Firth @ Fifty – Speaking King’s English in the King’s Speech

Firth @ Fifty – Speaking King’s English in the King’s Speech


Firth, still fabulous at fifty

It’s hard to believe pin-up heart throb British actor Colin Firth, who for over two decades has made many hearts flutter, turned fifty on September 10th 2010. His best roles, in a very acceptable body of work to date, are probably still yet to come.

However it must have surely come close to being the best birthday of his life when his new film opened on the actual day. He, and the rest of the cast and crew received a standing ovation by the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the People’s Choice Award.

Director Tom Hooper’s movie The King’s Speech stars Colin Firth as Bertie, King George VI of England with Geoffrey Rush as Australian Lionel Logue, an anything but ordinary speech coach who is tasked with curing Bertie’s crippling stutter.

(Interesting note: Logue’s real diary turned up nine days before filming began providing writers with an opportunity for adding his real notations into the mix).

The script is a right ripping yarn right out of the headlines of the day. It is not about pride and prejudice, more like an act of sense and sensibility. The difficulty is that a very worrying fanatical German, Adolf Hitler, is inspiring people on the radio to follow him as he calls on them to help him take over Europe.

When the King’s eldest daughter Elizabeth asks her father what Hitler is saying on the radio he said “I don’t know, but he seems to be saying it rather well”.

The Brits all want their own King to rally the world to help them in their hour of need. However delivering a big speech is going to be the real challenge, especially since his Hitler loving big brother Edward VIII left Bertie in the spotlight by abdicating the throne to marry his American mistress double-divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Colin Firth as George VI


Throughout their lives together, at least until that point, Edward had always shielded his shy stuttering brother from the public gaze. Elizabeth (Bowes-Lyon) Bertie’s wife, who was after his death everyone’s Queen Mum, spent a long time being angry at them both.

Raising the goal posts, and the game in this intensely crafted film is a stunning array of what many would call serious actors. Britain’s Colin Firth and Aussie Geoffrey Rush.

Critics agree they are perfect foils for each other in a relationship, to all reports that is portrayed with great intelligence and subtle skill. While it explores the bond that develops between them in their roles, it also reveals the genius with which they both practice their chosen craft, in a film that’s surely headed for the Oscars.

Bertie and his patient and protective Mummy (Firth and Bonham-Carter)

Yet another Aussie in the mix is a suitably oily Guy Pearce. These days he seems to revel at playing roles at the edge. His ex King Edward is one portrayed with impeccable style with Saville Row suits to match.

British acting supporting royalty are Michael Gambon as Bertie’s dad and Helena Bonham Carter as his amused, but sympathetic and patient wife Elizabeth. While Dad constantly crushes his son’s confidence as he shouts ‘relax’, while doing his best to help him.

The interesting upshot about the story is that the reality and result of the Kings’ work with Logue meant that Bertie was able to deliver the 1927 opening address at Australia’s Federal Parliament at Canberra, the National Capital of Australia very successfully. Thereafter too, Bertie was also able to speak with only the slightest hesitation.

His moving and momentous speech delivered from Buckingham Palace to the British Empire on the verge of war on the 3rd September 1939 would inspire the world.

The King’s Speech was an amazing feat in the day because even today stuttering is still one of the most debilitating of all personally afflicting human conditions, for which there is no known cure.

The sets and stunning settings for The King’s Speech take us back to an epoch when people really knew how to live and, when they had the ready necessary and style to do it. The critics certainly all agree. The King’s Speech is a movie with style to burn and a script of wonderfully witty dialogue that resonates with just the right amount of emotion to draw us in. King George VI had a voice, one that needed to be heard.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2010

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