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The major ITV series for 1974 was Thames Television’s Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill.
Costing half a million pounds, it was made to tie in with the centenary of Winston’s birth and starred beautiful American Lee Remick in the title role of Churchill’s mother, corseted into more than a hundred 1870s gowns.
Ronald Pickup played her husband Lord Randolph Churchill, Barbara Perkins of Peyton Place fame was Aunt Leonie, and Christopher Cazenove came in as George Cornwallis-West, the man twenty years her junior with whom she had an affair.
The casting of Warren Clarke, star of the controversial film A Clockwork Orange (1971), as Winston Churchill from the age of 16 to 47 caused a few Tory faithful to worry that the series might be less than flattering to their hero.
They needn’t have worried. Writer Julian Mitchell had been allowed to study the Churchill family files on condition that Sir Winston’s widow, Lady Spencer Churchill, approved his scripts. She did.
Cameras went into the family homes at Blenheim Palace, Salisbury Hall (near St Albans, Hertfordshire) and the Isle of Wight, and the viewing public came to learn that Winnie’s mum was a daring pace-setter, a romantic and a flirt, that she was ambitious for both her husband and her son, and that she died after a fall wearing high heels quite unsuitable for an old lady.
Jennie, Lady Randolph Churchill
Lord Randolph Churchill