Young Winston (1972)


Young Winston is a 1972 British biographical adventure drama war film covering the early years of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, based in particular on his 1930 book, My Early Life.

Early working titles include: The Churchill Story, My Early Life, My Early Years, The Young Winston Churchill, and The Young Churchill.


  • The first part of the film covers Churchill’s unhappy schooldays, up to the death of his father.
  • The second half covers his service as a cavalry officer in India and the Sudan, during which he takes part in the cavalry charge at Omdurman, his experiences as a war correspondent in the Second Boer War, during which he is captured and escapes, and his election to Parliament at the age of 26.

16 September 1897. Churchill is a junior officer in India determined to make a name for himself and to become a member of Parliament. As Sir Winston Churchill (voiced by Simon Ward) narrates, events shift back to his childhood. As a boy, Churchill is sent to a boarding school but is unhappy there. Due to excessive whippings, Churchill is removed from there and sent to another school, Harrow School. Churchill writes nothing down on the exam paper; however the headmaster, James Welldon sees the potential in Churchill and accepts him. One evening he recites a long poem of 1000 lines in Harrow. His nanny comes down to listen but his parents do not despite Churchill sending them a letter to.

Meanwhile, Churchill’s father Randolph contracts a venereal disease. Dr Roose and Dr Buzzard visit Jennie and tell her that her husband has an incurable disease and that he could die in five or six years.

One morning, Churchill comes down to breakfast but his behaviour infuriates his father. Randolph bitterly sends his son away to his room. After a conversation with his wife, Randolph goes up to make up with his son. They play with his collection of soldiers and it is there that Churchill decides what it is he wants to do in the future: to go into the army. After three attempts, Churchill is finally accepted by Sandhurst but his father is not pleased because he finished seventh from the bottom of the class and is only eligible to enter the cavalry which will cost an extra £200 a year. Randolph scolds Churchill and warns him to face up to his responsibilities at Sandhurst and that if he does not make something of himself by 21 he will no longer support him. Whilst scolding his son Randolph’s illness is apparent as he makes a number of factual errors about him.

Towards the end of his life, with failing health, Randolph makes a rambling speech in Parliament witnessed by both his wife and Winston. When Randolph dies this spells the end of Churchill’s dream of entering Parliament at his side. Churchill graduates from Sandhurst finishing near the top of the cohort, he becomes a second lieutenant and eventually goes to India and the Sudan. He takes part in the cavalry charge at the Battle of Omdurman. Later, he goes to South Africa to work as a war correspondent during the Anglo-Boer War. As he travels by train, he and the soldiers are ambushed by Boers. They try to move away as far as they can but crash into a pile of rocks on the railway track. Churchill courageously organises the soldiers to push one of the damaged cars so that the train can proceed but gets captured by the Boers. Determined to escape, Churchill eventually seeks help from a man called Mr Howard to get over the border. After three nights in a mine, Churchill gets on a train going into British controlled territory and returns to England a hero. He again stands for the parliamentary seat in Oldham and wins, becoming an MP in a Conservative government. With the encouragement of opposition Liberal MP Lloyd George, to the dismay of his mother and annoyance of senior Conservatives he takes up the campaign of his father to limit spending on the military.

The film ends with Sir Winston Churchill narrating events that follow including his marriage to Clementine Hozier seven years later. Newsreel footage shows Churchill appearing on the balcony with the Royal family on VE Day, May 1945.


