With great advance anticipation, we recently saw the film The King’s Speech. It tells the story of Prince Albert (who later became King George VI), his stutter and his relationship to the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue. Both characters were played to great effect by distinguished actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, respectively.
Film – The King’s Speech
This film portrays Albert, known to his family as Bertie, as a highly nuanced man who oscillates between royal arrogance and childish helplessness. His tripping tongue and the consequential fear of public speaking, in combination with his obvious desire to do his duty, make for a very likable character. In search of a cure, his wife Elizabeth – formerly Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon but best known as the future Queen Mum – contacts Lionel Logue, a therapist infamous for his unorthodox, yet effective methods of speech therapy. Despite initial conflicts, the two men develop a strong friendship. When Bertie’s brother, the scandalizing Prince of Wales, shows no interest in letting go of his liaison with the formerly married Wallis Simpson, Logue almost jeopardizes the friendship when he tries to convince Bertie that he could become King.
Once King, Edward VIII abandons the throne for Wallis and despite Bertie’s paralyzing fears, his sense of duty propels him into the role, and he becomes King George VI. Being now certain of regular public speaking, the two protagonists reconcile and continue to successfully overcome George’s speech impediment. The film is peppered with a number of scenes in which Logue makes the stiff-upper-lipped Bertie swear, sing, and roll on the floor for therapeutic effect.
The score composed by Alexandre Desplat harmonizes beautifully with the film. Ironically, the King’s first speech on the war with Germany, the crucial climactic scene, is accompanied by the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th symphony – the music of a German composer.
The King’s Clothes
Sartorially, I sincerely hoped to see great men’s clothes and period costumes. Unfortunately, this was not the strong suit of the movie. While Logue’s suits fit well and seem spot on, Colin Firth’s outfits are not tailored well at all. In about half of the scenes, his collar stands away from his neck, his full fig (white tie) evening waistcoat is worn extremely low and in general his wardrobe does not seem to be tailored for him. From a cinematic standpoint, his ill-fitting clothing may be a visual depiction of Bertie’s discomfort in his own skin. However, even as his character’s confidence improved, his clothing remained slack and unappealing. Interestingly, his brother Edward wears a properly tailored waistcoat with his tailcoat in the movie, as you would expect from the man so famous for his fashion in the era.
While George VI was certainly not as famous for his clothes as his brother, he was still a decently dressed man who wore meticulously tailored suits.
Moreover, it seems as if authenticity in clothing was not of utmost importance to the producers. Here you can see the picture of Colin Firth wearing a bowler hat, and a cuffless, camel colored 6×2 paletot topcoat with a low gorge. Compare it to this picture of George VI also wearing a bowler hat and a camel coat. The topcoat’s gorge is much higher, it has a 4×2 button configuration with a considerably wider horizontal button stance than in the movie. Most likely, Geroge VI had several camel overcoats, though button stance and gorge height were rather uniform in the 1930’s.
Book – How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
Only last year, Mark Logue, the grandson of Lionel, found a treasure in his attic. Numerous notes, letters, records of conversations between Bertie and his therapist, pictures etc. resurfaced and helped the director to make some changes to the script. All that was written up into a book titled:
The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy
You can find copies at Amazon for around $10.
Altogether, we thought it was a well done and entertaining film that did not fulfill our admittedly high expectations with regard to its period costumes.