The King’s Speech
starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill and Michael Gambon as King George V
screenplay by David Seidler
directed by Tom Hooper
This is the true story of how Britain’s Duke of York overcame a debilitating stutter with the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. I though it was a perfect opportunity and vehicle for the screenwriter to slip a modicum of comedy into the movie by taking the mickey out of Australians, but that
King George VI, father of the current Queen Elizabeth II, was forced to the throne of Great Britainby his older brother’s abdication in pursuit of the American divorcee, Wallace Simpson, in 1936. Then, plunged into war by Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Polish Corridorin September 1939, the new king had to find the words to lead a nation at a desperate time. Winston Churchill was a famed orator whose words could rally people’s spirit. But in a monarchy people also looked above the Prime Minister to the King. George VI’s halting speaking style is compared to Adolf Hitler’s charismatic speech theater.
Princess Elizabeth: “What’s he saying, Papa?”
King George: “I don’t know. But he’s saying it awfully well, isn’t he?”
Colin Firth won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of King George VI, and no wonder. It’s marvelous.
As a former (and still occasional) stammerer myself I had a special interest in the story. But more than that I was interested in the portrayal of court life, the intimacies of the royals as real people, the manners and protocols of court, and how those manners and protocols suddenly shift with a royal person’s change in status. It’s fascinating stuff. One day George VI is the Duke of York, and a loving family man with two daughters who call him “Papa.” The next day he’s king and suddenly his daughters begin curtsying to him and calling him “Your Majesty.”
Although I was unaware that the king had a speech impediment, I have been familiar with the history leading up to the start of the Second World War since junior high school. So it was also interesting to see how the history and the personalities - Prime Ministers Baldwin and Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Wallace Simpson, etc. - were portrayed.
Why does a person stutter? Bullying by schoolmates or siblings? Not enough love form Mommy or Daddy? Abuse? Post traumatic stress disorder?