Remarkable speeches came out of World War II. It was a time of gifted orators. Speakers who could capture the emotions of a people, whether good or bad. Hitler. Stalin. Theirs were the cadence and rhythm and fiery words that brought forth history’s most dastardly atrocities. Churchill and Roosevelt. Contemporaries that we, on both sides of pond, still quote. Their words and their voices the inspiration of goodness and the fortitude they called forth.
In between them all was the man who did not want to be king. A man who rose to the position and its responsibilities with integrity. A man who did what was needed. A man whose speech was flawed. That man was King George VI. Bertie to his family. Once third in line to ascend the throne, he became King of England at the abdication of the throne by his brother, King Edward VIII, who reigned less than a year after becoming king. The brother whose scandalous love of a twice divorced woman, Wallis Simpson, we are more familiar with. It was Edward’s younger brother, Bertie, who carried his country through the worst of times, through the Blitz and the fear, and the ravages of war.
I found myself, mid-afternoon, with several hours to spare. Not enough time to go home and then turn around and go back to Elmhurst, I went to the York Theater to see a movie instead. It is funny how things sometimes work out “just so”. This was a “just so” moment.
I saw “The King’s Speech”.
It is a beautifully executed movie. A story of one man’s torment with a speech. A man who would become king.
Everything you have heard about Colin Firth’s portrayal of King George VI and his debilitating stammer, and everything you have heard about Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of Lionel Logue, the King’s unlikely speech therapist, is true. It is a brilliant picture and they each give remarkable performances, if often painful ones as well. I found myself breathing heavily and wanting to push the words forth from Firth’s mouth as he stammered. His face, his eyes, the pain they evoked in his faltered speech was palpable. Rush’s determination and his creativity in his unorthodox treatments are sometimes humorous, always forthright in their execution. He made me care.
The two are paired up with the wonderful performance of Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, who would become the beloved Queen Mother of Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. I hope the Queen sees the greatness of her father and her mother if she should see the movie. If it were my mum and dad, I think I would find it painful to watch.
In the end, it is the story of the King’s actual speech at the outset of the second World War and the strength and fortitude he offered to his people – a people much admired by this American.
Go see it. Go see “The King’s Speech” and tell me what you think.