Lionel: Why should I waste my time listening to you? Bertie: Because I have a right to be heard! Because I HAVE A VOICE! Lionel: ...Yes, you do.
The King's Speech is a 2010 period film, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham-Carter. The film depicts the early years of Prince Albert, Duke of York (later King George VI) and his struggle with a severe speech impediment that kept him from carrying out public speaking engagements. His wife Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, enlists the services of failed Australian actor-turned-speech therapist Lionel Logue to help her husband. Logue's unconventional methods do indeed begin to make some progress. Meanwhile, however, Prince Albert's older brother Edward VIII makes a royal botch of his own marriage plans, thrusting him even further into the spotlight, even as another famous public speaker is stirring up trouble on the continent.
Possibly a rather odd form of Why Are You Not My Son? (as Bertie IS George V's son, just not the right birth order), as George V was actually known to have thought Bertie would make a better King than David, and to openly say he hoped David would never marry, so that "there is no one between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." In the context of the line, he lists "your brother, the future king" as doing a number of disgraceful things, engaging in irresponsible and unkingly behaviour that was going to wreck the country. He says it while getting Bertie to try speaking at the microphone — because he could almost foresee that Bertie would end up as king whether he wanted it or not.
Awesome Moment of Crowning: Averted. Though George VI rehearses his coronation, it happens off-screen, leaving his speech as the film's climax. He later watches the edited newsreel version with his wife, girls and the Archbishop, and even then, we only catch a glimpse of it.
Although it's not shown, Lionel Logue was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, an order of chivalry for direct services to the monarch.
Brits with Battleships: Bertie served in the Royal Navy, and it's noted that he was happier as Lieutenant Bertie Johnson compared to Prince Albert, the Duke of York.
Bowdlerization: In order to maximize the film's profits, the film - an Oscar-winning feature - was re-released in the United States with some content cut out to avoid an R rating. The recut film, released in theaters around and after the Oscars, had the PG-13 rating attached to it. (See Cluster F Bomb, below, for most of what got cut.)
Critics and film buffs alike were not happy with these cuts - or even the initial R rating. Both situations were chiefly the result of the MPAA's refusal to give the original cut a PG-13 rating, despite other countries/regions giving the film their equivalent of the PG or PG-13 rating. When the film was shown uncut at the LA Film School, that scene was wildly applauded.
Buffy Speak: Edward refers to his general gadding about as "king-ing."
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Lionel Logue. Hell, it turns out he's not even accredited or trained - he just happened to be excellent at treating people with speech disorders when people kept asking him to treat shellshocked World War One veterans. As he points out, there weren't any schools then - just thousands of wounded veterans who needed his help. No wonder his treatment was so effective.
This is mainly In-Universe. To his contemporaries, Logue's methods would have seemed bizarre or foolish, but to a modern audience they seem fairly straightforward. At the time, it seems, no-one except Logue would admit that psychology was involved in a speech disorder and by modern standards, the only other speech therapist that we see looks like a total quack.
Geoffrey Rush's wife is played by Jennifer Ehle, who was Firth's love interest in the series that made him a heartthrob. Although this movie only gives her and Firth a single scene together, they make a big deal out of it.
And then there's David Bamber's blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance as the amateur dramatics director who rejects Logue. David Bamber is probably best known for playing Cicero on Rome, yet another statesman with a speech impediment. He also appeared as creepy parson Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice with Firth and Ehle. And he additionally played Hitler in Valkyrie.
George VI (sobbing after learning he's to be king) I'm just a naval officer! It's all I know how to be...
Earlier when Logue and Elizabeth meet for the first time:
Logue: Maybe he should change jobs. Elizabeth (Incognito):He can't. Logue: Indentured servitude? Elizabeth (Incognito): Something like that.
Chekhov's Gag: When Lionel tries get Albert to bring up a topic, the latter responds: "Waiting for me to... commence a conversation, one can wait rather a long wait." Later, when Albert returns to apologize to Lionel, he tells him: "Waiting for a king to apologize, one can wait a long wait."
Cigarette of Anxiety: Bertie tries to have a cigarette after a particularly bad session with a speech therapist. His hands are shaking too much, though, and his wife lights it for him.
Clock Discrepancy: When Bertie comes to tell David that he is late for dinner, David reminds him that their father ordered all the clocks set fast and winds the hands back on a mantle clock by half an hour. According to royal biographers, this is Truth in Television.
