The King’s Speech: A Personal Consideration

I went to see The King’s Speech this evening with a friend. For those of you who don’t know too much about it, the movie tells the story of how King George VI overcame his speech defect – he had a stammer – and led England through World War II. He struck up an unlikely friendship with his speech therapist, an out-of-work actor called Lionel Logue, and it was through this friendship that the monarch gave his defining speech to the nation on the day war broke out. This post is not a review of the movie; although Colin Firth (as George) and Geoffrey Rush (as Logue) deserve what awards that undoubtedly will come their way (including, hopefully, an Oscar or two), my never-ending love for the force of nature that is Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Queen Elizabeth) grew deeper. I’ve never had a crush on a royal before – but I do now. Tim Burton, you are one lucky guy.

When I was younger I had a stammer. I remember all too well an incident at school when I was asked to read out a passage in French during class. It was there, written out in front of my eyes, ready for oration in front of the class. But the words wouldn’t come out. If anyone sees the movie and recalls the very first scene where Prince Bertie (as King George was known to his family) is about to give a speech, you will know that he is struck dumb, to the obvious embarrassment of his wife, servants, subjects and himself. I know exactly how he felt. There is nothing more painful, more humiliating that knowing how to speak, but failing to do so. That was my lot in my early teenage years. In primary school, certain sections of unthinking morons bullied me for it; but in secondary school, I was enabled my friends and teachers to come to terms with it. I didn’t go to a therapist because I didn’t know they existed. It didn’t always happen, though; there were times when I was able to read aloud in front of the class. But I suppose a lot depended on where my head was at the time.

And then it went away, all on its own. In my late teens, I was on live TV, participating in televised Mass for RTE, reading from a Bible in front of camera and whoever watched Sunday morning Mass on television. I spoke on stage, too, as part of song and dance show with my class mates and girls from another school. (That’s when I discovered women, by the way.) But my crowning moment occurred when I was in college.

I announced my candidacy for President of the Students’ Union, and so I was required to speak at the Hustings. For a man with a history of freezing at inopportune times, this speech was fraught with danger. But I gave the speech of my short political life. For five minutes I was brilliant and I was elected by a landslide. To this day, any time I have to speak in public and I’m feeling nervous, I look back to those times (especially that day in college) and realise that nerves are natural to the best of us. I just take a deep breath and then get on with it.

Now it comes back every so often, mainly at times of stress, or when I’m tired – or when I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. What I do then is slow things down, organise my thoughts and carry on. I find making a joke about it lightens the atmosphere considerably. So there you go, that’s my personal take on what is a marvellous film. Do yourselves a favour and go and see it.

Note to Colin Firth fans (of which there are many): He is fantastic in this film, but he does not take his shirt off. Thank you for reading.

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13 responses to “The King’s Speech: A Personal Consideration

  1. I stuttered for a while when I was young, still do once in a while, too. This made me want to hug you. And watch the movie!

    I can’t get enough of Ms. Bonham Carter!

  2. Colin – give him to me – with or without his shirt, and I am a happy woman. Ashley and I will definitely be seeing this one. Hopefully before Oscar time. As far as HBC goes, I think she’s a marvelous actor, but I have a hard time seeing her as any other character than one of the primates in the remake of Planet of the Apes. I have to really work with myself to get that image out of my head! She does make some rather depressing films, however, and some are not really my cup of tea. That has nothing to do with her talent, however; she is uniquely talented.

    Also, I recently discovered that I am not the only person who saw a disturbing similarity between the photos of her in ape makeup and Michael Jackson’s mug shot. Weird. It still bothers me. It’s my problem, though – not theirs!

  3. Wonderful post, JM.

    I just saw a trailer for this movie and added it to my NetFlix queue. BTW: Why do they call it a trailer when it pre-dates the movie? 😉

  4. I saw a doccie on the making of the film last week and really look forward to seeing the movie, notwithstanding the regrettable lack of shirtless scenes …

  5. This is one movie I am seriously looking forward to!!
    I absolutely adore Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth – OMG!!
    Geoffrey Rush is a genius!!
    Oh man! What a bummer!
    Colin Firth keeps his shirt on?!
    Say James, won’t you do the us the honors?! A girl has to have a LITTLE shirtlessness!!

    *#*

  6. @Nancy: Yes, but they call it “putting the cart before the horse!”

  7. Saw that moment when he freezes in front of a stadium- electric. Radio Four had a play on it too, which I caught the end of. Amazing film, by all accounts. Thanks, James.

  8. This was a wonderful film. Firth did such a wonderful job conveying the agony a stammerer experiences. My brother stuttered when he was a young boy. Firth portrayed the pain my brother felt as a victim of cruel, harassing boys.

  9. I look forward to the movie but your the telling of your story, for me, eclipses the King’s story.

    I am reminded of @johnfuglesang who Tweets and reTweets this message:
    “We won’t stop it until we stop calling it bullying. It is at best harrassment and and worst persecution.”

    Wonderful post.

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