Trippingly on the tongue
The King’s Speech, historical drama/comedy, rated R, Regal DeVargas, 4 chiles
IAmong the many poignant, hilarious, subtle, and broad moments that color director Tom Hooper’s magnificent The King’s Speech, one stands out: it comes at the film’s climax, when the king, delivering the speech of the title — which announces to his subjects the nation’s undertaking of hostilities with Germany — experiences both the terrible gravity of a commitment to war and the ecstatic rush of a speech well and regally spoken, trippingly on the tongue.
George VI of England (Colin Firth) was a stammerer. In 1925, he delivered a speech at the closing of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium that provides a painful bookend to this film’s story of disability, struggle, courage, and triumph. The Duke of York, as he then was, stood frozen at the microphone, a monstrous apparatus that might as well have been a guillotine, and fought to squeeze out a few bursts of words at a time between long and agonizing silences, as his wife (the Duchess Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter) and the public listened, suffered, and squirmed.
The Duke had stammered since childhood. Contempt and irritation, the remedy favored by his father, George V (Michael Gambon), had not helped (“I was frightened of my father, and I am damned well going to see to it that my children are frightened of me,” the old king declared). Ridicule from his siblings was equally ineffective, and he grew to manhood and public life crippled by the terrifying impairment. To make matters worse, his coming of age coincided with the dawn of radio. His speech defect would be on display not just to those within earshot, but to millions.
After a series of grisly therapies involving everything from marbles to cigarettes, the duke is ready to give up. But the duchess learns of a speech therapist with a record of success and