2The Associated Press, in NY Daily News, January 25, 2011
Made-in-England favorite "The King's Speech" leads the race for the British Academy Film Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars, with 14 nominations announced Tuesday, including best picture.
Colin Firth is the best-actor front-runner for his performance as stuttering monarch King George VI, with Geoffrey Rush nominated for best supporting actor as the unconventional speech therapist who treated him. Helena Bonham Carter is up for best supporting actress for playing the king's wife, the Queen Mother Elizabeth.
My wife and I had the opportunity to view the movie, "The King's Speech," yesterday and I must say the experience was very 'moving'..to use an overworked hackneyed expression.
The stammer, long held by the man who became King George VI of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, was, apparently, at least partly the result of extremely negative parenting by his father especially, and equally negative ridicule from his brother, Edward VIII, who eventually abdicated to marry Wallace Simpson thrusting George VI onto the throne.
The non-negotiable requirement that "Bertie" (George VI's nickname) be able to speak if ever he assumed the throne, along with the prompting from his wife, The Queen Mother (of Elizabeth II, the current monarch), led him to an uncertified speech coach, from Australia, who found his "calling" after World War I, when many of his comrades returned from the war in trauma, and since he knew a thing or two about speech, acting and rhetoric, he was asked to assist them to regain their capacity to speak. It was The Queen Mother who found him doing similar work in London, without her husband even knowing of her search.
Through on-again-off-again trials with "Bertie," "Lionel" persisted in trying to help reduce the stammer, although people like the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed a "credentialed" and "Certified" doctor of speech therapy to replace him, and the untrained, uncertified mostly "actor" became a lifelong friend of the even more presistent George VI.
Winston Churchill is often given both the credit and the public billing for his strength of character and his bull-dog persistence in leading Great Britain through the dark days of World War II; however, the "bravery" of George VI to overcome his speech impediment, through the most trying and embarrassing of attempts, including attempts to speak in public, while bringing forth virtually only guttural sounds amid mostly silence,
must never again be overlooked by historians. Incidentally, and ironically, Churchill too overcame an early speech impediment, a fact which would naturally have bonded him to his King through the dark days.
Brilliantly acted, scripted, staged and scored, this movie depicts the capacity of the human spirit to confront and to work through one of the more painful and public acts which most people take for granted, the capacity to speak in public.
And that speaking in public is an essential ingredient to public leadership, only in this case, the people in England knew 'it was me' when he still uttered a minor stammer or two, in his BBC Radio address to the nation and the Commonwealth declaring war with the Third Reich, after hours of rehearsal with his friend.
Having been raised by a father whose speech impediment, a similar stammer, returned with him every evening from the hardware store, where he worked all day without sign of the stammer (how's that for fear of your partner?), I was mezmerized by the film. In my adult life I had the privilege of meeting another stammerer who worked with a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a technician to develop a device that emitted a mild electric current from a battery through a collar around his neck, when he pushed a button each time he felt he was about to stammer, while reading for three hours every night using this device. He erased all symptoms of his stammer, and took a part-time job as a radio host on a large radio station for three for three hours every week.
When this man offered me one of his devices, for my father to use, as part of the "research," I happily complied, offering it to my father who thanked both of us politely, and never once tried to use it, presumably still too embarrassed about the stammer to confront it and its ravages in his life.