Cultural depictions of prime ministers of the United Kingdom
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Cultural depictions of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom have become commonplace since the term's first use in 1905. However, they have been applied to prime ministers who were in office before the first use of the term. They are listed here chronologically from the date of first appointment as prime minister.
Melbourne has been portrayed in the following film and television productions:
- H. B. Warner in Victoria the Great (1937)
- Frederick Leister in The Prime Minister (1941)
- Richard Mathews in Churchill's People (1975)
- Joseph O'Conor in Edward the Seventh (1975)
- Paul Bettany in The Young Victoria (2009)
- Rufus Sewell in Victoria (2016-)
- Michael Barrington in Edward the Seventh (1975)
- Tom Ward in the TV series The Frankenstein Chronicles (he is depicted while he was still the Home Secretary).
- Nigel Lindsay in Victoria (2016-2017)
Palmerston has been portrayed in the following film and television productions:
- Wallace Bosco in Balaclava (1928)
- Felix Aylmer in:
- Gilbert Emery in A Dispatch from Reuter's (1940)
- André Morell in Edward the Seventh (1975)
- James Fox in 1864 (2014)
- Laurence Fox in Victoria (2016-)
Gladstone has been portrayed in the following film and television productions:
- Montagu Love in Parnell (1937)
- Arthur Young in:
- Malcolm Keen in Sixty Glorious Years (1938)
- Stephen Murray in The Prime Minister (1941)
- Gordon Richards in The Imperfect Lady (1947)
- Ralph Richardson in Khartoum (1966)
- Graham Chapman in Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969)
- Willoughby Gray in Young Winston (1972)
- David Steuart in Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974)
- Michael Hordern in Edward the Seventh (1975)
- John Carlisle in Disraeli (1978)
- John Phillips in Lillie (1978)
- Roland Culver in The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981)
- Denis Quilley in Number 10 (1983)
Salisbury has been portrayed in the following film and television productions:
- Harvey Braban in Sixty Glorious Years (1938)
- Leslie Perrins in The Prime Minister (1941)
- Llewellyn Rees in Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974)
- Hugh Dickson in Churchill's People (1975)
- Richard Vernon in Edward the Seventh (1975)
- John Gregg in Disraeli (1978)
- John Gielgud in Murder by Decree (1979)
- John Forbes-Robertson in Number 10 (1983)
- David Swift in Jack the Ripper (1988)
- David Ryall in Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
- Michael Gambon in Victoria & Abdul (2017)
"Lloyd George Knew My Father" is a well-known ditty, with the lyrics "Lloyd George knew my father/Father knew Lloyd George" repeated incessantly to the tune of "Onward, Christian Soldiers". The origin and meaning of the song are disputed. One theory is that it references the peerages-for-cash scandal.
In the film A Hard Day's Night (1964) in the police station, at 1 hour and 8 minutes, the police chief tells the character playing Paul McCartney's father "Put Lloyd George over there!"
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Bonar Law is briefly mentioned several times in Ken Follett's historical novel Fall of Giants (Book One of the Century Trilogy).
Bonar Law plays a supporting, if off-screen, role in Upstairs, Downstairs. He is even said to have recommended family patriarch, Richard Bellamy, to be offered a peerage.
Arnold Bennett's novel Lord Raingo features Bonar Law as the chancellor of the exchequer Hasper Clews.
Lord Dunsany gently satirised the quiet way in which government decisions are made which affect many (but with little input from the many) in his short story The Pearly Beach. It begins "We couldn't remember, any of us at the Club, who it was that first invented the twopenny stamp on cheques. There were eight or nine of us there, and not one of us could put a name to him. Of course, a lot of us knew, but we'd all forgotten it. And that started us talking of the tricks memory plays..." The name they were groping for was that of Bonar Law.
