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| Classic Lines  | Episode List | Episode Guide | Introduction | Notes | Pictures


Role Person
Czar Nicholas II/Charles Stockwell/Stephen Graham (Pt1&8) Malcolm McDowell
Narrator Salome Jens
Woodrow Wilson Martin Landau
Adolf Hitler/John Lucy Liam Neeson
Siegfried Sassoon Jeremy Irons
Vera Brittain Helena Bonham Carter
Soldier Gary Oldman 
Caroline Webb Jane Leeves
Robert Graves/Harold Owen Michael York
Kaiser Wilhelm II Jürgen Prochnow
David Lloyd George/General Sir Ian Hamilton/David Lloyd George/Sir Arthur Conan Ian Richardson
Jean Jaures/ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Rene Auberjonois
Cyril Lawrence Paul Mercurio
  David Hayter
  Natasha Richarson
  Yaphet Kotto
  Imogen Stubbs
Wilfred Owen Ralph Fiennes
Margaret Randa Helen Mirren
  Sean Cowley
  David Keith
  Udo Kier
  Mary Mouradian
  Jeroen Krabbé
  Allan Hendrick
Franz Blumenfeldt Kai Wulff
  Tim Pigott-Smith
  Rupert Graves
  Paul Paunting
  Gerald Ismael
   Philippe Smolikowski
  Lianne Schirmer
  Fredrich Solms
  Marion Ross
  Leslie Caron
Yakov Yurovski Elya Baskin
  Timothy Bottoms
  Nastassja Kinski
  Martin Sheen
  Natalya Fainkina
  Jean Stapleton

Classic Lines

Malcolm opens Part 8 as Stephen Graham. In 1920, British journalist Stephen Graham visited the battlefields of the great war ...and sensed around him a tragic past and even more disastrous  future. "It is curious to think of the many that those who would lay themselves in Earth's Bed in full faith their that their sacrifice would not be in vane. To think of the proud Germans who believed in their Kaiser and Fatherland. To think of the loyal Russian soldiers who perished in the first enthusiasm of the war with a bright starry faith in Russia, her church and her czar. To think of the fine youth of England and Scotland of France of Serbia who died of a national victory, but of a victory of humanity. Then to think of sordid clash of selfishness at Versailles. And of the untamed menagerie of Europe let loose. It is night again in human history, deep night . When we dream things of evil and looks about sights of horror which we have no power to dispel. In the gathering gloom I see a whole succession of phantoms stalking..."

Introduction to the Great War

"The Great War was without precedent ... never had so many nations taken up arms at a single time. Never had the battlefield been so vast… never had the fighting been so gruesome..."  The World War of 1914-18 - The Great War, as contemporaries called it -- was the first man-made catastrophe of the 20th century. Historians can easily identify the literal "smoking gun" that set the War in motion: a revolver used by a Serbian nationalist to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand (heir apparent to the Austro-Hungarian throne) in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. But scholars are still debating the underlying causes. Was it the desire for greater empire, wealth and territory? A massive arms race? The series of treaties which ensured that once one power went to war, all of Europe would quickly follow? Was it social turmoil and changing artistic sensibilities brought about by the Industrial Revolution? Or was it simply a miscalculation by rulers and generals in power? The answer provided in "The Great War and The Shaping of the 20th Century" is that all of these volatile elements combined to set off a gigantic explosion we now know as World War I. "World War I marked the first use of chemical weapons, the first mass bombardment of civilians from the sky, and the century's first genocide..." True to the military alliances, Europe's powers quickly drew up sides after the assassination. The allies -- chiefly Russia, France and Britain -- were pitted against the Central Powers -- primarily Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Eventually, the War spread beyond Europe as the warring continent turned to its colonies and friends for help. This included the United States, which joined the War in 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to "make the world safe for democracy." Most of the leaders in 1914 had no real idea of the war machine they were putting into motion. Many believed the War would be over by Christmas 1914. But by the end of the first year, a new kind of war emerged on the battlefield that had never been seen before -- or repeated since: total war-producing stalemate, the result of a war that went on for 1,500 days. Before the official Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918, nine million people had died on the battlefield and the world was forever changed. The eight-part PBS series, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, a co-production of KCET/Los Angeles and the BBC, in association with England's London-based Imperial War Museum, premiered on PBS November 10, 1996 to great critical acclaim. The series won two Emmy awards, the Alfred du Pont Journalism Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, the Producers Guild of American Vision Award, the International Documentary Association: Best Limited Series Award, and a Director's Guild Nomination. It was the first TV production ever to go beyond the military and political history of World War I to reveal its ongoing, social, cultural and personal impact. The series featured a large cast of noted actors, including Leslie Caron, Ralph Fiennes, Louis Gossett Jr., Jeremy Irons, Yaphet Kotto, Martin Landau, Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, Martin Sheen, Jean Stapleton, Michael York, with Salome Jens as narrator. A companion book, The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, was written by Blaine Baggett and Jay Winter, published by Penguin Studio Books. The television series was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Public Broadcasting Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation.

