Blog: The King’s Speech

Last December, I was charged with coming up with some kind of celebration to commemorate the launch of EinsteinFilms.com.  It didn’t take long to think of the idea of going to dinner and a movie.

When it came time to choose a movie, I tried polling the attendees and the front runner was Secretariat.

Then while riding in the car one day listening to Fresh Air on the radio (as I often do) I heard an interview with Tom Hooper, the director of The King’s Speech.

As I heard Hooper describe the challenge that King George VI faced in learning to deal with his stammer and his fear of public speaking; as I heard about the story of his work with Lionel Logue, it became obvious to me that this was the movie we needed to see.  Why?  Because it spoke to the work of The Henderson Group: helping our clients overcome their fears of public speaking and to learn to communicate with power, authenticity, and presence.

Also, having followed the careers of the lead actors: Colin FirthGeoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter, I knew that their performances would be top notch.  When we went to see the movie, that certainly turned out to be the case.

The film is uplifting without being sentimental.  The work of those 3 actors as well as Hooper’s work as a director meet the highest standard for an artist, in my view, meaning that their technique disappears.  By that I mean that as an audience member, I was never distracted by thinking about the technique of the director: his use of camera movement and lenses, lighting, scene composition, editing, etc.  I was never distracted by the technique of the actors: their use of voice, movement, expression of the text and subtext, etc.  I was solely focused on experiencing the story.

The sole exception is the performance of Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill.  His expression is over-the-top and not in keeping with the subtlety of the actors that surround him.  Also, I have so often seen Spall playing characters of a lower class that I found it distracting to suddenly see him as the soon-to-be Prime Minister, in close, intimate relationship with the Royal Family.

But this was a small distraction amongst stellar work throughout.  This movie has already garnered a number of Golden Globes and promises to make a strong showing at the Oscars.  I am calling it now: Colin Firth will win as Best Actor.

Go see this movie!

Other Recommendations:
Having started as an actor, I want to give a shout out to a handful of actors in the film that are worthy of mention as well as productions they have been a part of.

Keep an eye out for the performance of Derek Jacobi as Archbishop Cosmo Lang.  Jacobi delivers his typically stellar performance here.  I mention Jacobi in particular because I have been a huge fan of his work since I saw him deliver a deeply intelligent and compelling performance as Hamlet, the best I have ever seen in this incredibly demanding role.  Laurence Olivier, who was regularly referred to as the best actor of his generation, once said, ”Hamlet, in my opinion, is pound for pound the greatest play ever written.”  It was this performance which I saw in 1980 that inspired me to want to play the role, which I did 10 years later in 1990.

This production of Hamlet was produced by BBC Television as part of their incredible ambitious project to produce all 37 plays in Shakespeare’s canon.  This article at ScreenOnline.org.UK states:
Making its debut with Romeo and Juliet on 3 December 1978, and concluding nearly seven years later with Titus Andronicus on 27 April 1985, the BBC Television Shakespeare project was the single most ambitious attempt at bringing the Bard of Avon to the small screen, both at the time and to date.

The productions feature some well known directors Peter Brook, Ingmar Bergman, and notable actors and interesting casting choices: John Cleese as Petruchio, Anthony Hopkins as Othello, Bob Hoskins as Iago, Patrick Stewart as Claudius (Hamlet), John Gielgud, a VERY young Alan Rickman as Tybalt Iin R&J, even Roger Daltrey (of The Who) in Comedy of Errors.

Also, check out Jacobi as the Chorus/Narrator in Henry V, directed by Kenneth Brannagh.  My wife and I agree that this is the best Shakespeare on film we’ve ever seen … with the possible exception of Shakespeare In Love.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
Jennifer Ehle plays Lionel Logue’s wife and perfectly captures the shock of coming home to unexpectedly find the King and Queen of England hanging out in your living room.  She starred opposite Colin Firth in a terrific mini-series production of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.

Michael Gambon, Dumbledor of the Harry Potter movies, is a forceful and later pitiful George V, the father of George VI.  If you’ve never seen Gambon in the lead role of The Singing Detective, well, it’s simply a crime.  It is a brilliant performance in a dark, funny and complex Film Noir musical mystery mini-series that explores illness, madness, suicide, health care, broken marriages, murder, sex, loneliness - all the juicy stuff.  And it’s set during WW2 with terrific music from the period.

Claire Bloom, who played Hamlet’s mother Gertrude in that production of Hamlet also appears on The King’s Speech as another queen, Queen Mary, the intelligent, dutiful and world-weary mother of George VI.

Helena Bonham Carter played Ophelia to Mel Gibson’s Hamlet in the disappointing movie version of 1990.

Go ahead, call me a theater and Shakespeare Geek.  I’ll happily wear the title.  After all, my license plate is BARD FAN.  ;-)


Monday, January 31st, 2011. Filed under: Blog