Baldwin has been portrayed in the following film and television productions:
- The Forsyte Saga (1967), played by Ralph Michael
- The Woman I Love (1972), played by Robert Douglas
- The Gathering Storm (1974), played by Thorley Walters
- Days of Hope (1975), played by Brian Hayes
- Edward & Mrs Simpson (1978), played by David Waller
- The Life and Times of David Lloyd George (1981), played by Paul Curran
- Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), played by Peter Barkworth
- The Woman He Loved (1988), played by David Waller
- You Rang, M'Lord? (1991), played by Patrick Blackwell
- The Gathering Storm (2002), played by Derek Jacobi
- Wallis & Edward (2005), played by Richard Johnson
- The King's Speech (2010), played by Anthony Andrews
- W.E. (2011), played by Geoffrey Palmer
In Howard Spring's 1940 novel Fame is the Spur, later made into a 1947 film and a 1982 TV adaptation, the lead character Hamer Shawcross loosely resembles MacDonald; it is the story of a working-class Labour politician seduced by power into betraying his class.
In Gandhi he is portrayed by Terrence Hardiman. In the 1981 television series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, MacDonald appears as a significant character in the early episodes and is played by Robert James.
In Graham Greene's 1934 novel It's a Battlefield, Ramsay MacDonald's name repeatedly appears in newspapers and on billboards in reference to a visit to Lossiemouth. He is also mentioned and featured in Noël Coward's film, "This Happy Breed".
In the twenty-fourth episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, original footage of Ramsay MacDonald entering No. 10 Downing Street is followed by a black and white film of MacDonald (played by Michael Palin) doing a striptease, revealing garter belt, suspender and stockings.
Chamberlain has been portrayed in the following films and television productions:
- E.G. Miller in Citizen Kane (1941)
- Robin Bailey in The Gathering Storm (1974)
- Edward Jewesbury in Churchill and the Generals (1979)
- Eric Porter in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981)
- Michael Aldridge in Countdown to War (1989)
- Richard Clarke in The Kennedys of Massachusetts (1990)
- Patrick Cargill in Heil Honey I'm Home! (1990)
- Roger Brierley in Mosley (1998)
- Christopher Good in Dunkirk (2004)
- Oliver Muirhead in An American Carol (2008)
- Jack Shepherd in Into the Storm (2009)
- Roger Parrott in The King's Speech (2010)
- Rupert Frazer in Downton Abbey (2015)
- Ronald Pickup in Darkest Hour (2017)
Few thought he was even a starter.
There were many who thought themselves smarter.
But he finished PM,
CH and OM,
An earl and a Knight of the Garter.
An alternative version also exists, which may reflect Attlee's use of English more closely:
There were few who thought him a starter,
Many who thought themselves smarter.
But he ended PM,
CH and OM,
an Earl and a Knight of the Garter.
- Played by Patrick Troughton in Edward & Mrs. Simpson.
- Played by Patrick Stewart in the 1974 BBC-TV production The Gathering Storm.
- A character in the play Tom and Clem, by Stephen Churchett. In the original production in 1997, Alec McCowen played Attlee, and Michael Gambon played Tom Driberg.
- Played by Alan David in the final episode of the BBC sitcom Goodnight Sweetheart,
- The main character in the BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play That Man Attlee. Broadcast on 15 September 2007, it was written by Robin Glendinning, with Bill Wallis playing Attlee.
- Played by his grandson Richard Attlee, in the TV series Dunkirk in 2004, and in Jerome Vincent's 'Stuffing Their Mouths with Gold'; the story of how the National Health Service came to be. Broadcast on Radio 4 on 4 July 2008, the day before the 60th anniversary of the founding of the NHS.
- Played by Bill Paterson in Into the Storm (2009).
- Played by Michael Sheldon in 'Three Days in May' by Ben Brown on a national tour and at Trafalgar Studios (2011–12).
- Played by Simon Chandler in the Netflix series The Crown (2016).
In Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series of alternate history science-fiction novels, Eden first appears as the representative of the United Kingdom at the peace talks with the alien Race in Cairo. As it does not have nuclear weapons at that point in the story, the United Kingdom is not fully recognised by the Race, but is also too powerful for them to fully discount. Eden attempts to secure full recognition of the United Kingdom by the Race, but fails. Atvar, the Race's commander, notes that Eden is highly competent but attempting to negotiate from a position of weakness. In the succeeding series, Colonization, Eden is Prime Minister in 1962, leading a government which cultivates close relations with the German Reich. When Germany and the Race go to war, Eden refuses to lend British military assistance to the Reich, though formally supports German efforts against the Race.
