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February 2011, Week 1


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 31 Jan 2011 20:35:02 -0500
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I missed this thread; those are wonderful observations, Norman. I saw it as a study of power and aristocracy, and how it is grounded in speaking, which of course prevents one from having normal human relationships with other humans. How being aristocratic and public stifles the things one wants to say. The shouted obscenities. The crucial matter of misspeaking: e.g., the impropriety of Mrs. Wallace in greeting the Duchess of York.  "Bertie's" attempts to reason with his brother in the wine cellar, only to be mocked by him, his stammered words consciously mistaken for "treasonous" thoughts, and his inability to defend himself. Logue's gaff in suggesting that he prepare himself for the throne. The role of technology in this film was impressive: the phonograph that played the music that deafened the duke and recorded the smooth speech he couldn't hear. The radios that people huddled around.  The close ups on that dreadful microphone and the blinking red light, a mouth that must receive your words and throw them.  The dreadful machinery of broadcasting, when one doesn't want a public life, one doesn't want to be "broadly cast."  The dreadful silence of a suffering crowd, who can't tell the Duke of York to get on with it. Hitler's harsh, unintelligible German that's intelligible: "He seems to be saying it rather well."  All Bertie's wonderful witticisms. "If you wait for me to commence a conversation you will have to wait a long wait."   Forcing the young Duke of York to write unnaturally with his right hand. That lovely moment when Logue sits down irreverently in the ancestral throne and notes that people have carved words in it, usefully deflating its power to intimidate.  The pun on "speech" in the title.

Note: stammering is different from stuttering.  A st-st-stutter is the inability to get past the first sound in a word or phrase.  A stammer is the inability to start a phrase at all.  


----- Original Message -----
From: "Norman Holland" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2011 4:38:37 PM

Let me suggest another angle on THE KING'S SPEECH.  I think it's not just
the story (true or doctored) of George VI's stutter.  I think it's good to
recognize that this film plays a virtual symphony on the idea of the way we
humans communicate to one another or, more accurately, how we manifest
ourselves to other humans.  There is the stuttering, of course, but also:

Demosthenes' cure for stuttering;
the father's harsh rebukes;
the uniforms and regalia;
the huge rooms of Buckingham Palace
the whole pomp and ceremony of majesty,
the King's Rolls Royce (so attractive to the street urchins);
Logue's dingy quarters;
Edward's telephone calls to Mrs. Wallace;
George V's dying words;
Logue's concealing his client's identity from his wife;
the Queen's having tea with Mrs. Logue
Westminster Cathedral;
the royal carriage;
loudspeakers, the wireless;
chldren's stories;
being "on a first-name basis";
HItler's speechifying;
four-letter words;
the archbishop's trying to outflank Logue;
the rituals of coronation;
Churchill's confession;  etc., etc.,

and, of course, the King's several speeches.

Considered this way, I think one finds in the film an imaginative richness
that may explain the public's and the Oscar voters' enthusiasm.

                      --With warm regards,

Norm Holland
 [log in to unmask]

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite

Sarah L. Higley
Professor of English
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627
shigley at z dot rochester dot edu
sarah.higley at rochester dot edu

Py dydwc glein o erddygnawt uein?
"What brings a gem from a hard stone?"
The Book of Taliesin

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite