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Easton Taylor
Easton Taylor

The King's Speech

The King's Speech is a 2010 historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays the future King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the throne, the new king relies on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast upon Britain's declaration of war on Germany in 1939.

The King's Speech

At the official closing of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, addresses the crowd with a strong stammer. His search for treatment has been discouraging, but his wife, Elizabeth, persuades him to see the Australian-born Lionel Logue, a non-medically trained Harley Street speech defects therapist. "Bertie", as he is called by his family, believes the first session is not going well, but Lionel, who insists that all his patients address him as such, has his potential client recite Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy while hearing classical music played on a pair of headphones. Bertie is frustrated at the experiment but Lionel gives him the acetate recording that he has made of the reading as a souvenir.After Bertie's father, King George V, broadcasts his 1934 Royal Christmas Message, he explains to Bertie that the wireless will play a significant part in the role of the royal family, allowing them to enter the homes of the people, and that Bertie's brother's neglect of his responsibilities make training in it necessary. The attempt at reading the message himself is a failure, but that night Bertie plays the recording Lionel gave him and is astonished at the lack of stutter there. He therefore returns for daily treatments to overcome the physical and psychological roots of his speaking difficulty.

At an unscheduled session, Bertie expresses his frustration that, while his speech has improved when speaking to most people, he still stammers when talking to David, at the same time revealing the extent of Edward VIII's folly with Simpson. When Lionel insists that Bertie himself could make a good king, Bertie accuses Lionel of speaking treason and quits Lionel in anger. Bertie must now face the Accession Council without any assistance.

Bertie and Lionel's relationship is questioned by the King's advisors during the preparations for his coronation in Westminster Abbey. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, brings to light that George never asked for advice from his advisors about his treatment and that Lionel has never had formal training. Lionel explains to an outraged Bertie that at the time he started with speech defects there were no formal qualifications and that the only known help that was available for returning Great War shell-shocked Australian soldiers was from personal experience. Bertie remains unconvinced until provoked to protest at Lionel's disrespect for King Edward's Chair and the Stone of Scone. Only at this pivotal moment, after realising he has just expressed himself without impairment, is Bertie able to rehearse with Lionel and complete the ceremony.

As the new king, Bertie is in a crisis when he must broadcast to Britain and the Empire following the declaration of war on Nazi Germany in 1939. Lionel is summoned to Buckingham Palace to prepare the king for his speech. Knowing the challenge that lies before him, Lang, Winston Churchill, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain are present to offer support. The King and Logue are then left in the broadcasting room. He delivers his speech with Logue conducting him, but by the end he is speaking freely. Preparing to leave the room for the congratulations of those present, Logue mentions to the King that he still has difficulty enunciating w and the King jokes back, "I had to throw in a few so they'd know it was me."

As the Royal Family step onto the palace balcony and are applauded by the crowd, a title card explains that Logue, who received the Royal Victorian Order for service to the Crown, was always present at King George VI's speeches during the war and that they remained friends until the King's death from lung cancer in 1952.

As a child, David Seidler developed a stammer, which he believes was caused by the emotional trauma of World War II and the murder of his grandparents during the Holocaust. King George VI's success in overcoming his stammer inspired the young Seidler, "Here was a stutterer who was a king and had to give radio speeches where everyone was listening to every syllable he uttered, and yet did so with passion and intensity." When Seidler became an adult, he resolved to write about King George VI. During the late 1970s and 1980s he voraciously researched the King, but found a dearth of information on Logue. Eventually Seidler contacted Valentine Logue, who agreed to discuss his father and make his notebooks available if the Queen Mother gave her permission. She asked him not to do so in her lifetime, and Seidler halted the project.[9]

Instead of trying to contact his agent, Lane asked an Australian staff member to hand-deliver the script to Geoffrey Rush's house, not far away from hers in Melbourne. Unwin reports that he received a four-page e-mail from Rush's manager admonishing them for the breach of etiquette, but ending with an invitation to discuss the project further. Iain Canning from See-Saw Films became involved and, in Gareth Unwin's words: "We worked with ex-chair of BAFTA Richard Price, and started turning this story about two grumpy men sitting in a room into something bigger."[12] Hooper liked the story, but thought that the original ending needed to be changed to reflect events more closely: "Originally, it had a Hollywood ending ... If you hear the real speech, he's clearly coping with his stammer. But it's not a perfect performance. He's managing it."[11]

The opening scene, set at the closing ceremony of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, was filmed on location at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, and Odsal Stadium, home of Bradford RLFC. Elland Road was used for the speech elements of the prince stammering his way through his first public address, and Odsal Stadium was selected because of the resemblance of its curved ends to Wembley Stadium in 1925.[24] The crew had access to the stadium only at 10 pm, after a football game. They filled the terraces with inflatable dummies and over 250 extras dressed in period costumes. Live actors were interspersed to give the impression of a crowd. Additional people, as well as more ranks of soldiers on the pitch, were added in post-production with visual effects.[18][25]

The film's original music is composed by Alexandre Desplat, which consisted of a sparse arrangement of strings and piano. The London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Terry Davies, limited orchestral score by only adding oboe and harp in one cut, to convey the character of the king,[30] while also using single note to represent the stickiness of the King's speech.[31] Old microphones extracted from the EMI archives, specially made for the royal family, had been used to record the score, to create a dated sound.[31]

The use of the 2nd movement (Allegretto) of Beethoven's 7th Symphony, played during the broadcast of the 1939 radio speech from the film's climax, was played as a temp track added by editor Tariq Anwar. Desplat did not want to change the track and defended Anwar's suggestion, as the theme has a universal quality. Hooper further remarked that the stature of the piece helps elevate the status of the speech to a public event.[32] The score album also featured Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Marriage of Figaro overture.[32] The score was nominated for several awards, including Best Original Score at the Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTAs, winning the latter award. The score also won a Grammy at the 54th Grammy Awards.

Hooper employed a number of cinematic techniques to evoke the King's feelings of constriction. He and cinematographer Danny Cohen used wider than normal lenses to photograph the film, typically 14mm, 18mm, 21mm, 25mm and 27mm, where the subtle distortion of the picture helps to convey the King's discomfort.[33][34] For instance, the subjective point of view shot during the Empire exhibition speech used a close up of the microphone with a wider lens, similar to the filming technique used for one of the Duke's early consultations with a physician.[16] In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote that the feeling of entrapment inside the King's head was rendered overly literal with what she believed to be a fisheye lens, though in these scenes the wider lenses were used.[33][35] Hooper also discussed using the 18mm lens, one he likes "because it puts human beings in their context".[16]

The filmmakers not only tightened the chronology of the events to just a few years but even shifted the timeline of treatment. The Duke of York actually began working with Logue in October 1926, ten years before the abdication crisis, and the improvement in his speech was apparent in months rather than years as suggested by the film.[39] When he was dispatched to Australia to open their new Parliament House in Canberra in 1927, the Duke gave numerous speeches during the journey and performed well despite Logue not accompanying him on the trip.[40] He wrote to Logue from the Caribbean, "You remember my fear of 'The King'. I give it every evening at dinner on board. This does not worry me any more."[40] Of his speech opening Parliament it was observed that he spoke "resonantly and without stuttering".[41]

Robert Logue, a grandson of Lionel, doubted the film's depiction of the speech therapist, stating "I don't think he ever swore in front of the King and he certainly never called him 'Bertie'".[42] Andrew Roberts, an English historian, states that the severity of the King's stammer was exaggerated and the characters of Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson, and George V made more antagonistic than they really were, to increase the dramatic effect.[43] 041b061a72


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