Eden appears as a character in the play Never So Good (2008)—portrayed as a hysterical, pill-addicted wreck, spying on members of his own Cabinet by ordering government chauffeurs to report on their comings and goings. He is shown being overwhelmed by the chaos of the Suez Crisis and eventually forced out of office by his Conservative Party colleagues, at the urging of the American government.
He also appeared in Peter Morgan's stage play The Audience (2013); in the premiere, he was played by Michael Elwyn). In the 2015 West End revival version, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas as the Queen, Eden is portrayed by Scottish actor David Robb. His scene in the play is a prediction of Eden's audience with the Queen the day before the invasion of Anglo-French forces in Egypt. The conversation that takes place features Eden attempting to feed selected information to the Queen rather than the whole facts about the Suez crisis and the Queen's reaction to the proposed invasion. In the play's 2015 rewrite, the Queen makes reference to Tony Blair, seen in a flashback, and his proposal to send troops to Iraq, likening it to the conversation she'd had with Eden 50 years previously about Suez.
As Secretary of State for War in 1940, Eden authorised the setting-up of the Local Defence Volunteers (soon renamed the Home Guard). In the film of the TV sitcom Dad's Army, the (fictional) Walmington-on-Sea platoon is formed in response to Eden's radio broadcast. Platoon second-in-command Sergeant Wilson is flattered when his resemblance to Eden is remarked upon.
The first season of the UK TV series The Hour revolves around the Suez Crisis and the effect of journalism and censorship on the public's perception of Eden and his government, as a metaphor for modern Western military involvement in the Middle East.
- Beyond the Fringe (1960–66)
- During his premiership in the early 1960s Macmillan was savagely satirised for his alleged decrepitude by the comedian Peter Cook in the stage revue Beyond the Fringe. 'Even when insulted to his face attending the show,' a biographer notes, 'Macmillan felt it was better to be mocked than ignored.' One of the sketches was revived by Cook for television.
- Suez 1956 (1979)
- Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981)
- A Letter of Resignation (1997–98)
- Set in 1963 during the Profumo scandal, Hugh Whitemore's play A Letter of Resignation, first staged at the Comedy Theatre in October 1997, dramatises the occasion when Macmillan, staying with friends in Scotland, received a political bombshell, the letter of resignation from Profumo, his war minister.
- Edward Fox portrayed Macmillan with uncanny accuracy, but the play also explores the involvement of MI5 and the troubled relationship between Macmillan and his wife (Clare Higgins) who had made no secret of her adultery with the wayward Tory MP, Robert Boothby. The play was directed by Christopher Morahan.
- Eden's Empire (2006)
- Macmillan was played by Kevin Quarmby in Gemma Fairlie's production of James Graham's play Eden's Empire at the Finborough Theatre, London, in 2006.
- Never So Good (2008)
- Never So Good is a four-act play by Howard Brenton, a portrait of Macmillan against a back-drop of fading Empire, two world wars, the Suez crisis, adultery and Tory politics at the Ritz.
- Brenton paints the portrait of a brilliant, witty but complex man, tragically out of kilter with his times, an Old Etonian who eventually loses his way in a world of shifting values.
- The play premiered at the National Theatre in March 2008, directed by Howard Davies with Jeremy Irons as Macmillan.
- The Crown (2016)
- Pennyworth (2019)
- The Night They Tried To Kidnap The Prime Minister (2009), played by Tim McInnerny - a BBC Radio 4 drama based on a real-life kidnapping attempt in 1964.
- The Crown (2016), played by David Annen.
- The Lavender List (2006), played by Kenneth Cranham – a BBC Four fictionalised account by Francis Wheen of the Wilson Government of 1974–76, with Gina McKee as Marcia Williams and Celia Imrie as Wilson's wife. The play concentrated on Wilson and Williams' relationship and her conflict with the Downing Street Press Secretary Joe Haines.
