Colin Firth’s portrayal of the stammering England’s King George VI in The King’s Speech is not-to-be-missed performance this movie season.
Firth, who displayed a wealth of emotional depth and subtlety, got so into his character as the ambivalent and frustrated king that he continued to stutter weeks after filming ended.
The King’s Speech is an exceptional movie about a subject that could be boring and tedious, but it’s presented with an emotional depth and economy of storytelling. We’re now 70 years past the peculiar crowning of King George VI, who gained the throne after his brother King Edward VIII had to advocate his position to marry his twice-divorced mistress. The history-making nature of this event was overshadowed by the ominous WWII that followed.
Many Americans who watch the film are being introduced to an entirely new character, being more familiar with his daughter, Queen Elizabeth, who has held the royal position since King George IV’s death in 1952.
So who is this King George VI who only held England’s crown for a 15 years? Did he really have such a debilitating stammer?
King George VI, who was known as Prince Albert, Duke of York (and “Bertie” to his family), before being thrust upon the throne, did experience a kind of traumatic childhood that may have lead to his lifelong tongue-tied affliction.
The description for Sarah Bradford’s biography of the king, The Reluctant King, includes details included in the movie: he was left-handed but forced to use his right hand, and had to wear painful wood-splints to correct knock-knees.
He was terrified of becoming king, and when he found out that he would be forced to he wrote in his diary that he broke down in tears. Australian
Here’s the real speech King George VI delivered on September 3rd, 1939 addressing Britain’s involvement in World War II. His Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue was in the room during this radio broadcast that offered a great solace to the British people during a terrifying time: