Saturday, 8 March 2014

37 Days

Over the past three days I have been watching 37 DAYS.

37 DAYS is a three-part BBC TV series that has been released in the run-up to the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. It is a dramatisation of the political events that lead to the start of the war, and features a number of outstanding performances. The cast includes:
  • Tim Pigott-Smith (Herbert Asquith, the Prime Minister)
  • Sinéad Cusack (Margot Asquith, the Prime Minster's wife)
  • Ian McDairmid (Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary)
  • Mark Lewis Jones (David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer)
  • Nicholas Asbury (Winston Churchill, the First Lord of the Admiralty)
  • Bill Paterson (Lord Morley, the Lord President of the Privy Council)
  • Kenneth Cranham (John Burns, the President of the Board of Trade)
  • Nicholas Farrell (Eyre Crowe, a Foreign Office official)
  • Patrick Fitzsymons (King George V, the King of England)
  • Rainer Sellien (Kaiser Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany)
  • Ludger Pistor (Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, the Imperial German Chancellor)
  • Bernhard Schütz (General Helmuth Moltke, the Chief of the Imperial German General Staff)
  • Holger Kunkel (General Erich von Falkenhayn, the Prussian Minister of War)
  • Gordon Fulton (General Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov, the Russian Minister of War)
  • Ian Beattie (Tsar Nicholas II, the Emperor of Russia)
  • Simon Coury (Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria)
  • Urs Remond (Karl Max, Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador to Britain)
  • George Lenz (Count von Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein, the Austrian Ambassador to Britain)
  • Niall Cusack (Count Alexander Benckendorf, the Russian Ambassador to Britain)
  • François-Eric Gendron (Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador to Britain)

The title (and content) of the episodes are:
  • 'One Month in Summer' (Broadcast on 6th March): This programme covers the period from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 until the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia on 23rd July 1914.
  • 'One Week in July' (Broadcast on 7th March): This programme covers the period from Serbia's reply to the Austrian ultimatum on 24th July 1914 until the Sir Edward Grey's offer of guaranteed French and British neutrality on 1st August 1914.
  • 'One Long Weekend' (Broadcast 8th March): This programme covers the period from the German ultimatum to Belgium on 2nd August 1914 until Britain's declaration of war on Germany on 4th August 1914.


  1. A good heads up! Although (not to be too shallow) I thought the make up and costume were a little bit ... well ... 'BBC' - just a vague nod to the era and no real effort to get the details right. I hate to sound like a whiner but I watched Fall of Eagles (also from the BBC, but during its 1970s heyday). The whole thing was very much more impressive and the details and drama sealed it for me.

    However, to be a bit more positive, it's good to see some historical drama on the TV nowadays.

  2. Colonel Scipio,

    I thought that the programme told the story quite well, even if there was an element of pantomime villain about the Kaiser and the German Generals!

    There were one or two odd things. For example I doubt that any self-respecting German officer would have gone anywhere without some form of headgear. Likewise Foreign Office clerks would have worn frock coats or jackets at all times when at work.

    Despite these quibbles I thought that it did a good job of explaining how Britain became embroiled in the Great War ... and how a European war might just have been avoided if the will to do so had existed within the major European governments.

    All the best,


  3. I'm glad this is worth a watch. I have all three parts on catch up to watch today.

  4. I caught the opening part by accident and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yes, there's a bit of moustache twirling villainy about the Germans, and the London scenes all seem to be shot in glorious sunshine while Berlin is a dour bluey-grey: mind you, I've never been...maybe it's really like tha. :)

    I'd thought the Germans had outrageous accents... the discovered they're German actors...oops!

    I do keep expecting Grey to start cackling "Good...I can feel your anger!!" and shoot lightning bolts from his fingers at the Austrian ambassador!

    I've still to see the final part (nobody tell me what happens in the end!) but it's been an unusual and fascinating series.

  5. Robert De Angelis,

    It is not great art ... but I think that it tells the story in a way that - to use the modern jargon - makes it 'accessible' to the non-historian.

    I hope that you enjoy watching it.

    All the best,


  6. Alastair,

    The moustaches were something to watch, weren't they! I suspect that just as I have heard GETTYSBURG described as being 'Men in Beards', 37 DAYS could well end up as 'Men in Moustaches'!

    You are not the first person to comment on the appalling foreign accents being used ... by foreigners! (One newspaper reviewer was most indignant about it ... and had obviously NOT looked at the cast list!)

    I thought that Ian McDairmid's portrayal of Sir Edward Grey was excellent, and gave the impression of a man who was trying to remain calm when all about him were not.

    I hope that you enjoy the last part as much as the first two.

    All the best,