The King's Speech (2010)

 

 

 

Director:     Tom Hooper. 

Starring:     Colin Firth (King George VI), Helena Bonham Carter (Queen Elizabeth), Derek Jacobi (Archbishop Cosmo Lang), Robert Portal (Equerry), Richard Dixon (Private Secretary), Adrian Scarborough (BBC Radio Announcer), Roger Hammond (Dr. Blandine Bentham), Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue), Calum Gittins (Laurie Logue), Jennifer Ehle (Myrtle Logue), Dominic Applewhite (Valentine Logue), Ben Wimsett (Anthony Logue), Freya Wilson (Princess Elizabeth), Ramona Marquez (Princess Margaret), Michael Gambon (King George V), Guy Pearce (King Edward VIII, David), Claire Bloom (Queen Mary), Eve Best (Wallis Simpson), Timothy Spall (Winston Churchill), Anthony Andrews (Stanley Baldwin), Roger Parrott (Neville Chamberlain).

story of King George VI and his speech therapist

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

1925.  Empire Exhibition.  The Duke of York (son of King George V and brother to the future King Edward VIII) tries to give a speech, but it's a disaster.  He stammers and has long gaps of silence in the speech. 

Then when the Duke of York makes his first public broadcast, the public is shocked at his poor performance. 

1934.  A speech doctor tells the future king that it's good to smoke.   Supposedly, it calms you down.  He has Bertie put large marbles in his mouth and then the doctor tells him to read something.  He keeps yelling at the Duke of York to "'enunciate!"  Bertie has enough trouble trying to avoid swallowing one or more of the marbles, so he finally spits the marbles out into his hand and then throws them around the room. 

Bertie wants to give up with doctors, but his wife Elizabeth goes to see a doctor who promises he can cure stammering.  Elizabeth speaks with Lionel Logue about her husband, but Logue keeps insisting that he must be able to speak to the afflicted husband.  The doctor only knows Elizabeth as Mrs. Johnson.  He is not happy about his prospective clients, so Elizabeth asks Logue what if her husband were the Duke of York?  Would that make a difference?  Logue is stunned at the thought of having the Duke of York as his client.  So, yes, it does make a difference.

After work Lionel goes home to his simple flat in a a simple-looking apartment building.  He has a wife and two sons. 

Bertie and his wife Elizabeth have two girls:  the elder Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and the younger Margaret.  The two girls ask their father to tell them a story.  So, he slowly and haltingly tells them a story about a penguin who visited England.  Between the parents, there is talk about David (the future King Edward VIII) and his love affair with Mrs. Wallace Simpson, a two time divorced woman who has a current lover and David as another. 

Lionel Logue tries to get a part in a Shakespeare play, but he doesn't get it. 

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson show up at the office of Logue.  Almost immediately the meeting goes badly.  Logue wants just to be called Lionel and he wants to call Mr. Johnson Bertie.  Bertie doesn't like this at all.  He wants to call Logue Dr. Logue and he doesn't want Dr. Logue to call him Bertie, a named used only by his family.  Logue insists that they must talk as equals and it will be Lionel and Bertie.  Bertie tells Logue that he has a problem of stammering (and he doesn't have much faith in speech doctors).  So Logue tells Bertie that he bet him a shilling that he can make a recording of Bertie's voice that will sound perfectly natural.  They agree to bet a shilling.  Since Bertie doesn't carry money with him, Logue has to lend him the shilling to bet. 

Logue puts head phones on Bertie and blasts music through them so that Bertie will not be able to hear his own voice.  At about the same time he turns on the recording machine for Bertie's voice.  Bertie reads a passage and Logue records it.  He wants to play the recording back to Bertie, but Bertie has lost patience with all this nonsense.  He is leaving.  Before he goes, Logue grabs the voice recording, sticks it in a paper wrapper and gives it to Bertie as a free recording for him to listen to.  Bertie takes it and leaves. 

King George V records his Christmas radio broadcast for the BBC.  He does a good job and now wants Bertie to record a message.  As Bertie reluctantly gets ready, his father complains to him about David and this Mrs. Simpson.  He really doesn't want David to be the king.  He feels he won't be able to handle the problems they are having with Germany and this Hitler fellow.  He would much rather have Bertie as the king to follow him.  And he really resents David having lied to him about Mrs. Simpson.  Bertie tries to record the message, but he can't really do it.  And his dad is on his back about it.  Eventually, Bertie just gives up trying to record a message.

After the failure with the Christmas broadcast, Bertie and his wife show back up at the office of Logue.   

