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Phil Nugent

I'm all for historical accuracy, but the most heated objections to the movie, mainly those from Chotiner and Christopher Hitchens, seem kind of deranged to me. When they complain that it presents Edward as a lame and unappealing fellow who was absolutely the wrong person to be king during World War II but don't do enough to emphasize specifically that he was soft on Nazism, it amounts to confusing choice of focus with deliberate misrepresentation. And the suggestion that Winston Churchill, of all people, should be seen as insufficiently concerned over the Nazi menace because he didn't knee Edward in the groin every chance he got is just nuts. I kind of wonder how much it really comes down to Chotiner and Hitchens thinking it's "ugly" and "morally dubious" to make a movie in which members of the royal family as portrayed as sympathetic human beings instead of as the loathsome jackals they know them to be.

Bob Westal

Articles like Chotiner's always remind me of an old bit from the really early David Letterman show where he would professionals from non-film related areas review a movie. The one I remember is having a dentist reviewing "Reds" and panning it because everybody's teeth was way too perfect to be historically accurate for the teens and twenties. People like Chotiner should be forced to watch REALLY historically inaccurate movies like "They Died With Their Boots On" to get the difference between the sort of actually very minor manipulations in "The King's Speech" and really direct historical changes.

I say this even though I was actually slightly disappointed in the movie. (I just caught up with in last night.) In particular, Spall -- who I usually love -- was kind of irritating as Churchill. Rod Taylor did it much better! (Though he said maybe three words, I realize.)

Belvoir

I haven't seen the film yet, but from what I know of it, there's a lot of sweetened revisionism aside from the political. Back in the 90's my mother was a nurse at a nursing home, one of the residents was a courtly Englishman who loved royal biographies, which he gave to her after reading, that I ended up reading as well. At least twenty books.

-Bertie and his brothers were all pretty damaged and neurotic individuals- George V and Queen Mary were distant yet disciplinarian parents of the worst Victorian nightmare. Abusive, even. Bertie's stammer went along with his shattered nerves, which he assuaged with alcohol and smoking 60 cigarettes a day. That's what killed him, not being King, as his wife claimed. His handsome brother the Duke of Kent was a bisexual, makeup wearing nightclub habituée in the 1920's who had to be rescued from an opium and cocaine addiction.

-David, the future abdicator and Duke of Windsor, was something of a pop star as Prince of Wales, dumb as a box of rocks but intensely eligible and sought after by ladies of the upper class. Like Elizabeth Bowes-Lyons, the future Queen Mother. She actively sought his favor, was rebuffed, "settled" for Bertie, and harbored an undying grudge and hatred towards David and Wallis Simpson that lasted to the end of all their lives.

-She never stopped lamenting how reluctantly she and her husband took on the duties of being King and Queen. In reality, it was her dream come true, she looved being queen, every moment of it. I've no doubt she was fond of Bertie, but postwar she loved the social whirl more and rarely spent much time with him as he drank, alone. She was at a party when he died. It wasn't the love story the film seems to portray. Also, "Queen Mother" is a made-up title of her own; she didn't want to be called "dowager Queen" as was tradition. It cramped her style. She was quite a character, no doubt with some good qualities. But she wasn't the cuddly granny people think she was. She was a bit ruthless, cheap, something of a lush, and could be vindictive if crossed.

Anyway, gossip guy out! ;)

Lance Mannion

Belvoir, actually some of this is in the film. The cruelties of Bertie's parents, his smoking, and the neurotic roots of his stammer.

Bob, I'm glad you brought up They Died With Their Boots On. I wanted to work it into the post but I couldn't think how. When did Rod Taylor play Churchill?

Phil, Chotiner shows his anti-royalist colors and I think you're right, some of it is behind his dislike of the film.

El Jefe

Lance,

Taylor did Churchill in "Inglorious Basterds," said barely a word, and captured the brilliantly and utterly reprobate character of Winston, right down to his aging venom, his battles with depression, and his impish charm, so thoroughly just with his eyes they should have given him a Best Supporting nom. (Of course, Christoph Waltz took that with one of the best performances anywhere period, but Rod deserved a moment. He's deserved them before -- "Separate Tables" comes to mind, as does the back end of "Dark of the Sun" -- but never got them to the extent he ought.)

They were indeed damaged characters -- and the terrible thing is that they were actually getting better when one compares with Bertie's boys (and here I mean Edward VII, the original "Bertie," rather than his grandson GVI.) Well, except for David who was a very poor, though handsome, excuse for a human. And the description of the Queen Mum is dead on for her foibles. (Not perhaps surprising, any of them, in an upper-class Scottish woman, says a guy who's at least half-Scots and married same :) Her family, like Diana's Spensers, probably has a better (illegitimate) blood claim to the throne through the Stuarts than the "middle class German family" (cf. Stephen Fry) from which Liz descends. But there is another angle to it. Just as Cary Grant said "even I'm not Cary Grant," there were large parts of the Grant persona that gradually became him, and others that meshed with some of Archie Leach's better (and worse) angels. The same is true for Bertie-as-King George, and even for the Queen Mum as well.

Tim S.

Just curious, then--if it's mostly a movie about acting, does it deserve Best Picture? I'm reminded of another movie about acting, "As Good As It Gets," which took the top acting awards but lost Best Pic to a sweeping epic with poorer acting but a lot more in other areas.

If "King's Speech" goes up against "Avatar," do you think it still wins? I can't think of another movie with the possible exception of "Inception" that really pushed the bounds of movie-making this year.

Or perhaps the Best Pic for "King's Speech" is a backlash/makeup call for "Avatar," showing that there are a lot of different ways a picture can be considered "Best."

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