Cluster F-Bomb: A single scene featured this, thus earning a film that would otherwise be rated PG (and did in Canada, albeit with the advisory, "Language may offend") an R rating in the USA - all due to the MPAA's rules concerning the usage of profanity.
"Fuck. FUCK! Fuck, fuck, fuck AND FUCK! Fuck, fuck AND BUGGER! Bugger, bugger, BUGGERTY BUGGERTY BUGGERTY, fuck, fuck, ARSE! Balls, balls, FUCKITY, shit, shit, FUCK AND WILLY. WILLY, SHIT AND FUCK AND tits."
As pointed out above, this was cut out in order to release a recut version of the film that gathered a PG-13 rating.
Genteel Interbellum Setting: Pretty much all of the movie takes place in this, though you don't see a lot of the tropes commonly associated with it.
Dead Air: Most notably in the first speech shown where he stood there for over two minutes trying to talk into the microphone without being able to get anything out. Even after that, he's still stammering and pausing as everyone looks on in shame and embarrassment.
Lionel Logue:[as George "Bertie" is lighting up a cigarette] Please don't do that.
King George VI: I'm sorry?
Lionel Logue: I believe sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you.
King George VI: My physicians say it relaxes the throat.
Lionel Logue: They're idiots.
King George VI: They've all been knighted.
Lionel Logue: Makes it official then.
Bertie is pretty good at this himself.
Lionel Logue: Surely a prince's brain knows what its mouth is doing?
King George VI: You're not well acquainted with princes, are you?
Deliberate Values Dissonance: When Lionel Logue forbids Prince Albert from smoking in his office, he calls the knighted doctors who recommended the prince to smoke for the good of his larynx "idiots". However, in the 1920s setting, that makes Logue an eccentric while modern audiences would know that a doctor giving that advice is practically grounds for medical malpractice.
If you think about it, Logue telling Bertie, "I believe inhaling smoke will kill you" makes perfect sense once you remember that Logue served in the trenches in World War One and had seen the effects of gassing on young men. And, indeed, that's exactly how Bertie died.
Also, the idea of Parliament making a big enough deal objecting to King Edward's wanting to marry his twice divorced girlfriend to resign en masse over it seems an over-reaction to a modern audience, but the fact that she was believed to be a German spy kind of evens it out.
Not to mention several characters making vaguely xenophobic jibes against Logue's Australian background.
Don't Call Me Doctor: Lionel Logue is insistent with future King George VI to call him "Lionel" and not "Doctor" and it turns out to be justified: Lionel is not a doctor, by any means, and if you check carefully, he has never once claimed that he was. He became a therapist by dint of helping PTSD-inflicted veterans of World War I in Australia. Albert is furious at first, but grows to accept it.
Doting Parent: One of Albert's most admirable traits. After his accession to the throne, it broke his heart that his beloved little girls did not run to hug him as a father, but coldly and formally curtsied to him as a King.
Double Meaning Title: Referring to the publicly-important speech George VI delivers at the end, or to his personally-important speech, his way of speaking?
Dramatically Missing The Point: Albert criticizes his brother Edward, who is heir to the throne, of acting unbecoming of the King of England. Edward thus accuses his brother of trying to take his place as king when what he was really trying to do was telling him to get his act together specifically because Albert didn't want to be king.
Dueling Movies: The filmcriticosphere tried to force it into this with The Social Network, both big-hitting, big-budget biopics trying to nab Oscars and pretty much the only two contenders for Best Picture. This went right into the actual Oscars ceremony: Social Network's synth version of "Hall of the Mountain King" was the music for the opening montage while the title speech was the backdrop of the Best Picture montage.
The Dutiful Son: Comparatively rare instance where the dutiful son is the main character.
The story is actually based on one that Colin Firth would tell his children.
Exact Words: Throughout the film, Bertie attempts to keep things formal by calling Lionel "Doctor Logue," while Lionel insists on a first-name basis. Later, the king is told that Lionel actually has no certificates or qualifications at all. He's mortified and furious, until Lionel gently points out that Bertie was the one who insisted on calling him "Doctor" and that Lionel has never advertised himself as such.
Foreshadowing: At Lionel's audition for Richard III (paraphrased): "That does not sound like a deformed creature yearning to be king. [...] We're looking for someone younger... and more regal."
