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The King's Speech
Review by Richard Tara
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Cast: Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Robert Portal, Richard Dixon

Albert, Duke of York, was the second son of George V and a great grandson of Queen Victoria.  At the time of his birth in 1895, he was the fourth in line of succession to the crown of the British Empire. He was also a sickly boy who was brought up in the strict traditions of the Victorian royal household.  He was left handed, had stomach problems, which eventually killed him and stammered badly. His physical conditions and his natural shyness amplified his stammer.  The brightest spot of his life was falling in love and marrying Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, who though a commoner was an ambitious young woman who could sense that her husband may one day become the new king of England.  Elizabeth searched for anyone who could help her husband to cure his stammer; which was becoming worse as he was forced into more public appearances.  Eventually, Elizabeth found Lionel Logue, an Australian self-educated speech therapist.  With her determination, persistence, and Lionel's empathy, George managed to improve his speech from stammer to occasional hesitation.   Lionel Logue and the King remained friends until George died in 1952.

The above is actually the facts of history.  The movie however, takes some liberties with facts and with some modification.  However, it is a first class production.  

The Duke of York's older brother, Edward, the crown prince was an charming man who mixed easily with the real commoners and did not have the snobbery of the English upper classes.  He had many affairs with married women but eventually he fell in love with a divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson, who was still married to her second husband.   When he became the king, Edward announced his intentions to marry her.  However, in true English hypocrisy, the Anglican Church and the British government would not condone it.  It was all right for him to sleep with this woman but marriage was out of the question!  This from a church with questionable beginnings four hundred years earlier and rampant sexual misconduct by the Royals such as George's father and grandfather who had many mistresses?  In any case, Edward VIII was forced into abdication and he went to Paris to marry his sweetheart.   As a note of history, Edward and his wife met Hitler and they showed great sympathy to the Nazi cause.  There was even a possibility that he would have been re-installed as the king of England if the Nazis managed to invade the Island. As a result, Edward became a pariah within the English establishment and the royal family.

George as a monarch was an unremarkable man, probably a weakling. He took part in the appeasement of Nazis by selling out Czechoslovakia and condoning the treatment of minorities by the Nazis by remaining silent throughout the war.  Eventually, the reality set in and he had to speak out against the Germans and be led by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill to make a stand against Nazism.  In fairness, even Winston Churchill was part of the appeasement process. In his book, “The Great Contemporaries” which was published in 1937, Winston Churchill lists Adolf Hitler alongside Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lawrence of Arabia and King George V as the “great men of his time.”   The book is out of print but can probably be still found on Amazon or EBay

Collin Firth as George VI delivers an outstanding performance.  The reality is that the historical George did not have the strength of character or verbal acuity to lead his nation.  He portrays this rather insignificant monarch as a much greater man than he ever was.  George was remote, shy, stoic and somewhat immature.  His daughter, the future queen Elizabeth II inherited her mother's strength of character and snobbishness along with her father's remoteness.

Winston Churchill, as depicted in this movie by Timothy Spall is shown as a confident of George.  In fact, he was a great admirer of Edward VIII and was sorry to see him go and George did not want Winston as his prime minister anyway. 

The real stellar performer of the movie is Geoffrey Rush.  I have been an admirer of this actor since Shakespeare in Love.  In successive movies, he has shown great prowess as a brilliant actor of our time.  He is capable of making you instantly love or dislike him in his appearances, something only Laurence Olivier could achieve with relative ease.  The real Lionel Logue, who incidentally, was handsome and looked more like Alec Baldwin than Geoffrey Rush, was 15 years older than George which gave him the authority to demand respect.  It was Lionel's skills which saved the king and enabled him to lead the nation from the brink.   It is no accident that the last scene of the movie fades out with Lionel and not George.

For the director Tim Hooper, this movie has been a breakthrough into the mainstream of movie making. His background has been mainly in directing TV series and mediocre dramas.  He has now shown the world what he can do given the right material.  The screenplay by David Seidler is based on a book by Lionel Logue's grandson Mark Logue by the same title. However, no credit is given to the author in the promotional handouts by the studio.

The Weinstein brothers, Harvey and Bob, who produced this movie, managed the Miramax division of Disney for years before they left to form their own company.  They are well known for accepting avant-garde ideas from producers, directors and writers and turning them into successful movies.  Some of their best-known products are; Pulp Fiction, The English Patient, Shakespeare in Love and The Lord of the Ring Trilogy and Chicago. This movie is no exception.

I give this movie 4 stars, our highest ranking for story, direction and above all outstanding acting.