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Remembered Today:

37 Days out on DVD


David Ridgus
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The excellent series on the outbreak of the war, broadcast earlier in the year, came out on DVD today.

If you missed it at the time I strongly recommend you catch it now.

It tells a story most of us know well, and the end of which we all know before it starts. Nevertheless I was still gripped throughout and had an almost 'Day of the Jackal' moment of hoping Grey would yet pull Europe's irons out of the fire. His final speech to Cabinet recognising the inevitability of war is a masterpiece of writing and intense yet underplayed acting by Ian McDiarmid.

David

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  • 1 month later...

I have just watched the series and I agree, David, that it was excellent. The final cabinet meeting when the course to war was decided was one of the best scenes of drama I have ever seen. Tim Piggott-Smith was also excellent as Asquith, although I had always thought that Lloyd-George had a more pronounced Welsh accent than that portrayed.

I do have some reservations, though, about other aspects of the portrayal of the crisis:

1. Russia's deliberations on siding with Serbia, and particularly her decision only to mobilise partially, was hardly dealt with at all.

2. Moltke ends one scene declaring that it should be easy to provoke Russia into full mobilisation, but there is no mention of how this was achieved if, indeed, it was deliberate.

3. Germany's consequent declaration of war on Russia was not mentioned (or if it was I missed it), and thus the subsequent concentration on the western front was a non-sequitur, as Germany would never have invaded France unilaterally - she only did so because she was by then at war with Russia, France's ally by treaty.

4. The usual suspects on the road to war were prominent, but a new one emerged who I had never considered before: Moltke himself is portrayed as the deciding factor in pushing Germany into war - how accurate was that?

5. The misunderstanding between Edward Grey and Lichnovsky is portrayed as a chance interruption during a telephone call while Grey had left the cabinet meeting. It seems to infer that if there had been no interruption, the German ambassador would not have got the wrong end of the stick and the Kaiser would not have tried to reverse the mobilisation in the west. The outcome would have been the same, I suppose, since, according to Moltke, the mobilisation couldn't be reversed, anyway.

6. One of the narrators states at the end of the series that the war led to the collapse of four empires. Discussion on the BBC web site after the series was first broadcast pointed out that there were three: Russian, German and Austrian, but someone suggested that perhaps the fourth was the Hungarian empire.

These are only minor quibbles, though, and I would wholeheartedly endorse your recommendation for anyone interested in the period to see it.

Melvin

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Lloyd George has a pronounced Welsh accent in surviving recordings of his voice. The actor who played him also gave no real impression of his dynamic presence. Bill Paterson, excellent actor as he is, was odd casting as Lord Morley, who hailed from Blackburn in Lancashire rather than Scotland. Did the Kaiser's generals really address him in the sometimes disrespectful manner portrayed?

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Much as I loved the series I agree with Mark's views above.

I can only offer an opinion of one of Melvin's quibbles. I presume the fourth empire was the Ottoman.

My quibble with the portrayal of Moltke was that none of his (to use a modern word) flakiness (already apparent pre-mobilisation) was shown. Everything I have read suggests he was much more shaken by the Kaiser's attempted change of direction than was shown here.

David

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The depiction of the Kaiser was superb, I think.

There are bound to be quibbles, but, heck, it was gripping and compelling, and I was profoundly impressed.

Phil (PJA)

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I can only offer an opinion of one of Melvin's quibbles. I presume the fourth empire was the Ottoman.

David,

Of course it was. I suppose I was following the lead of the BBC viewers and thinking only of the effects on Europe.

The portrayal of the Kaiser was very good indeed, but Barry Foster's in the 1974 'Fall of Eagles' was even better.

Melvin

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The portrayal of the Kaiser was very good indeed, but Barry Foster's in the 1974 'Fall of Eagles' was even better.

Melvin

Agreed. That series still holds up remarkably well considering its age and the typical "staginess" of productions at that time.

David

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