Friendship Moment: Bertie tells the Archbishop to seat Lionel in the King's box for the coronation. The Archbishop protests that the royal family is to be seated there. Bertie's response? "That is why it is suitable."
Gray Rain of Depression: Lionel comes to apologize to Albert after an argument and is told that the Duke is "too busy" to see him. He is shown the door and exits into the pouring rain.
Somewhat downplayed example: the aforementioned argument takes place in a light drizzle and a hazy fog with some sunlight.
Happily Married: George VI and Queen Elizabeth; Lionel and Myrtle Logue. Also, though we don't see much of it, George V and Mary fit the trope in real life.
Harsher in Hindsight: Deliberately invoked with Edward's casual comment about the troubles in Europe, "Hitler will sort it out." While it could be considered merely naive, to modern audiences, that statement feels positively horrific and despicable to see the King of England want Nazi Germany to begin its rampage of mass death and destruction.
Historical Villain Upgrade: Zigzagged with the characterization of Edward VIII. On the one hand, his image of a romantic man who gave up the crown for love is dissected, turning him into little more than a ditzy, uncaring socialite who really had no interest in - or business - being a constitutional monarch. On the other hand, Edward's vocal support for Nazi Germany is almost completely ignored, reduced to a single throwaway line.
They eliminated the fact that King George VI wasn't very fond of Winston Churchill. They wouldn't even become friends until long after the events of the film.
A lot of the later speech difficulty is likely trumped up. He was known to be at least a decent orator, with Logue's help, as early as 1927, when he opened Australia's parliament on behalf of his father, King George V. The stress of coronation though did set his speech progress back.
The radio speech to the nation after the outbreak of war had the stress level ratcheted up as high as it could go.
All of the events are compressed from a period of fifteen years into just a couple. George VI first started meeting with Logue the year before his daughter Elizabeth was born, while in the film they keep the same child actress for the entire story.
George was a strong supporter of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy (though the film doesn't really say otherwise, since it more or less skips over the 1937-1939 period), going so far as to breach protocol and endorse Chamberlain's policy prior to the sitting of the House of Commons. However, this was the consensus attitude for the period, something most people tend to overlook in favour of just blaming Chamberlain. (This attitude makes a great deal more sense when you remember that Britain had only just started to recover from the devastation of WWI.) The film also has Stanley Baldwin resigning over misjudging Hitler, which wasn't the case; he was simply ready to retire after fifteen years as leader of the Conservative Party.
The film also gets Churchill's position on the abdication crisis exactly backward; historically, Churchill was one of the few who was supportive of Edward.
Although he wasn't initially fond of Churchill's appointment to Prime Minister, he did develop a close friendship with him, and they confided in each other about war and governance of Britain, with the input of both being very important in later stages of WWII, and the dissemination of the British Empire into the commonwealth.
Although King George and Logue were on very friendly terms, Logue observed proper decorum and never went as far as to call him "Bertie."
Couple of minor details: George VI did not really have to bounce on "peoples" in the speech listen here. He did bounce a bit on "a-depth" of feeling a few seconds later. And Lionel was not really seated in the royal box, but in the box just above it, where he and Myrtle had a splendid view.
Hypocritical Humour: Logue remarks that the King's doctors being knighted makes their being idiots "official"; he later asks for a knighthood for himself near the end of the film.
Logue encourages Bertie to face his fears, only to hide in the corner when his wife unexpectedly walks in on the Queen, because he never told her he was treating a member of the royal family. Bertie tells him to stop being a coward and calmly steps out and greets Myrtle.
Insane Troll Logic: Edward VIII seems to operate on this. First, he thinks his father is deliberately feigning sick (i.e. dying) to make trouble for him and his mistress Wallis Simpson. He later thinks that George's attempts to get him to actually do his duty as an attempt to take the crown from him.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: King Edward is a borderline example, as he truly does love Wallis, and his speech for his abdication is touching. Abdicating to his brother was probably the best thing he ever did.
Jerkass: King Edward VIII, from what we see of him, is very rude towards Albert and more concerned with living the high life than with being a guiding voice for England. Also, he and Wallis were a pair of Nazi sympathizers, though the film only hints at this.
