Monday, January 24, 2011
Two loving wives supporting and encouraging two husbands with great disappointments. That is the unsung message in the recent film The King's Speech.
Albert, the second son of England's King George V, is proving a frustration and a challenge to the monarch. He must break his son of the embarrassing stuttering and get him before the public with increasing frequency. The film starts with an official occasion where Berty absolutely freezes at the microphone. Audience members cringe and look the other way in disappointment.
But the King knows his sons' fibre and suspects that in some way eldest David will prove a disappointment and Albert will have to rally. Nothing could prove more terrifying.
A succession of bogus speech therapists are called in, only increasing the frustration. As an apparent last ditch effort, wife Elizabeth goes to the humble quarters of Lionel Logue, an Australian with an uncanny, although uncertified talent to restore proper speech. This he developed with traumatized Aussie troops after World War One. He is part mechanical technician and part psycho-analyst.
Logue is destined to become Berty's first friend. As one reviewer has put it the story is a kind of inverse Pygmalion with common stuff teaching aristocracy proper means of expression.
The sessions and sporadic warfare between the two men prove delightful on the screen. Their wives keep on encouraging and smoothing rough edges. Mrs. Logue for a long time has not been informed of her husband's new patient. The scene where she comes home to find one royal unattended in the kitchen and the other hiding in the parlour with her husband is a real treat. She has consistently supported Lionel through his various efforts to get onto the stage in London theatre. Here he has been a consistent failure.
The working partnership of men survives the death of King George V, the abdication crisis involving David and Mrs. Simpson, the coronation ceremony for Albert as King George VI and the disappointments and fears of appeasement, with Hitler giving moving speeches before his massive military machine on the continent.
Then comes the inevitable outbreak of war and the new king's "super-bowl" event. He must speak four minutes of courage and motivation over the "wireless" to his nation and the Empire. He does it in a curtained off sound booth with his therapist "conducting" from about five feet distant. His public will be overjoyed and encouraged in his success. In his speech. His life has been changed...in increments. He can rule and address the nation's conscience and hope.
There are multiplied Oscars in this excellent portrayal.