Sunday, February 13, 2011

"The King's Speech" with Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter

It isn't often that I venture into a movie theater these days, and by that I mean the last 15 years, or so. The screens are too large, and the sound is too loud. I once saw The Rolling Stones in the IMAX Theater in Baltimore, and I suppose that I have never gotten over the trauma of seeing Mick Jagger's lips being two stories tall in the close-ups. All that said, "The King's Speech" is a great movie.

I wanted to see it for several reasons, mostly because the whole World War Two period, as well as the decade leading up to it, has always held a strange fascination for me, largely due to the stories which my Mom told me when I was young. Another reason that the movie was of interest to me was the presence of the the much reviled Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The former King Edward VIII and his wife, the former Ms. Wallis-Simpson of Baltimore, were the toast of the town in New York when I was growing up. They graced the society pages almost daily, and were frequent guests on the Merv Griffin Show, so their presence was palpable in the world around me. So was the animosty towards them in many corners, by people who held it against the former King and his wife, that they, along with Joeseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (who lost his Ambassadorship to Britian around the same time that the former King abdicated his throne) were Nazi "appeasers."

Okay, with that bit of background out the way, I will now review the film.

While Adolph Hitler was marching across Europe, the aim of which was to conquer the world, George V, lay dying in London. The heir to the throne of England was his eldest son, Prince Edward, a notorious playboy who was currently engaged in an affair with a twice divorced American, Ms. Wallis-Simpson, played by Eve Best. When the King passes away, the Prince is crowned, but he is torn by the choice of being a reviled Monarch, or to marry the twice divorced American woman. Predictably, and fortunately for history, he chose the latter.

Complicating matters in this perilous time was the fact that Edward's younger brother, Albert, who was next in line for the throne, stuttered. It was impossible to imagine that he could someday be King, until the day that his brother, King Edward, who had ascended to the throne upon the death of King George V, abdicated his position in favor of his love for Ms. Wallis-Simpson.

The future King George VI, born Albert and affectionately known to his family as "Bertie", has tried all manner of "cures" to deal with his speech impediment, all to no avail. With his brother's abdication fast approaching, and the situation regarding Hitler deteriorating rapidly, Albert is introduced, under an assumed name to a Dr. Lionel Logue, who has some Kingly demands of his own concerning treating the future King. He wishes to be treated as an equal, an unthinkable idea to Prince Albert. He also insists on addressing the Prince as "Bertie."

Through trial and error, the pair proceed to try every known, and unknown approach to the Prince's dilemma. They even sing and dance together while speaking and reading, in order to establish a "flow". The experiments have an impact, and the future King is able to establish a degree of normalcy in his speech. As the day of reckoning approaches, and time runs short, the two men form a bond that will last a lifetime, and save a Kingdom.

Some of the best scenes in the movie involve the Prince and his wife, the Queen Mum, and their children, the future Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, at home. Seeing the two sisters as adults all of our lives, it's fairly interesting to see them as children, almost as "normal" people.

This is a very entertaining, and historically accurate film.

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