I saw four movies over the holidays – Fair Game, The King’s Speech, True Grit and The Social Network. They’re all worth your time. The one that will stay with me the longest, I’m sure, is The King’s Speech.
The story couldn’t be simpler. During the years before World War II, Prince Albert of England lived in the shadow of his older brother, Prince Edward. The order of succession stipulated that Edward would be king after the death of their father, George V. Edward took the throne on Jan. 20, 1936, but abdicated on Dec. 11 of the same year to marry his twice-divorced mistress, the American Wallace Simpson. Albert was next in line to be king and assumed the throne as George VI. He felt inadequate for the task because he hadn’t received the grooming given to his brother.
Kings, of course, have to speak in public, and this was a severe challenge for the new king. He had struggled his whole life with a stammer. The King’s Speech tells the story of how he conquered his speech impediment with the help of a commoner, Lionel Logue. Through their work together, George VI became good enough as a speaker that his radio address in September 1939 inspired his nation to stand together in its war against Germany. That war, of course, escalated into World War II. (You can hear the real George VI delivering the speech by clicking on the YouTube video above.)
The drama of the film comes through the on-again, off-again relationship between Logue and his royal student. Logue forces Albert not only to practice and rehearse but also to dig deep within himself to understand the causes of his stammering. Albert bristles at times and even terminates the relationship once or twice. Logue has to have the courage to insist that in their dealings, he would be treated as an equal. And Albert, once he comes to appreciate the contributions Logue is making to his life, has to have the fortitude to stand by his teacher when others question his techniques and his lack of credentials.
Albert, as King George, honored Logue by naming him to the Royal Victorian Order. The two men remained friends until the king’s death in 1952.
If you’ve ever had a teacher who cared enough about you to push you and challenge you, you need to see this movie. As you’re watching, be thankful for the teachers and friends who have pushed you to be better. If you have the chance, do the same for someone else.