1936.  Sandringham.  David lands his plane at his Sandringham estate.  Bertie is there to greet him.  Their father is not doing well and may die.  David and Bertie go home to have dinner with the extended family.  David spends most of his time talking  with Mrs. Simpson on the phone.  Bertie has to come get him.  He tells David that mother says that David is late for dinner.  They both go into the dining room.  Mother says that if father was in good health, he wouldn't tolerate this type of rude behavior. 

King George V dies.  David becomes king as King Edward VIII.  He doesn't want to be king and cries on his mother's shoulder about it.  He runs away.  Bertie goes after David and asks him:  "What on earth was that?"  David says something about his now being trapped.

Bertie tells Logue that his father said that Bertie has more guts than the rest of his brothers put together.  Of course, his father never told this directly to Bertie.  Logue asks about Bertie's brother Johnny.  Bertie tells him that his brother had epilepsy and died at age 13.  He then observes that Logue is the first commoner he has ever really talked to. They get into a dispute and Bertie leaves in a huff. 

At home Logue looks discouraged and his wife asks him if he has a problem patient?  Logue says that one of his patients is scared and keeps on fighting him. Mrs. Logue tells her husband that perhaps he came on too strong with his patient and he should apologize.  Logue agrees and tries to get in to see the Duke of York, but Bertie refuses to see him. 

Churchill tells Bertie that war with Germany is definitely coming.  He has doubts about David's abilities to handle Herr Hitler.  Churchill then suggests that Albert isn't a suitable name for Bertie, so that when he becomes king he should be known as George VI. 

Balmoral Castle, Scotland.  Bertie and Elizabeth go to see David.  Mrs. Simpson is there, but Elizabeth just gives her the cold shoulder.  Churchill is there.  Bertie tells David that he has been trying to see him.  Bertie says the situation with Mrs. Simpson must end, but David tells Bertie that he intends to marry Mrs. Simpson.  Then David starts making fun of his brother.  He says that Bertie is trying to push him off the throne.  And he starts mocking Bertie by imitating his stammer.  Bertie is so stunned that he can't get out a good response to David. 

Lionel asks Bertie why does he get so tongue-tied around his brother and father?  He pushes the idea that Bertie doesn't have to be afraid of those people he feared when he was five years old.  Bertie doesn't like this and insults both Lionel and Australia.  Lionel is so shock that he parts company with Bertie. 

At 10 Downing Street the prime minister is worried about David being king.  He says that everyday Mrs. Simpson receives flowers from the German envoy Von Ribbentrap and wonders how is such a pro-German king going to possibly fight against Hitler? 

Bertie talks with David again about not continuing his affair with Mrs. Simpson, but David insists:  "I must marry her!" 

Edward VIII resigns his position as King of the United Kingdom. 

Accession Council.  The prospective George VI talks with the council members.  It does not go well at all for George. Elizabeth asks how it went and Bertie starts crying about how badly the prepared speech went. 

Bertie and Elizabeth are back with Logue.  This time Bertie has a shilling with him and gives it to Logue.   

Rehearsals are being held for the coronation.  Bertie tells the archbishop that Lionel will sit in the king's box with the royal family.  The archbishop doesn't know what to make of a commoner being put in the royal box. 

Bertie tells Lionel that he has been informed that Lionel is not a doctor at all.  He has no credentials.  Lionel says that he worked with men with all kinds of speech impediments.  He gave them faith in their own voices.  But Bertie objects that Lionel has committed fraud.  He fears that like Mad King George III, he himself will be called mad King George the Stammerer.

Neville Chamberlain will soon become the Prime Minister of Britain.  

September 3, 1939.  The king has to make a speech about declaring war on Germany.  He is extremely nervous and calls for Logue.  Logue comes quickly.  To make sure that the king gets through his speech, he stands alone across from the microphone in front of Bertie and leads the king in his speech as if Logue is a conductor of an orchestra. Those nearest the king are proud of him for making such a fine speech. 

Logue was with Bertie through all his World War II speeches.  The two men were friends for the rest of their lives together.  The king gave Logue several honors for his service to him and the country.


 

Terrific movie.  My wife, son, and I plus most of the audience seemed to really love the film.  It was a serious situation for Albert/King George VI since he had such a terrible problem with stammering. But the movie had quite a few laughs strewn throughout it for good comic relief.    Colin Firth (as King George VI) was great.  Geoffrey Rush (Lionel Logue) was also very good.  The character of  Helena Bonham Carter (Queen Elizabeth) was a bit too angelic  --  always patient and supportive and never complaining, but Carter was still good in the part.  The film covers parts of the lives of three British kings and a queen:  George V, his son Edward VIII and his other son George VI, as well as Queen Elizabeth II.   So the film covers parts of three generations of monarchs from the same family.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 


Historical Background:

See Edward & Mrs. Simpson (1978)

 

1895 (December 14) – George VI was born at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria. His father was Prince George, Duke of York (later King George V), the second and eldest-surviving son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). His mother was the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary), the eldest child and only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Teck.

