King George VI: The Man Behind The King’s Speech
by Elaine Hegwood Bowen
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King George VI: The Man Behind The King’s Speech is a documentary about the real-life King George VI, who was so famously portrayed in the blockbuster, Oscar-winning movie last year—The King’s Speech.
Colin Firth, who starred in the movie as King George VI, was among those interviewed for this documentary, which offered news reel accounts into the making of a King. As it has been told, King George VI was an unlikely King, as his father had passed and his brother King Edward VIII was so enamored with an American woman who was twice-divorced that he knew he couldn’t do the monarchy any good. King Edward abdicated the throne, but the documentary shows that not all of Great Britain was upset with Edward’s choice of women. In the documentary, many people were quoted as saying they wanted him to be happy, and if Wallis Simpson made him happy, then he should marry her. But others thought that “he took every box that said wrong and went in it.”
King George VI: The Man Behind The King’s Speech, available on DVD August 9 from Revolver Entertainment, details the relationship between Bertie, which was King George’s nickname, and his trusted speech therapist, Lionel Logue.
Logue’s grandson is also interviewed for the documentary. He says that after King Edward abdicated in 1936 that King George sought the services of Logue even more. Logue’s appointment card entries showed the severity of the problem with King George, as initially the King was anxious about a trip to Australia and he was referred by an actress to see Logue. In 14 months, he had seen him more than 80 times, and maybe he was drawn to Logue because Logue was Australian. However, he was never professionally trained in speech therapy and was considered “a quack.”
After being thrust into power, King George VI, who was a naïve servant of the people, reportedly did quite a good job while in office. Considering he reigned during the “dawn of the radio age,” he was compelled to make speeches that were mostly live and unedited and were heard in real-time across Great Britain.
“The King’s Speech” refers to the renowned speech that King George VI made on the evening of the start of the war between Germany and Great Britain—World War II. The Man Behind The King’s Speech shows young children placing sandbags in London, as the people prepared for an attack. But the palace wasn’t spared, as it was hit with bombs, even as King George and his family—his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Elizabeth II and Margaret were inside. (Elizabeth would, as history reveals, go on to be the present day Queen Elizabeth).
King George VI would rule for 16 years, taking the bumps and the highs, as he went along. Toward the end of his life, he became ill, and it was a sad time for Great Britain. Staff members would place notices daily at the front of the palace gate, so everyone would know the progress of the King’s health. Near the last days, Elizabeth and her husband Philip had to go to Kenya on the King’s behalf. Unfortunately, while she was in Africa, King George VI passed away on February 6, 1952.
The Queen Mother (Queen George’s widow) didn’t want a movie made about her in her lifetime, and while the book was written years ago, the movie didn’t hit the screen until 2010, years after her death in 2002.
While The King’s Speech, the movie, is fantastic, this DVD, King George VI: The Man Behind The King’s Speech, kept my interest and added more to the history lesson about British royalty than any Hollywood blockbuster could match. For more information, visit http://www.therealkingsspeech.com/
Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.
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