I’m not in the business of movie reviews, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to rave about “The King’s Speech.” The only thing I found disappointing was the fact that this historically accurate account of King George VI’s battle with stuttering was not derived from a book that could be devoured post-cinema.
Bertie, as he was known, suffered considerable angst in public speaking roles long before his brother David abdicated the throne to marry divorcee Wallace Simpson. His problems started early on, most likely related to the forced use of his right hand over his natural left hand. His parents, George V and Queen Mary, ineptly turned their children over to an abusive nanny who often withheld food as punishment. One account contends that the stammering began shortly after returning from an extended stay with his doting grandparents, Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, where Bertie found safe and loving refuge from his distant mother and cold, demanding father.
In addition to portraying the strength, persistence and dedication of one tormented king, the movie effectively wove the story of his unique speech therapist, Lionel Logue. Logue’s expertise was derived from first-hand treatment of WWI veterans whose exposure to shell-shock left them with impaired speech. While the king’s advisors derided his lack of “proper papers,” Bertie stayed with him with increasingly effective results. Logue’s methods included singing, breathing and vocal exercises, reciting tongue-twisters, and reading over loud music. He coached the King through every major speech during WWII, and he was inducted into the Royal Victorian Order for his service. Bertie went on to become a compassionate and effective leader with little or no residual speech impediment. The two remained close friends until the King’s death.
Whether you marvel at the survival, even the triumph of one beleaguered royal, or the innately brilliant work of one unlettered therapist, you will appreciate the significant mental and emotional integrity of both King George VI and Lionel Logue.