Thursday, 30 October 2008
Using Robert Menzies’ World War II diaries and remarkable 16mm film, this dramatised documentary lifts the lid on a bitter behind-the-scenes battle between Winston Churchill and the Australian Prime Minister as the fate of Australia hung in the balance.
It follows Menzies to London during the dark months of 1941 as he takes on the British Prime Minister over the strategic direction of the war, telling the story of Menzies’ political epiphany from his own point of view. The film introduces the controversial theory that Menzies became so alarmed by flaws in Churchill’s leadership that he considered taking over himself. With Australia under threat of a Japanese attack, Menzies struggled to convince the autocratic British leader to send reinforcements to Singapore. The unequal struggle eventually cost Menzies his prime ministership, but out of it he developed a new vision for Australia and built a constituency of middle-class voters who swept him back to power to become Australia’s longest serving prime minister. Cast: Matthew King (Robert Menzies), Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell (Winston Churchill), Dennis Coard (Fred Shedden, Head of the Australian Defence department), Margot Knight (Pattie Menzies, Robert Menzies’ wife), Chris Waters (Lord Beaverbrook, British Minister for Air Supply), Ian McTear (Archibald Sinclair, British Minister for Air), Richard Askin (Colin Bednall, Australian journalist). Interviewees: Professor Joan Beaumont (Deakin University), Professor Judith Brett (La Trobe University), Professor David Day (University of Aberdeen) and Heather Henderson (Robert Menzies’ daughter).