TKS got four oscars, Mani phoned me the other day with great joy! Naturally, it was like Oscars being given to average stammerer. Yes, it deserves all the Oscars for taking up an issue which by itself is neither romantic, nor sell-able, nor understood by average movie goer. How can you keep average audience glued to the screen for two hours by showing someone stammer, even if it be King? If the movie was made by a lesser man (let us say Rohit Shetty of Golmaal fame!) the movie would have focused on steamy raucous romance between the elder brother (King Edward VIII) and the American divorcée- not on the speech difficulties of Bertie, I am sure! Or worse still, the whole thing would have been turned into a contrived cheap comedy..
The movie obviously is not about stammering- it is about a man’s struggle against his cross and the support offered by an understanding wife. The story touches us because this mortal man happens to be the king of an empire which covered three fourths of the earth at that time. A very powerful empire deserved a strong king- didn’t it? Common men have the freedom to stammer- but a King? wait a minute! How can the KING stammer? No, no..
This paradox is brought out very sensitively in the scene where the King, soon after coronation, breaks down and cries like a common man: “I am a naval officer..that’s all I know- I am no King..”
And the queen, his wife, consoles him..”Oh.. dear dear man..you know..you stammer so beautifully..”
Many stammerers will have no difficulty empathizing with this (above) scene; there own life has been made bearable due to a mother, a sister, a wife or a friend- who understood their peculiar inner suffering. Nor will they have difficulty with the scene where the elder brother, when cornered in an argument about his affair with Wallis Simpson, resorts to bullying Bertie, by imitating his stammer to his face! (and we thought British were always very prim and proper!) We all had had such experiences. Movies like Golmaal 3 are based on these bitter realities and promote it in the name of humor, comedy, entertainment or worse, creative license.
Finally, the man gets the hold of his emotions and learns to face that arch-enemy: the microphone! Yes, many stammerers have overcome their trials. But, technically, the movie gives the impression that stammering is “all in your mind”- a psychological phenomena purely. It also gives the impression that by 1939, the King’s stammering was almost cured. Both of these are inaccurate. Winston Churchill gave instructions to BBC to edit King’s Christmas message in 1941 (see below- a post by Allan Badmington)..
So, message for “commoners” is- if the King can do it- so can we.. For non-stammerers, the message is: learn about the diversity among human beings and be more accepting. For Bollywood, the message is clear: Even stammering can win you Oscars, if you could portray it with sensitivity, aesthetics and honesty! It also takes a swipe at so called “properly trained” speech doctors who claim to know it all but have nothing but marbles to offer.. Watch out, they may still be popping marbles in your mouth..
Overall a heart-warming movie for me, an average Indian stammerer.
It appears that Winston Churchill ordered the BBC to edit a recording of a
speech made by King George VI that was intended to be broadcast to the then
British Empire on Christmas Day 1941 (during World War II).
In an article published in today’s ‘The Telegraph’, it is revealed that a 19
year old BBC sound engineer (David Martin) received instructions (purporting to
have originated from the British Prime Minister) to remove any traces of
stuttering or pausing from the King’s Christmas Message.
Detailing his work (in a letter left to his family following his death two-years
ago at the age of 86), Mr Martin explained that he did not go to bed for 24
hours while carrying out the task. He wrote:
“There were many millions of British (citizens) throughout the world, all part
of what was the British Empire, who looked to London for leadership, guidance
“It was really that bad, and it fell to the King to set a lead in his annual
“Unfortunately, the King had a very bad stutter and his nervousness … was only
“If was broadcast the speech just as the King delivered it, it would have given
a very bad impression of what things were like in the Mother Country.
“Soon after the live broadcast from Sandringham on Christmas Day, an instruction
was passed down the line that the speech was to be ‘doctored’ to make it sound
“The instruction eventually landed in my lap and I was told later that the
message had come direct from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
“We didn’t have tape in those days and all recordings were made on metal discs,
which made the whole exercise rather tricky.
He continued: “It all went well and the final result sounded pretty good and no
one would have known that the King had a stutter, for I was able to cut all the
stuttering out and to close up all the pauses that came in the wrong places.
“How wise of the Prime Minister to have given his instruction at that time in
If Churchill (who allegedly stuttered himself) did give the instruction for the
editing to take place, then it’s interesting to note his personal views about
the perceived implications of the King’s speech being broadcast to the British
Empire in its original form.
David Martin’s daughter, Jane Dickinson, told The Daily Telegraph that she was
very proud of her father’s work, which historians have confirmed played an
important part in maintaining morale amongst the allies.
I did, in fact, see an interview with Mrs Dickinson on BBC TV earlier today
where she outlined her father’s contribution. The female interviewer appeared
genuinely surprised to learn that, despite the earlier assistance rendered by
the monarch’s speech therapist, Lionel Logue, the King was still stuttering in
the 1941 Christmas message.
The interviewer said, “And what’s interesting is that ‘The King’s Speech’, the
film, concentrates on work done in 1939, but this speech went out in
1941….which suggests that two years after what happens in the film, it still
is there and hasn’t gone away”.
While this latest revelation helps to contradict the general public belief that
King George VI was ‘cured’, it also serves to demonstrate the adverse light in
which stuttering was held by those in highest office.
Here is the link to ‘The Telegraph’ article:
If that doesn’t work, try this shorter url: