The World at War
|Publication Date||November 2012|
|Publisher||British Film Institute|
|Series||BFI TV Classics|
Forty years after it was first broadcast on ITV, The World at War remains the most influential and renowned history programme ever produced by British television: an examination of the cataclysmic events of the Second World War, featuring archival footage, eyewitness accounts, a powerful narration read by Laurence Olivier, and haunting music by Carl Davis. The twenty-six part series took more than two years, a production team of fifty, and a cost of £800,000, to make (the equivalent to about £12,000,000 today). But the epic scale of its production was more than matched by its impact. Attracting audiences of up to 10,000,000 in 1973, as well as winning a plethora of awards, it has ever since been regularly screened around the world, with sales of VHS and DVD copies making it one of the highest selling factual series.
In this latest BFI TV Classics book, TV producer and writer Taylor Downing takes a critical look at The World at War, exploring, among other things: the style of the series; the ethos of the series to tell the story of ordinary people caught up in the war rather than a story of military campaigns told by generals and admirals; the many claims made at the time about the accurate use of black and white and colour archive film in the series; the contested claims that the series is "definitive"; and its legacy for Television History. Downing's fascinating study includes interviews with the series producer, Jeremy Isaacs, and the other programme makers and researchers, as well as original research gathered from the archives of Thames Television, the Independent Broadcasting Authority, the papers of Jeremy Isaacs, the production records at the Imperial War Museum, and the press response to the series at the time of first transmission and since. Downing's insightful study is fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in the monumental television production.