The King’s Speech

Larry and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early with dinner and a movie Sunday night. Actually it was a movie then dinner. We saw The King’s Speech. It deserves every one of the twelve Academy Awards. If Colin Firth doesn’t win best actor, I’ll be questioning the sanity and taste of the Academy for all time. He is utterly convincing as the royal younger brother with the paralyzing stammer who everyone thought was incompetent and in no way prepared to be king of England. History tells the story: When his older brother Edward VIII abdicates to marry the twice-divorced Nazi-loving Wallis Simpson, “Bertie” must give up his name as well as his obscurity and ascend the throne just as the wireless is forcing leaders all over the world to speak to the world. I watched him struggle and strain to produce the words and found my throat hurting, my jaw clenched. I’m not sure but I may have cracked another filling.

I was prepared for a tour de force but unprepared for a great many pieces of brilliance, large and small.  The first thing I noticed was that even royalty was allowed to wander about by themselves in pre-WWII England. When the Duchess of York (Helena Boham Carter) showed up at the speech therapist’s office/home, no one even escorted her to the door. “Bertie” (George VI to be) and therapist Lionel Logue, played by the quixotic Geoffrey Rush, have a screaming row all by themselves as they tear about a very public park. Not a soul pays a bit of attention to them. When Lionel appears at Buckingham Palace in the middle of the first German air raid, he hands the guard a single piece of paper and says, “And this is my son.” No one checks further.

Equally startling, and obviously true, were the pea-soup fogs that set the mood in several scenes. These beasts plagued London until well after the war when the deaths of 4,000 finally brought on the first Clean Air Act. It’s a wonder more people didn’t die from collisions with cars and other moving objects. In this case, the fogs establish exactly the right amount of gloom as George V dies, Edward VIII abdicates, and Hitler begins his goose-step across Europe.

Perhaps the most revelatory and unexpected aspect of the movie was the humor. Bertie mocks himself and the gentry. Lionel mocks everyone. His exchanges with the archbishop of Canterbury as simply delicious. And the reaction of Lionel’s children to their father’s client as he screams obscenities is the best. It’s a shame that all those f-bombs, etc. brought on an “R” rating. Children should see this movie for the historical content, for a view of how straitened the lives of the royals were, and for a look at the present queen as a pretty little girl who adored her handsome father.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go enjoy this movie.

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