Television and The Great War

80 years after The Great War's outbreak Hugh Purcell looks at how film moulded its popular image and fused fiction with reality.

The BBC has been asked many times to repeat its famous series The Great War; most recently to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War this August. It was, as we say with the usual tele-hype, a 'groundbreaking series', one of the first to make extensive use of archive film. The scripts by Correlli Barnett and John Terraine were powerful; their narration by the likes of Sir Michael Redgrave, Sir Ralph Richardson and Emlyn Williams eloquent, the memories of surprisingly young- looking ex-combatants (the films were made for the fiftieth anniversary in 1964) unforgettable. Yet now the series must be allowed to rest in peace.

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