Kick the Dog: The entire party at Balmoral Castle is an extended Kick the Dog on Edward's part. He starts it by showing how lightly he takes to his duties as king, follows it by showing apathy toward Hitler's march through Europe, and tops it all off by mocking Albert for his speech impediment just for daring to suggest he take leadership duties more seriously, to such an extent that Albert is unable to speak.
Love Ruins the Realm: Edward VIII's marriage plans cause his subjects no end of trouble. Most historians, however, think that George VI was a much better choice for the throne (his father agreed), given what was coming - though it wasn't so great for George himself, greatly exacerbating his health problems.
Meaningful Echo: "I'm sure you'll be splendid." Uttered first by the Archbishop, and then Myrtle Logue, and then finally at the end by the Late Queen Mother. Then Princess Margaret tells her father that he was "just splendid."
Meaningful Rename: Albert gets one of these when he becomes King George VI. David also changes his name when he becomes king although its not as meaningful and happens off screen.
For David/Edward, it's more of a case of Overly-Long Name. David (full name Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor), chose his first name as his regnal name, but went by David among his family.
Never Trust a Trailer: The film's trailer, to convey the premise as concisely as possible, refers to Colin Firth's character as the King throughout (when in fact he spends a large part of the film as merely the Duke of York), even going so far as to redub the moment when Logue is informed who his new client really is.
Noble Bigot: George VI himself. He's a nice guy, but he's still a man of his time.
Lionel Logue: Would I lie to a prince of the realm to win twelve pennies?
King George VI: I have no idea what an Australian might do for that sort of money.
The Obi-Wan: A "peculiar" case, but still (Sir) Lionel Logue fits the bill. Fortunately, he doesn't die.
Oscar Bait: Fits the stereotype, though, as many commentators have noted, it's actually uncommon for this sort of film to win Best Picture since the 2000s (whereas it was very popular in the 1990s). It won for Best Picture, Best Directing, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay.
The Power of Friendship: The friendship between Albert and Lionel was strong enough to help Albert gain self-confidence and break the normal social barriers to keep Lionel as his friend, even though Lionel was a commoner.
Reality Subtext: The film's writer was himself a stutterer, who took great inspiration from listening to King George's radio addresses, with his parents assuring him the King once stuttered worse than him.
Reluctant Ruler: Prince Albert/King George VI. He never wanted the throne, but seeing his wastrel brother screw up and abdicate for a twice-divorced, Nazi-sympathizer girlfriend, he has no choice in the matter. Likewise, Edward (who is more of the Rebel Prince variety) completely breaks down when he is told that he will be king.
Royally Screwed Up: George VI and Edward VIII both have a dose of this, thanks to their abusive father and distant mother. The former's speech impediment and nervousness is the result of his unhappy childhood, and it's heavily implied that the latter's weak-will and hedonism is likewise a result of that upbringing.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: George VI complains that he has no power as a King, except as being an inspiration for the people such as in giving public addresses, which he has no confidence doing so with his stammer. However, with Lionel Logue's help, he does that role marvelously. This is in contrast with his brother, David, who seems more interested in carrying on with his mistress than being a competent king.
Furthermore, Bertie earned the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy, and even saw combat during World War I. The uniform he wears during the final speech is just that, the uniform he wore in the last war.
Sherlock Scan: Of sorts. Logue's children are able to tell what Shakespeare character he's playing with a single line of dialogue.
Logue is also able to tell Albert was born left handed, but trained to write with his right.
This has been known to cause problems, such as dyslexia and stuttering.
Shown Their Work: Albert's line about purposely stammering a couple times in the climactic speech "so they'd know it was me" was taken directly out of his diaries.
The movie was changed only nine weeks before production to work details from Lionel Logue's then-recently discovered diary in.
Shrinking Violet: Albert, whose stammer has made him deathly afraid of having to deal with crowds or public speeches.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Albert and David have several contrasting aspects to their personality.
David has a lover (who has been twice divorced and a Nazi sympathizer), despite his family's disapproval. Albert is Happily Married.
After his father's death and was told he would be king, David's breakdown in front of his family and the doctors was taken seriously as royalty was expected to have a Stiff Upper Lip. Albert only broke down once in front of his wife in private while otherwise remaining The Stoic in front of his subjects.
During his rule, David was very carefree and more focused in pleasing Wallis Simpson, even telling Albert that "Hitler will sort [the troubles in Europe] out". After he became king, Albert would become the guiding figure for his people during World War II.
