Paul Brett reviews the much talked-about film The King’s Speech and makes a suggestion for a sequel.
Around this time of year film critics continually buzz about who the contenders for the movie world’s most prestigious award will be. This year, most of them are agreed that a film based on the work of a famous Spiritualist is the film to beat for an Oscar. And quite right they are too!
Unfortunately, the majority of people who arrive to see The King’s Speech will not know that one of the main characters, Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, was a Spiritualist – and, indeed, sparked King George VI’s interest in Spiritualism.
They will also leave the cinema not knowing this fact.
That said, the film is a compelling and moving portrait of George VI’s struggle to overcome his crippling stammer, and the unorthodox ways in which Lionel Logue treats his royal client.
The film starts with the soon-to-be monarch – excellently played by Colin Firth – attempting to make a speech at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley stadium, which is also being broadcast live to the nation via the new medium of radio.
Realising that his royal duties will require far more public speaking in the future, he and his wife (the future Queen Mother – played by Helena Bonham Carter) seek out speech therapists to help cure his impediment. Finding no improvement in the condition after trying many therapists, they finally come across Mr Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) in his rather shabby Harley Street basement office.
Logue’s insistence on referring to the royal as ‘Bertie’ does not lead to a very harmonious beginning. “You may call me Your Majesty, and thereafter Sir,” retorts the prince with regal bullishness.
There are many memorable and incredibly humorous exchanges as the therapist barges through the pompous royal formality, which he feels is part of his patient’s problem. Of his previous medical advisers, Logue pronounces, “They’re all idiots!”
“They’ve been knighted!” replies an astounded Bertie.
“Makes it official then, doesn’t it!” quips Logue.
The film follows the sometimes tumultuous friendship between the two men, charmingly depicts the early home life of the current Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret, and deals with the nervous anticipation of the prince’s accession to the throne following the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII.
The film ends with King George VI making his most famous speech to the nation from Buckingham Palace in 1939, about the country entering into war with Germany.
The King’s Speech is delightfully written, excellently acted, and a cinematic joy from start to finish.
Given that the cinema was full to capacity for the 6pm weekday showing of the film, and that rumours of major awards are rife, I am hoping that the story will inspire cinema-goers to find out more about Lionel Logue and his work.
I also hope that film-makers will pick up on the fact that he was a Spiritualist and that the Royal Family became interested in Spiritualism, ultimately having a sitting with the medium Lilian Bailey. That would make an enthralling and unique film.
In the current climate of widespread interest in spiritual matters, I feel sure audiences would be fascinated to discover more about this little-known aspect of the monarchy.
I have uncovered an interesting interview (Associated Press) with the film’s director, Tom Hooper, who reveals: “We were amazingly lucky to discover previously unpublished diaries sitting in an attic of the grandson of Lionel Logue. We’ve had this incredible first-hand account of what it was like to treat the King…We had this treasure-trove of information that no one else has seen, no historian has seen.”
Perhaps therein lies another worthy script?
In the meantime, it is up to us to let people know that Mr Logue was proud to be a Spiritualist.
The King’s Speech is currently showing in cinemas across the UK.
For more information on Lionel Logue’s Spiritualism, see Sue Farrow’s article, The King’s Spiritualist.