来源 :中华考试网 2021-05-28

  An Accidental King Finds His Voice

  Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” directed by Tom Hooper. The film explores the friendship between George VI and Lionel Logue, an Australian who focused on the king’s psychology to help him conquer public speaking, so that he was even able to tackle live radio.

  Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech,” directed by Tom Hooper. The film explores the friendship between George VI and Lionel Logue, an Australian who focused on the king’s psychology to help him conquer public speaking, so that he was even able to tackle live radio.Credit...Laurie Sparham/Weinstein Company

  By Sarah Lyall

  Oct. 28, 2010


  ON Sept. 3, 1939, after Britain declared war on Germany, George VI addressed millions of people around the world in a live radio broadcast. It was a somber, stirring call to patriotism and fortitude, to courage and resilience, and it was one of the best speeches he had ever made.

  He had had to struggle so hard to get there. The terrifying march to war, along with the trauma of taking over the throne after the unprecedented abdication of his popular older brother, Edward VIII, had brought back the debilitating stutter that had plagued the king since childhood. The long silences on the radio were not a rhetorical device but a verbal crutch.

  That he managed at all was a tribute to the man who stood beside him as he spoke, an uncredentialled, unorthodox speech therapist from Australia named Lionel Logue. “The King’s Speech,” which opens on Nov. 24, tells the story of the unlikely friendship between the two men and describes how Logue helped the king find his voice and his confidence.

  “It was a perfect storm of catastrophe,” said Colin Firth, whose nuanced portrayal of George has generated a huge pre-Oscar stir. “Having a stammer causes tremendous suffering, and just a few years earlier he would have been bailed out by having his remarks recorded and edited. But he was required to speak on this new device, live radio. And to compound all that you have a war looming, where his only function is his voice, to speak to the people, and he can’t speak.”

  The movie opens before George (then called Prince Albert, or Bertie) becomes king, during a scene in which he is trying to address an expectant crowd at Wembley Stadium. Mr. Firth’s voice flails. He swallows his words, trips over them, and spits them partially out, lapsing into long, panicked silences. It is almost physically painful to watch.

  George’s wife, played by Helena Bonham Carter, convinces him to seek help from Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue’s eccentric methods include insisting that he and Bertie address each other by their first names, making Bertie sing and impertinently asking him about his lonely childhood and his relationship with his chilly family. Gradually the future king opens up, his voice relaxing along with his clenched-up spirit.

  “It’s Logue’s way of trying to help him at a time when convention does not allow psychoanalysis for a person like that,” Mr. Firth said. “Logue is one of the early generation who believed that getting to the heart of a problem psychologically could help with a cure.”

  Image“The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper.

  “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper.Credit...Laurie Sparham/Weinstein Company

  The movie reinforces that theme with a number of scenes set during the charged days leading up to the death of George V (Michael Gambon) and the abdication less than a year later of Edward VIII (played with exquisite shallowness by Guy Pearce). With the country in shock and disarray, Bertie reluctantly steps in to a role that he never wanted and believes he cannot perform. The family scenes are studies in high dysfunction.

  Mr. Firth’s greatest fear, he said, was that he would make Bertie seem pathetic. “I didn’t want to be buried in that dark place, or stammering at the maximum rate, for the entire film,” He said. He and the movie’s director, Tom Hooper, decided that “it’s got to be uncomfortable, we have to feel his pain, but not to the point where we can’t stand it,” Mr. Firth added.

  The seeds for the film were planted years ago, in the childhood of its screenwriter, David Seidler, who himself developed a stutter after his family moved from England to America during the war. He remembers listening to the king on the radio from far across the ocean.

  “I would hear these speeches and was told by my parents that he too had a bad stutter — and look how much he’d improved,” Mr. Seidler said. “Maybe there was hope for me.”

  Years later he tracked down one of Logue’s sons, a retired neurosurgeon, who had a cache of his father’s diaries but who insisted that any project have the blessing of the Queen Mother, George’s elderly widow.

  Mr. Seidler wrote to her. “Please, not during my lifetime,” she replied. “The memory of these events is still too painful.”

  She died in 2002; the movie has been in the works, more or less, ever since.

  The filmmakers were helped by a rich trove of recordings and footage of George VI. One, of an address that he gave at the opening of an exhibition in Glasgow in 1938, was so poignant, and the king looked so distressed and so sad, that it made Mr. Firth and Mr. Hooper cry.

  “This tells me an awful lot about what he was up against and what he suffered through — what it must have felt like to be him,” Mr. Firth said. But he used that as a starting point rather than an end target.

  Colin Firth, left, and Geoffrey Rush, in “The King’s Speech.” Its screenwriter, David Seidler, had developed a stutter in childhood.

  Colin Firth, left, and Geoffrey Rush, in “The King’s Speech.” Its screenwriter, David Seidler, had developed a stutter in childhood.Credit...Laurie Sparham/Weinstein Company

  “I’m not him and I don’t look like him,” he said of the king. “We have to get past that issue and try to find the truth in other ways.”

  Mr. Hooper said: “The genius of Colin is that he understood that playing this part wasn’t necessarily about the words or the sounds you make. It was about inhabiting those terrifying silences. For a stammerer, when you can’t get the next word out, when you can’t talk, the whole world becomes about that. There is nothing there except you and this silence.”

  Though Mr. Seidler’s screenplay imagines private conversations between Logue and the king and others, it is by and large historically accurate; even some of the dialogue is a matter of history. The biggest deviation from reality is that many years’ worth of the king’s relationship with Logue is compressed into a few key years.

  Mr. Seidler’s stage version of the film, directed by Adrian Noble, is set to open on Broadway next spring.

  Mr. Firth said that the king’s impediment helped him, in a way, understand the troubles of his subjects.

  “He’s trying to show solidarity with millions of people he doesn’t know, to connect to their suffering, and he’s not sitting pretty on a velvet cushion,” he said. “He’s going through an extraordinary struggle. For him to have the humility not to want the job, and the humility to do it anyway — there was a valiant struggle going on, and people related to it.”

  George VI remained a friend of Mr. Logue for the rest of their lives. (The king died in 1952; Logue died the following year.) The king sought his help before important speaking engagements and, in 1937 made him a member of the Royal Victorian Order, which recognizes personal service to the sovereign. The king never fully got over his stutter, and Mr. Hooper said it would have been wrong to give the film a classic Hollywood ending, in which he is cured and lives happily ever after.

  When he went back and listened to archival recordings, Mr. Hooper said, “it was clear that the king was still coping with his stammer, and that this was not about a man who was cured. It was about a man who had learned how to cope.”

  Mr. Seidler said: “I’m overwhelmed with that man’s fortitude. Logue is on record as saying that Bertie was the bravest patient he ever had.”