David was a bit of a Jerk Ass, mocking his brother's stuttering and thinking Albert wanted to take over his place, while Albert was only trying to genuinely help his brother get his act together because he didn't want to be king.
Stiff Upper Lip: This is expected of royalty in particular, so much so that Edward's breakdown at being told he will be king after the death of his father is treated pretty seriously as a sign that he isn't fit to rule, and gets him a What the Hell, Hero? from his brother. Absolutely truth in television, too - at that time, among the royal family, his breakdown was completely unseemly. Note that when Bertie has his later on, the only person there to witness it is his wife. Also When Queen Mary is listening to King George VI, there is a glimpse of a smile, and then returns to a stiff upper lip.
Upon accession to the throne Bertie did have a breakdown in real life, it was in front of the Queen Dowager (Queen Mary, his mother), not his wife.
Take That: When King George V tells Bertie that the royalty has become the basest of all creatures: actors.
Take That Me: Thankfully, Bertie isn't too depressed about his problems to not make fun of them.
Lionel: Do you know any jokes?
Bertie: T-..timing is n-not...my strong suit.
Taught by Experience: Lionel became a speech therapist by treating shell-shocked World War One veterans and learning on the job; no courses existed then and he had to make it up as he went along.
That Came Out Wrong: When Lionel's wife comes home unexpectedly while he's meeting with the King, and he panics about her reaction. "I haven't told her about us."
There Are No Therapists: Or rather, there were none. Lionel cut his therapeutic teeth treating the speech disorders of shell-shocked WorldWarOne veterans, and quickly figured out that what they needed most desperately was a friendly ear. And as it turns out, Bertie had never had anyone to tell about the miserable childhood that fostered his stutter, including the fact that it took his parents three years to notice that the nanny was starving him. note The incident with the nurse was dramatized for the film; in real life, she didn't starve them, and it was David, not Bertie, whom she would pinch before taking him to see his parents.
By some accounts, it was George himself who developed anorexia, apparently on his own. The nanny who blew the whistle on, then took over from the cruel one, was very warm and motherly to all the kids, and is also remembered for (off-duty) swearing like a sailor.
Lalla Bill. You can see her in The Lost Prince. She became Johnnie's full-time companion when he was "hidden from view". She was with him when he died.
Queen Elizabeth lets Mrs. Logue know how to pronounce "Ma'am" when addressing her.
Invoked by Prince Albert to Lionel to call him "His Royal Highness". Defied by Lionel, who calls him "Bertie" instead.
Title Drop: Right before the last scene, in reference to the first wartime speech by Bertie (now George VI).
Training Montage: Numerous reviews have compared the film to a sports movie like Rocky, except the sport is public speaking. Oddly enough, there's only two such montages in here. Director Tom Hooper had to be pushed to insert them by Geoffrey Rush, as he doesn't like the montage as a film device in the least.
The first such sequence may be an Anti-training montage; Albert goes through a ton of humiliating exercises, juxtaposed with his latest speech in which he still sounds horrid. Of course, that's exactly what Lionel wants, since his point is that mechanics alone won't fix Albert.
The Unfavorite: Albert was this as a child, as both his father and his nanny preferred his brother (at first, anyway). His stuttering didn't help very much.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: George V was a bit of a Jerkass to his kids when they were young, leaving them feeling a bit alienated from him. Unlike most instances of this, by the time the story takes place, George V actually does approve of the adult Albert/George VI (though still frustrated by his speech problems), certainly compared to his older brother, but past experiences mean that Albert doesn't think he's sincere. In real life he expressed preference for Albert and his daughter Elizabeth (who was 9 years old at the time) over Edward for the throne toward the end of his life.
George V's last words were acknowledgments of Bertie as superior to his brothers; which he never actually told Bertie.
Wham Line: "What if my husband were the Duke of York?" Cue Oh Crap look when Lionel Logue finally recognises that he's talking to the Duchess of York.
What Happened to the Mouse?: During the film we see several speeches of Albert where he just can't get the words out. Then it cuts to the next scene. What happened? Did he give the speech? Did he just leave? Did he just stand there for 20 minutes?
Probably left, out of embarrassment.
Or maybe he finished the speech and it took him quite a long time to do so. Anyway, there isn't really a need to show all those speeches from the beginning to the end, they just imply whether he's made progress or not.