Originally broadcast in 1973 as 26 one-hour programmes, The World at War sets out to tell the story of the Second World War through the testimony of key participants. The result is a unique and unrepeatable event, since many of the eyewitnesses captured on film did not have long left to live. Each hour-long programme is carefully structured to focus on a key theme or campaign, from the rise of Nazi Germany to Hitler's downfall and the onset of the Cold War. There are no academic "talking heads" here to spell out an official version of history; the narration, delivered with wonderful gravitas by Sir Laurence Olivier, is kept to a minimum. The show's great coup was to allow the participants to speak for themselves. Painstaking research in the archives of the Imperial War Museum also unearthed a vast quantity of newsreel footage, including on occasion the cameraman's original raw rushes which present an unvarnished and never-before-seen picture of important events. Carl Davis' impressive score underlines the grand scale of the enterprise.
The World at War is a 26-episode British television documentary series chronicling the events of the Second World War. At the time of its completion in 1973 it was the most expensive series ever made, costing Â£900,000. It was produced by Jeremy Isaacs, narrated by Laurence Olivier and includes a score composed by Carl Davis. A book, The World at War, was written by Mark Arnold-Forster, and released in 1973, to accompany the TV series.
Since production was completed, The World at War has attracted acclaim and is now regarded as a landmark in British television history. Following the time of its completion, and as the Second World War remained fresh in many people's minds, the producer Jeremy Isaacs was considered ahead of his time in resurrecting studies of military history. The series focused on, among other things, portrayal of the devastating human experiences of the conflict; how life and death throughout the war years affected soldiers, sailors and airmen, civilians, the tragic victims of tyranny and concentration camp inmates.