George VI was born on the anniversary of the death of his great-grandfather, Prince Albert, the Prince Consort. In honor of Albert, he was baptized "Albert Frederick Arthur George" at St Mary Magdalene's Church near Sandringham. His royal name was His Highness Prince Albert of York and he was the fourth in line to the throne after his grandfather, father and elder brother Edward.

The future king did not enjoy good health.  Mentally, he was often frightened and prone to tears.  He had a problem with stammering for many years. 

He had chronic stomach problems and was knocked kneed (and had to wear painful corrective splints.)

1901 (January 22) – Queen Victoria dies. King Edward VII assumed the throne.

1909 – Albert attends the Royal Naval College, Osborne.

1910 – Edward VII dies. Albert’s father becomes King George V.

1911 – he graduated at the bottom of his class in the final examination.

Albert goes on to the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.

1913 – Albert is commissioned as a midshipman.

1914 – Albert serves during World War I.

June (May 31- June 1) – sees action as a turret officer aboard HMS Collingwood during the Battle of Jutland. Then he is taken out of action because he developed a duodenal ulcer.

1918 (February) – he gets a job as Officer in Charge of Boys at the Royal Naval Air Service's training establishment at Cranwell Later the training establishment transferred to the Royal Air Force.

1918 (August) – Albert is appointed Officer Commanding Number 4 Squadron of the Boys' Wing at Cranwell.

1918 (November) – Albert serves on the staff of the Independent Air Force at its headquarters in Nancy, but on this date the Independent Air Force is disbanded. He works as a staff officer with the Royal Air Force.

1919 (October) – Albert studies at Trinity College, Cambridge.

1920 (June 4) – he becomes Duke of York, Earl of Inverness and Baron Killarney.

1920 – Albert meets Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the youngest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne. He decides he wants to marry her.  But Lady Elizabeth is considered a commoner. Elizabeth turns him down twice.

Now he switches to royal duties. In his father’s name he tours coal mines, factories, and rail yards and gains the nickname of the "Industrial Prince" and became President of the Industrial Welfare Society. He was shy because of his stammering and this affected the people’s opinion of him.

1923 (April 26) – Bertie and Elizabeth marry in Westminster Abbey. The newly-formed British Broadcasting Company asks the broadcast the event on radio, but the idea is rejected.

1925 (October 31) – Albert dreads public speaking and is embarrassed giving his closing speech at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. So he starts to see Lionel Logue, an Australian-born speech therapist. Logue has him do a lot of breathing exercises. Elizabeth helped her husband rehearse his speeches.

1927 – Albert’s is successful in his opening address at Australia's Federal Parliament at Canberra. But Albert seemed always to have continuing problems with speaking in public. 

The Duke and Duchess of York have two children: Elizabeth (nicknamed Lilibet) and Margaret.

The family lives quietly at their London residence, 145 Piccadilly.

1929-1939 – Albert runs a series of annual summer camps for boys of different social backgrounds.

1936 (January 20) – King George V dies. Edward becomes Edward VIII.

1936 (December 11) – Edward VIII abdicates because he decides to to marry the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson. A very reluctant Albert becomes King George VI.

The day before the abdication, Albert tells his mother, Queen Mary, and write in his diary: "When I told her what had happened, I broke down and sobbed like a child."

1937 (May 12)  --  Albert's coronation. 

George VI has to buy the private royal residences of Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House from Prince Edward.

1939 (May-June)  --  the royal couple visit Canada and the USA to try to insure American support for a possible fight with Germany.  Visited FDR at the White House and at Hyde Park, New York. 

1939 (September 1)  -- start of World War II. 

1945 (May 8)  --  end of World War II --  European Theater.  George VI and Churchill accept the proclaim of their people from a window at Buckingham Palace.

Post-World War II period  --  George VI sees the decline of the British Empire as more colonies become independent.  He oversees the switch from Empire to Commonwealth. 

1947 (November 20)  --  his daughter Elizabeth marries Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark.

As King George VI's health continued to decline, Princess Elizabeth took over more and more of his duties. 

1952 (February 6)  --  death of King George VI at age 56.  His daughter Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II. 

 

 

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