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December 9, 2010 11:46 PM   Subscribe

A new movie, The King’s Speech, (official site / trailer / clips) depicts King George VI of England's struggle to overcome his problem with stuttering and find his voice, in time to deliver the historic radio speech that prepared London for WWII. The film is being hailed as a potential Oscar-contender, for its unique, sensitive portrayal of stuttering -- a sharp contrast to the way movies traditionally present those who suffer from the disorder.. Slate offers a slideshow of ten video clips: A History of Stuttering in the Movies posted by zarq (38 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was going to cite Derek Jacobi's portrayal of Alan Turing in Breaking the Code for humane treatment of stammering, but further research implies that the stutter in the original play was, at best, a misinterpretation of Turing's real-life affect.
posted by mykescipark at 12:00 AM on December 10, 2010


Great timing; I was hoping earlier today to find some of those historic broadcasts on my own, and now you've saved me the trouble!

I watched the film a few weeks ago and enjoyed it enormously; I had no idea what the film was going to be like, and had only gone in the first place because of my longstanding, er, admiration for Colin Firth, but it was really delightful -- great writing and performances. The entire theater practically gave it a standing O at the screening I attended.

The LA Times has had several stories about the film lately that are good to read -- the writer of the film, David Seidler, was a stutterer himself, as a child.
posted by estherbester at 12:03 AM on December 10, 2010


The entire theater practically gave it a standing O at the screening I attended.

Wow, I've never given a standing O to anyone!

(I am looking forward to this movie. Colin Firth is always delightful.)
posted by Omnomnom at 2:19 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sounds interesting and good to see a film shining a light on an interesting subject that is usually reserved for use in awkward comedys.

As for the standing o, from my experience it seems the barrier is rather low Stateside - Americans woul;d give a standing ovation to a change in wind direction.
posted by numberstation at 2:43 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's remarkable that after so many centuries humans remain so easily swayed by audible fluency and flourish. The trailer's scene with the King watching Hitler is paramount. Here are two leaders, at war's edge, with hopelessly mismatched firepower.

It's not what you say, but how you say it. And how you say it in public, before a crowd.

This even now, in the age of the soundbite, when all speechifying is reduced to easily digestible clips and all rhetorical value is extruded to the barest minimum, which is also why we impute such importance to verbal slip-ups. Dubya the recidivist is the poster boy, but all politicians -- indeed, anyone who speaks regularly in public -- has those moments.

Thanks for this post; the film looks very interesting.
posted by chavenet at 3:31 AM on December 10, 2010


Not forgetting the st... st... stutter rap.
posted by londonmark at 4:31 AM on December 10, 2010


Isn't he the one who said "This stammer got me a home in Buckingham Palace, and I'm not about to screw with it now"?
posted by TedW at 4:33 AM on December 10, 2010


I was going to cite Derek Jacobi's portrayal of Alan Turing in Breaking the Code for humane treatment of stammering, but further research implies that the stutter in the original play was, at best, a misinterpretation of Turing's real-life affect.

In addition to this, Jacobi has had a prominent stutter in two other films (well, a film and a TV series): "Dead Again" and, of course, "I, Claudius," which is also about a king who stutters.
posted by grumblebee at 4:37 AM on December 10, 2010


I still dig A Fish Called Wanda - - comedy can occasionally transcend ridicule.
posted by fairmettle at 4:42 AM on December 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about a history of stuttering in music, beginning with the Who's "My Generation", David Blowie's "Changes," the Large Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" (the stutter of exasperation), Elvis's "Baby Let's Play House" (the stutter of sexual anticipation), the Rivington' s "Papa Oo Mow Mow" (the stutter of psychosis), Janis Joplin's "Ball and Chain" (the stutter of creative vocalization in the absence of talent). I'm sure there are more.
posted by Faze at 4:43 AM on December 10, 2010


I was once directed by Geoffrey Rush in a State Theatre of South Australia production.

I think it would be fair to observe that his career has gone a bit bigger than mine.
posted by Wolof at 4:53 AM on December 10, 2010


"Colin Firth's King George gulps and strangles himself trying to get the words out, yet retains his dignity and invites our empathy."

There is something about watching someone struggle to get a word out that does invite empathy.

Howard Stern selected "Stuttering" John Melendez to ask embarrassing questions of celebrities "premised on the idea that celebrities would not want to look bad by refusing an interview from a stutterer." He was right. Before Melendez became famous and could no longer get away with it the strategy worked brilliantly.

Quite the opposite of the King who tried to play down his difficulties by avoiding certain words, Stern's idea was to use the stutter for the set-up, so writers would give Melendez questions specifically crafted with words and phrases that would invoke his stutter.
posted by three blind mice at 5:18 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]




Nobody thought it could be done, but they did it - they constructed a movie out of pure Oscar bait.
posted by Artw at 5:52 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nobody thought it could be done, but they did it - they constructed a movie out of pure Oscar bait.

Am I supposed to be a man, am I supposed to say, "It's OK, I don't mind, I don't mind"? Well, I mind! I mind big time! And you know what the worst part is? I NEVER LEARNED TO READ.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:02 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nobody thought it could be done, but they did it - they constructed a movie out of pure Oscar bait.

I take it you've never seen Crash.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:20 AM on December 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm so glad they included It-- never was there a more realistic depiction of stuttering caused by childhood trauma involving a space clown.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:35 AM on December 10, 2010


...a fucking spider...
posted by Artw at 6:39 AM on December 10, 2010


In yet another not-so surprising lame decision by the MPAA, "The King's Speech" has been rated R. Yes, the festival favorite, historical epic and leading Oscar contender has been deemed unsuitable because of one scene where the future King George VI (Colin Firth) unleashes a slew of expletives at the encouragement of his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush). This would be shocking if it wasn't typical of the film ratings board.