  • Robert Shaw as Lord Randolph Churchill: Churchill’s father.
  • Anne Bancroft as Lady Randolph Churchill: Churchill’s mother.
  • Simon Ward as Winston Churchill: cavalry officer, war correspondent and MP.
    • Ward also voiced Sir Winston Churchill.
  • Jack Hawkins as James Welldon: Headmaster of Harrow School.
  • Ian Holm as George Earle Buckle: editor of The Times.
  • Anthony Hopkins as David Lloyd George: a politician and member of the Liberal Party.
  • Patrick Magee as General Sir Bindon Blood: an Army commander.
  • Edward Woodward as Captain Aylmer Haldane: an Army officer.
  • John Mills as Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener: an Army officer during the Battle of Omdurman.
  • Peter Cellier as Captain 35th Sikhs.
  • Ronald Hines as Adjutant 35th Sikhs.
  • Pat Heywood as Elizabeth Ann Everest: Churchill’s nanny who acts as his confidante.
  • Laurence Naismith as Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury.
  • Basil Dignam as Joseph Chamberlain.
  • Jeremy Child as Austen Chamberlain: Joseph Chamberlain’s son.
  • Robert Hardy as Headmaster of Churchill’s first school.
  • Pippa Steel as Clementine Hozier: Churchill’s future wife.
  • Jane Seymour as Pamela Plowden.
  • Patrick Holt as Colonel Martin.


Carl Foreman was invited to meet Winston Churchill after he had seen and enjoyed Foreman’s 1961 production of The Guns of Navarone. At their meeting Churchill suggested that his book My Early Life would make an excellent film.

In 1967 Foreman announced James Fox would play Churchill.

Foreman was impressed by Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War and at first wanted him to both direct and play Lord Randolph Churchill; Attenborough declined the latter offer.

The film was made in Morocco and the United Kingdom, with several scenes shot at Penwyllt and Coelbren, Powys, on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, and the scene where Churchill learnt to ride at the Cavalry Riding School building at Beaumont Barracks in Aldershot.


Box Office

The film was one of the most popular films in 1972 at the British box office.

The film’s US premiere was held at the MacArthur Theatre in Washington, D.C., attended by Ward, members of the British embassy and as well as invited guests from the area, including the symphonic band from Winston Churchill High School in nearby Potomac, Maryland. conducted by Ronald Shurie. The film was premiered in the UK with Susan Hampshire and the youngest Winston of the cast on stage at the time. The band of the Royal Hussars (PWO) played at the screening.

Home Media

As of July 2009, the longest edition available on DVD was Young Winston: Special Edition at 146 minutes, cut from the original US theatrical release which was 157 minutes. VHS tapes cut the film to just 124 minutes. The fully unabridged version was released on Blu-ray by British distributor Powerhouse Films in October 2019.


  • It was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction (Donald M. Ashton, Geoffrey Drake, John Graysmark, William Hutchinson, Peter James) and Best Costume Design.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Richard Attenborough.
  • Producer(s):
    • Richard Attenborough … producer (uncredited).
    • Harold Buck … associate producer.
    • Carl Foreman … producer.
    • Hugh French … executive producer (uncredited).
  • Writer(s):
    • Winston Churchill … (based upon “My Early Life: A Roving Commission”) (as The Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill K.G. O.M. C.H. M.P.).
    • Carl Foreman … (written for the screen by).
  • Music:
    • Alfred Ralston.
  • Cinematography:
    • Gerry Turpin … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Kevin Connor.
  • Production:
    • Open Road Films (II) (as An Open Road-Hugh French presentation).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Columbia-Warner Distributors (1972) (UK) (theatrical).
    • Columbia Pictures (1972) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Warner-Columbia Film (1972) (Sweden) (theatrical).
    • Warner-Columbia Films (1972) (Argentina) (theatrical).
    • Columbia Films (1973) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (1976) (USA) (TV).
    • Powerhouse Films (2019) (UK) (Blu-ray) (Limited Edition).
    • Columbia Pictures (1972) (Australia) (theatrical).
    • Th. Damaskinos & V. Michaelides (1973) (Greece) (theatrical).
    • Arcade Video (West Germany) (VHS).
    • RCA/Columbia-Hoyts Home Video (1980) (Australia) (video).
    • RCA/Columbia-Hoyts Home Video (1984) (Australia) (video).
    • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2007) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2011) (USA) (DVD) (dvdr).
    • Umbrella Entertainment (2020) (Australia) (DVD).
    • Umbrella Entertainment (2020) (New Zealand) (DVD).
    • Videosonic (1990) (Greece) (VHS).
  • Release Date: 20 July 1972 (London, premiere).
  • Running Time: 157 minutes.
  • Rating: A.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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