Sunday Viewing: The King’s Speech, 2010

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Screenwriter Davis Seidler long had a fascination with King George VI. As a child, Seidler had also worked to overcome a stammer and was inspired by the story of the reluctant King whose speech impediment caused him considerable distress. While researching the life of King George VI, Seidler discovered that His Majesty’s stammer was greatly improved after working with a speech therapist, Lionel Logue.

The Queen Mother, wife of the late King George VI, would not give her permission for the details of her husband’s association with Logue to be revealed until after her death. Upon her death in 2002, Seidler wanted to begin on the project again, but health problems prevented him from doing so. Finally, in 2009, he began the screenplay that would become The King’s Speech. Initially, he used creative license to recreate the interactions between Logue and King George VI. However, nine weeks before shooting, Logue’s diaries were found and actual exchanges were introduced into the script.

Directed by Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech stars Colin Firth as King George VI (he received an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal), Helena Bonham Carter as the future Queen Mother, Geoffrey Rush as Logue, Claire Bloom as Mary of Teck (the mother of George VI and Edward VIII) along with Sir Derek Jacobi and Guy Pearce. Filmed in and around London in a variety of locations meant to double for Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, the film was lauded for its visual historical accuracy.

The picture concerns not only King George VI’s struggle with his speech impediment, but also his conflicting feelings about the abdication of his brother, the brief King Edward VIII. Firth and Bonham Carter portray the Duke and Duchess of York as an intimate couple who are strong in their commitment to one another and to their country and who are caring parents of their two children, Princess Elizabeth (the present Queen) and Princess Margaret Rose.

Though the picture takes some dramatic license with facts, it is mostly quite accurate. Any inaccuracies can be overlooked in favor of the brilliant performances and stunning visuals. This is one film that deserved the attention which was lavished upon it and is a must-see for any anglophile, history buff or lover of excellent cinema.


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