British Universities Film & Video Council

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Oscar update: The King’s Speech In Newsreels

At the Oscars this year THE KING’S SPEECH was awarded the prize for best film, best director, best actor and best screenplay. Details of the night’s awards can be accessed here. Director Tom Hooper’s film tells the true story of how Albert, Duke of York (played by Colin Firth) worked with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) to modify his speech impediment. Those who are interested in watching and listening to the King speak, rather than relying on Firth’s impersonation of His Royal Highness, should turn to News on Screen. This enables the user to search the story data for all five British newsreels active during the 1930s and consult additional documentation where available.

Observing the King’s body language in these following four examples, and listening  to him phrase his speeches, informs a judgment as to what degree (or if) the King gained confidence and proficiency in public speaking throughout the 1930s as he moved towards his coronation and prepared to lead the nation at the outbreak of World War II.

In May 1930 the Duke opened the King’s Playing Fields at Hampton Wick,  described on NoS – his speech can be watched and heard at British Movietone News (registration required but is free).

In July 1932 the Duke dedicated a war memorial at Haileybury College; his remarks are recorded in this British Movietone News story.

The King’s Christmas message to the nation in 1937 was  broadcast on radio and titled by British Pathe in this unissued story as `The Reluctant King’

In October 1938 the King and Queen opened Norwich City Hall. The commentary for this Gaumont British news story can be viewed on NoS.  The King’s address can be watched and heard on Newsfilm Online and  ITN Source.

Viewing the newsreels will also answer the question which is currently preoccupying the film’s bloggers – did Colin Firth get the stammer right?

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.

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