Episode List

1. Explosion
2. Stalemate
3. Total War
4. Slaughter
5. Mutiny
6. Collapse
7. Hatred and Hunger
8. War Without End

Episode Guide

Episode 1: Explosion
No one event or person caused the Great War. There were many factors that contributed to mobilization of the belligerents. With a rapidly expanding European economy, people demanded social and governmental changes: British suffragettes fought to win British women the right to vote; socialists called for reforms, uniting laborers to demand that the wealth and power of a nation be used to benefit the majority. While in Russian, Tsar Nicholas II held fast to an autocratic old-world view. On June 28, 1914, Serbian fanatic, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Archduke Franz-Ferdinand of Austria, causing Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany to support Austria in punishing the Serbs, setting the stage for Russia - backing Serbia - and her allies France and Britain to go to war. In the weeks after the assassination, none of the critical leaders had the power or will to slow down the decisions, actions, reactions and attitude shifts of key government and military leaders. By August, millions of Europeans -- especially the military and diplomatic leaders of Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia -- saw war as the way to save their honor, as well as to solve the internal and international problems that needed to be resolved.

Episode 2: Stalemate
From the very beginning, the war grew rapidly out of control. New styles of warfare, like the use of gas and heavy artillery, produced new kinds of horror and unprecedented levels of suffering and death. As a Germans army crossed into Belgium, heading for Paris, the Russian Army - moving faster than the German generals had anticipated -- was already pushing into East Prussia. The German forces on the Eastern Front, however, quickly defeated the Tsar's army at the Battle of Tannenberg. In the west, as the German army invaded Belgium, rumors and stories quickly spread of the atrocities the German soldiers inflicted upon Belgium civilians. The French, believing the German thrust into Belgium to be a fake, launched their own offensive on the eastern border between France and Germany the operations were disastrous, with the French army losing 27,000 soldiers in a single day. When the German invasion of France failed to take Paris or destroy French and British resistance on the river Marne, stalemate quickly followed, and a line of trenches soon stretched along the war's Western Front from the Swiss Alps to the English Channel. Christmas Eve of 1914 saw an extraordinary truce between the men fighting in the trenches that had been called "the last twitch of the 19th century."

Episode 3: Total War
By 1915, the conflict had spread across boundaries between continents and peoples, becoming a global war--a fact grimly confirmed by the unlikely battle between Turks and Australians on the Turkish cliffs of Gallipoli. The Allied force eventually abandoned the assault with 46,000 dead. This total war effected the lives of many different people: in some communities unprecedented casualty rates especially among young officers stripped young women of all their male contemporaries; West African soldiers were shipped in from the colonies to fight in the trenches; brave Englishwomen traded other jobs for more dangerous jobs in weapons factories. Everyone was affected. The first genocide of the 20th century -- the ultimate form of total war against civilians -- was also part of this conflict. Turkish ethnic cleansing practices killed more than a million Armenians. A practice later noted by Hitler when he remarked to his high command: "Who remembers the Armenia massacres today?"

Episode 4: Slaughter
In 1916, some of the most appalling battles in human history took place on the Western Front. The Battle of Verdun became for the French what Gettysburg is for Americans; Verdun symbolized for the French the strength and fortitude of their armed forces and the solidarity of the entire nation. The goal of the German commander was not territory, but to bleed his enemy to death. The battle lasted nine months and in the end the front lines were nearly the same, while over 300,000 French and Germans were killed and over 750,000 were wounded. The British offered the same unspeakable sacrifice at the river Somme, where another million died, and at Ypres [Passchendaele], in Belgium, a graveyard for half a million more. As the slaughter continued with no significant gains in territory by either side, the men in the trenches kept their sanity by using music, theater and trench newspapers to replicate the world they left behind.

