The 1974 award-winning seven-part television series telling the story of American socialite Jennie, mother of Winston. Here was one who positively sparkled, captivating all - except for the Duchess of Marlborough, whose Randolph she agreed to marry after only three days' acquaintance. Jennie was convinced he would become Prime Minister, but his political career fell apart because of arrogance and syphilis. From now on her hopes would centre on her son....
An indefatigable campaigner with many interests, Jennie seemed to cram about three lives into one - amongst other things organizing a hospital ship to help in the Boer War, dispensing refreshments to First World War troops as they set off to fight. Oh, and there were two more husbands of about Winston's age.
Such a role requires a fine actress. Lee Remick is brilliant - effervescent and a delight all the way through. Ronald Pickup impresses once his character grows older (not that he was to live very long). The great surprise is Warren Clarke as Winston, a part far removed from his later more earthy portrayals. Not exactly convincing as Winston at sixteen, he thereafter forever gains in stature, the performance one of the series' highlights. Other pleasures include Rachel Kempson as the disapproving Duchess, Thorley Walters as the Prince of Wales, Patrick Troughton as Disraeli (voice very Fagin-like), Sian Phillips as the outrageous Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
Visually the series has much going for it, some scenes filmed in Blenheim Palace itself. The music soundtrack is occasionally ragged, showing signs of age. Although perhaps not in the premier league of television costume dramas, this is well worth watching for its dazzling central performance. Appropriately in view of the subject, a veritable tour de force.