Anyone who spends time in the speechwriting trade knows the old saw about where public speaking ranks in the hierarchy of dreads, along with things like divorce and death. Better to be behind the scenes than behind the podium. For all of us, the new movie, “The King’s Speech” is a must.
The best thing about the film is that it’s entertaining—I don’t like paying 11 or 12 bucks and sitting still for two hours just because it’s good for me either. But this is wonderfully written and acted, too, as well as telling a gripping tale. For those who don’t know the
story, the Duke of York is compelled to ascend to the throne of the British Empire because his Nazi-sympathizing older brother Edward VII has fallen head over heels for an American divorcee named Wallis Simpson, just in time for Britain to be plunged back into war for the second time in a generation. But before he carries the fate of Britain and the world on his back, he has to negotiate a truce with another enemy—a frightful stammer. In this he is coached by an Aussie named Lionel Logue.
The speechwriting is not part of the story. Scripts just appear, and are no great shakes compared to the eloquence of Prime Minister-to-be Winston Churchill—himself a prominent supporting character. But let’s face it—as speechwriters we are not the point of the exercise. We need to give our speakers the tools they need to get the job done, and
sometimes the job is very important indeed. With the help of his speech coach, King George VI got the job done.
Veteran speechwriter Henry Ehrlich is co-author of Asthma Allergies Children: A Parent’s Guide and editor of AsthmaAllergiesChildren.com.