So sad that this pure gift of joyous art will not be able to be watched by children without the supervision of their parents.
Oscar sheds a single tear.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:42 AM on December 10, 2010


In yet another not-so surprising lame decision by the MPAA, "The King's Speech" has been rated R.

Definitely stupid but I can't imagine very many American teenagers will be trying to sneak into theaters to see a costume drama about speech therapy.
posted by octothorpe at 7:05 AM on December 10, 2010 [6 favorites]




Three blind mice, I have a stammer myself and find this to be absolutely true. As a child, it fed a severe phobia of using the telephone. I could just hear the "oh, you poor dear" in the other person's tone, and their "helpful" attempts at trying to finish my sentences only made the situation that much more damaging to my self-esteem.

Despite the problems I had with the phone, I found I really did enjoy public speaking.* My job requires I give (frequent) presentations. I've learned to roll my stammer** into a high-energy and personable presentation style; it helps me portray a sense of overflowing enthusiasm, even on days when I'd rather be doing something else. I get frequent compliments on my presentations and they're not the "you're so brave to speak in front of everyone" kind.

I still have problems with the phone. I find that when I speak publicly, my use of body language and eye contact with the audience shows that I don't think of my stutter as an impediment... and thus, you shouldn't, either. But the phone erases that and puts me solely at the mercy of my voice; it's sometimes a struggle, even though I'm no longer that self-conscious child.

* There is some irony with having no fear of public speaking, yet being saddled with a speech impediment.

** And what an odd, unpredictable beast it can be. Anything from repeating syllables to entire phases... then suddenly a FULL STOP inability to pronounce certain sounds.
posted by Wossname at 7:32 AM on December 10, 2010 [7 favorites]


Definitely stupid but I can't imagine very many American teenagers will be trying to sneak into theaters to see a costume drama about speech therapy.

Or paying any attention to it at all if rated PG-13.

If your goal is to nab the teen market, rating it "R" is not the worst strategy. A variant of the Streisand Effect.
posted by chavenet at 7:47 AM on December 10, 2010


People try to put us down
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2010


Nobody thought it could be done, but they did it - they constructed a movie out of pure Oscar bait.

Interestingly enough, many reviewers seem to be acknowledging this, but say that Firth, Rush and to a lesser extent Bonham Carter turn in such good performances and the subject of the King's stammering is handled so well, that the movie is worth seeing.
posted by zarq at 8:00 AM on December 10, 2010


Or paying any attention to it at all if rated PG-13.

As Donald Glover said: PG-13 is the handjob of ratings: It's got some good stuff in it, but you always feel like you could have done it better yourself.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:04 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Working long hours one-on-one with an engineer that stuttered, I found myself on the verge of stuttering, and even my internal monologue was stuttering a bit. I wonder how much they have to wind down to get their normal voices back.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:12 AM on December 10, 2010


Faze: There's also "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdive. The stuttering in the song song has an interesting backstory.
posted by rocket88 at 8:29 AM on December 10, 2010 [4 favorites]


From the Slate link: A Fish Called Wanda is widely considered to be the most offensive depiction of stuttering.

Wha...? "Offensive"? Since when? Michael Palin's character's stutter makes him a profoundly sympathetic character.
posted by Gelatin at 9:27 AM on December 10, 2010


Michael Palin's character's stutter makes him a profoundly sympathetic character.

Not to mention that the only person that makes fun of him is portrayed as the dumbest person in the movie.
posted by Jpfed at 10:10 AM on December 10, 2010


Derek Jacobi's stutter in the Turing movie made me lose respect for Derek Jacobi's stutter in I Clavdivs, which, when I was a kid, I thought was the BEST ACTING EVER!!!

Would anyone like to play a game and name three songs I'm thinking of?

Buh, Buh, Buh...

Chuh, Chuh, Chuh...

y'know, y'know, y'know...
posted by Trochanter at 11:03 AM on December 10, 2010


Actually the second one should be Chuh, Chuh, Chuh, Chuh...
posted by Trochanter at 11:06 AM on December 10, 2010


The cha cha?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:27 PM on December 10, 2010


Derek Jacobi's stutter in the Turing movie made me lose respect for Derek Jacobi's stutter in I Clavdivs

What was wrong with it? I didn't see the Turing movie. And why did it make you lose respect for it in a totally different movie?
posted by grumblebee at 2:11 PM on December 12, 2010


What was wrong with it?

It was pretty much exactly the same thing. It made his Claudius less special. It was such a novel and different portrayal of a stutter.
posted by Trochanter at 10:26 PM on December 12, 2010


Doing it again made it seem like a trick. (I don't mean to overstate it though. I liked both performances.)
posted by Trochanter at 10:28 PM on December 12, 2010


“The King’s Speech,” the film about a stuttering member of the British royal family and the speech therapist who helps him deliver a crucial oration, was the most nominated movie at Tuesday’s announcement of the Golden Globe nominations, receiving seven nods including best dramatic motion picture, as well as nominations for actors Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter, and its director, Tom Hooper. Other films with multiple nominations included “The Social Network,” “Black Swan,” “The Fighter” and “Inception,” which will all vie for best drama at the awards ceremony on Jan. 16.

posted by zarq at 6:41 AM on December 14, 2010


Derek Jacobi's stutter in the Turing movie made me lose respect for Derek Jacobi's stutter in I Clavdivs

He also stuttered at the end of Dead Again.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:54 AM on December 22, 2010


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