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American Women's Club of Hamburg

A Mouth Full of Marbles

After seeing The King's Speech, I wondered how advanced was the domain of speech therapy. As King George (Colin Firth) struggled with his stammering condition, we felt the emotional pain and humiliation that he suffered. At one point the main character fills his mouth with marbles and attempts to recite something. It ends with him almost choking on the marbles. This idea of marbles actually came from Demosthenes, a Greek statesman and orator in the 4th century; he tried to cure his own speech problem with pebbles. A speech therapist tells King George that smoking will help cure his condition.

At the press conference Firth said that he was aware of King George's problem but did not realize how bad it was until he heard the tapes as he prepared for this role. He realized that, "Speech therapists are trained to stop stammering and it's impossible to find a speech therapist to train you to do the opposite. There are no experts; you are on your own." He practiced with the tapes and talked to David Seidler, the screen writer who had his own stammering problem until he was sixteen. Seidler described it as a "drowning sensation." Firth quietly and discreetly tested an English, understated version in rehearsal; finally, the idea penetrated his subconscious, and, by the first day of filming, he had mastered the stammer. Helen Bonham-Carter said, "Thank God for the iPhone. Colin had George in his pocket and listened to him over and over again." Firth said, "I was on my own and knew it had to be personal and venerable. You could hear the battle that was going on in King George's head." Firth copied it so well that he earned an Oscar for his performance.

In one scene King George is shocked to learn that Lionel Logue (Geoffery Rush), his speech therapist, has no credentials for the job. In actuality, Logue had worked with WWI soldiers who stuttered from shell shock. From Australia, Logue was also an actor. In 1935, he co-founded the British Society of Speech Therapists. Some of the scenes are a bit unrealistic since speech therapy during the 1700s and 1800s concentrated on people who were deaf rather than those with stuttering problems. In the early 1900s, probably because of WW1, therapists focused more on treating stammering and lisps. Logue's grandson, Mark Logue, co-wrote the book The King's Speech, How One Man Saved the British Monarchy together with Peter Conradi. This film reveals the life of one monarch who didn't want to become king and, at the same time, it gives King George the respect and admiration that he deserves.

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