Episode 5: Mutiny
After three years of war, men, armies and nations were nearing a breaking point. For individual soldiers, it emerged as "shell shock," a personal withdrawal from an intolerable reality of trench warfare. For armies, it was outright rebellion; half the French army mutinied in 1917, refusing to undertake senseless attacks. Most of their demands were met, and only a small number of the mutineers were punished severely. Entire populations were becoming restless and resentful with the conflict. In Russia, both the army and civilian population refused to fight anymore for the Tsar, who abdicated on March 15, 1917. Alexander Kerensky led the fragile democracy that emerged to govern Russia, but made the catastrophic mistake of continuing the war. Recognizing the weakness for the army and the refusal of the men to fight, he authorized women to be trained and sent to the front. As Kerensky's offensive failed and army desertions increased, his popularity decreased. Mobilizing anti-war sentiment, Lenin and his Bolsheviks quickly took over, and signed an armistice with Germany.

Episode 6: Collapse

The odds looked bad for the Allies in 1918. With Russia knocked out of the war by revolution and the French army rocked by mutiny, Germany stopped the Allies' offensive on the Western Front. But all of Europe was running out of men; both sides were drafting old men and young boys. The Kaiser no longer had effective power, with Generals Hindenburg and Ludendorff taking over. In 1917, German U-boat attacks and German approaches to Mexico had provoked President Woodrow Wilson [link to the Wilson material on the GW site] into a war he did not want to fight. Once in it, however, he urged the United States to "make the world safe for Democracy" and by 1918, five million American men were in uniform. In September of that year, the Doughboys went over the top and they were cut down like cornstalks. But the presence of American troops in France made a difference; the German army saw it could not win the war; thousands surrendered on the western front. In October, the revolt of the German Navy triggered the final collapse of the German war effort. The Kaiser abdicated and fled to Holland. The guns of the Great War finally fell silent on November 11, 1918. When the cease-fire came, people all over the world celebrated. But the war was not over for the German civilians. The Allies insisted on continuing the blockade through the winter months, resulting in mass starvation and death. In the days that followed the Armistice, peopled learned that it is often far easier to wage war than it is to build a lasting peace.

Episode 7: Hatred & Hunger
Though the armistice was in effect, the Allies continued to wage war against Germany via a naval blockade and to pressure Germany into acquiescence at Versailles. The United States briefly sent troops to Russia to overthrow the Bolsheviks, but this half-hearted and ineffective interference in Russian affairs would only lay the groundwork for the Cold War decades later. Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris in December 1918 to negotiate the peace agreements, and to secure a new-world order, but he soon lost his fight for a more lenient, humane settlement. Instead of open-door deliberations he had promised, the negotiations took place behind closed doors. Wilson got the League of Nations he desperately wanted, but paid the price of a harsh peace to get it. As the conference continued, many people in Europe became disillusioned with Wilson, thinking he had betrayed them. In effect, the conference became a sham; from the Balkans to the Middle East, the unresolved issues of the Great War were simply rearranged. The Treaty of Versailles was finally signed June 28, 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The peace treaty proved no real peace. Instead, the seeds were sown for an even more catastrophic war just one generation later.

Episode 8: War Without End
For the "lost generation" the war became a war without end, one that continued through missing limbs, mutilated faces and shaking bodies. The question that haunted civilians throughout Europe was why so many of their fathers, husbands, sons and brothers had to die? Writers and other artists tried to create an answer. Memorials were established for the fallen, and people visited the battlefields to retrace the footsteps of their loved ones. Millions also searched for hope and messages from the departed through Spiritualism. In the United States, President Wilson was determined to get the United States Senate to back the League of Nations. He embarked on a national campaign to gain the support of the American people for the League. His efforts were ultimately unsuccessful; in one way, Wilson was also a victim of the war. While in Germany, the sense of betrayal and dishonor prompted some Germans to seek revenge. Many Germans, especially members of the army, believed that Germany had not lost the war on the battlefield. This was a delusion, but a dangerous one. These people felt that Germany, the army and all those who had lost their lives in the war had been betrayed by traitors at home who had undermined the soldiers at the front. The man who rose up to lead them was Adolf Hitler.



Malcolm's Screen Credit for Part 1
Malcolm's Screen Credit for Part 8

2010 Alex D. Thrawn for www.MalcolmMcDowell.net