- The Plot Against Harold Wilson (2006), played by James Bolam – aired on BBC Two on Thursday 16 March. The drama detailed previously unseen evidence that rogue elements of MI5 and the British military plotted to take down the Labour Government, believing Wilson to be a Soviet spy.
- Longford (2006), played by Robert Pugh – Channel 4 drama on the life of Lord Longford. In one scene, Wilson was seen dismissing Longford from his cabinet in 1968, in part because of the adverse publicity the latter was receiving for his public campaign to support the Moors Murderer Myra Hindley.
- In series 3 of The Crown, Harold Wilson is portrayed by Jason Watkins.
- The Boat That Rocked (2009), played by Stephen Moore (character not actually addressed or credited by name, only as 'Prime Minister')
- Made in Dagenham (2010), played by John Sessions
- A viking in the Asterix story Asterix and the Great Crossing (1975) is named Haraldwilssen in the English translation, because the translators felt his physical features resembled Wilson.
- The Audience (stage play, 2013, played in the premiere production by Richard McCabe)
- In The Alteration by Kingsley Amis, set in an parallel universe dominated by the Papacy, Pope John XXIV is depicted as a Machiavellian Yorkshireman (a thinly-veiled portrayal of Wilson) who controls the population of Europe through Malthusian means including the use of bacteriological warfare and war with the Ottoman Empire.
- Sunday (2002), played by Corin Redgrave
- The Long Walk to Finchley (2008), played by Samuel West
- Margaret (2009), played by Nigel Le Vaillant
- The Iron Lady (2011), played by John Sessions
- The Crown (2016), played by Michael Maloney
- Gillian Bevan played Theresa May in the second series of the Channel 4 comedy The Windsors.
- Jacqueline King played Theresa May in the 2017 docudrama Theresa v Boris: How May Became PM which chronicled the 2016 Conservative leadership election.
- "History of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Fullerton, Hugh. "Victoria: Who was Sir Robert Peel?". Radio Times. Retrieved 25 June 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Books: The Welsh Wizard". Time. 23 June 1961.
- Goodlad, Graham; Wells, Tom (2010). "England, 1900–1924: This is the song: Lloyd George Knew My Father". Sempringham publishing. Archived from the original on 31 December 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "2010 UK Memory of the World Register". 2010. Archived from the original on 3 August 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
- "BBC Genome". Retrieved 19 December 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Young Winston at IMDb
- The Life and Times of David Lloyd George at IMDb
- Literary London, books.google.co.uk; accessed 2 April 2017.
- "The Life and Times of David Lloyd George". IMDb. Retrieved 21 May 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Fame is the Spur Archived 4 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine Britmovie
- Billington, Michael (10 February 2007). "Ian Richardson". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 June 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Jones, Barry. Dictionary of World Biography, 1998
- Source: Kenneth Harris, Attlee (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1982)
- Rentoul, John (27 January 2013). "Yes, Prime Ministers!". The Independent. Retrieved 16 August 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Kenji Lloyd (7 January 2016). "The Crown trailer: First look at Peter Morgan's Netflix drama". Final Reel. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 7 January 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)[better source needed]
- 'Personal Choice', The Times (London, 24 November 1979), 11.
- Taylor, Jeremy (3 March 2017). "FT Masterclass: Stamp collecting with Samuel West". Financial Times. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
- Horne, Macmillan, vol. II, p. 454.
- D R Thorpe, 'A Psychologically Interesting Prime Minister', Premiere of Never So Good (London: National Theatre, 2008).
- "Filming The Crown: on the set of the lavish Netflix series – in pictures". Final ReelThe Guardian. 1 November 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Night They Tried to Kidnap the Prime Minister". BBC Radio. Retrieved 19 November 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Gans, Andrew (26 February 2017). "Edward Fox Will Replace Injured Robert Hardy in London World Premiere of The Audience | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 16 December 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Windsors (2016– ) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb. Retrieved 22 May 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Theresa vs. Boris: How May Became PM". IMDb. Retrieved 22 May 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)