM TRACES CHURCHILL'S LIFE from his boyhood to the present, takes a glimpse at his ancestors, but understandably devotes much of its length to his years as Britain's wartime leader.

There are freshly filmed sequences in rich color of Blenheim Castle, Churchill's birthplace; his country home, Chartwell; Chequers, the prime minister's official country residence; the interior of the Admiralty offices; the underground war-room and Buckingham Palace.

With these are still pictures and newsreel shots tracing Sir Winston's public life -- his service in India, World War I and II, the years between and the days that followed.

Where the newsreel films also contained sounds, Churchill's words are heard in his own stirring voice. Otherwise quotations from his writings and speeches are voiced by actor Patrick Wymark, who does a remarkable approximation without sounding like an overdone imitation.

The narration of Churchill's life story is delivered in resonant tones by Orson Welles.

NEWSREEL FOOTAGE HAS BEEN TINTED in single colors. Thus the effect of switching from full color to black and white is a little less jarring.

The total effect of the film is the portrayal of a remarkable man, a multi-faceted personality, a person of many abilities, a creature of definite likes and dislikes.

His stature as a statesman and politician is not allowed to overshadow his abilities as author, artist and historian.

There are human touches--his almost childish delight in his zippered coverall siren suit, a shot of him from behind walking along an airstrip in North Africa, umbrella in hand.

"The Finest Hours" is a slice of history in a most palatable form, carefully conceived by American newsman Jack Le Vien, artfully directed by Peter Baylis, intelligently written by Victor Wolfson and beautifully scored by composer Ron Grainer.