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Hyde Park on Hudson

Directed by Roger Michell

UK, 2012

Cornerhouse, 3 February 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson

A pleasant, sporadically amusing film; the performances are good, as you would expect from the acting talent on show, there is just not very much by way of meaty story.

And the historical spin given in the film strikes one as being completely overblown.  America’s aid to Britain in World War Two, pre-Pearl Harbour, when the direct attack on American territory caused that isolationist nation to enter the war, was in the form of loans that had to be, and were, repaid.  So it was not exactly fulsome, this support, nothing to celebrate or write home about.  Do the king and queen of England deserve credit for garnering these crumbs, or were Churchill’s speeches in Washington, in particular the one where he is supposed to have compared Britain’s predicament to that of black people in the Deep South, the key?  Most historians would credit the latter as the crucial factor.

How did Churchill happen to read Claude McKay anyway, that great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, assuming that he did?  To my mind, this is a much more interesting historical question than any raised in the film.  The Churchill Centre discounts the claim that he quoted McKay, but you wouldn’t put it past the old warrior – and you’d like to think he did.  David Freeman explores the question in this article.

Anyway, what is left of Hyde Park on Hudson, once you place the dodgy history to one side?  A president who fools around.  Well, it’s hardly front page news now, is it?

It’s an OK film and at times amusing, but nothing special.