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'The King's Speech': Let the backlash begin [update]

Kingspeech1
With Christopher Hitchens' essay in Slate exposing inaccuracies in "The King's Speech" and the newsreel uncovered by the History Channel showing King George VI stammering less severely than in the movie at a Scottish exhibition, the backlash against the beloved British film has begun. It's not clear if these are dirty tricks by rival Oscar campaigners — it's a stretch to think Hitchens is that malleable. Regardless, the exposé of inaccuracies seems to be the curse of most biopics that vie for award recognition.

[Update: Geoffrey Rush addresses the criticism being waged upon “The King’s Speech” in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He explains that in the original script there were more scenes dealing with Winston Churchill’s complex relationship with the Nazi sympathizer Edward VIII, but they were cut so the film would rest more squarely on the relationship between King George VI and speech therapist Lionel Logue.]

In some cases, as with 1999's "The Hurricane," the attacks against the film can torpedo a campaign. Even if that doesn’t occur, producers and marketers must address the issue of accuracy continually when their film features a historical figure of any era. Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" faced charges that it did not accurately portray the personal character of protagonist John Nash, and Steven Spielberg's "Munich" was criticized for an inaccurate depiction of Israeli Mossad agents.

Does it really matter? One could argue that strict accuracy is irrelevant to a film's quality, that a feature film should be judged on its storytelling abilities and that the details are less important. But with so much of our history being told through films, is it the responsibility of filmmakers to hold to the facts?

Hitchens' problems with the film include that it glosses over the Hitler sympathies of George VI and his brother, Edward VIII. Says Hitchens in his essay: The film "perpetrates a gross falsification of history. ... All other considerations to one side, would the true story not have been fractionally more interesting for the audience?" He does raise an interesting point. You can check out the newsreel below.

-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Colin Firth as King George VI. Credit: Laurie Sparham / The Weinstein Co.

Comments () | Archives (24)

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I am a person who stutters and a Speech Language Pathologist. I was an extremely severe stutterer as a child and Improved with age and therapy. However, as most people who stutter know, stuttering is not static. There are ups and downs. If King George VI was seen in one video as speaking better than protrayed in the movie this is not a full protrayel of his problem.

This is ridiculous. And I agree, are we going to go down the line and question the accuracy of TSN, The Fighter, etc.? It's pretty sad that people will sink to this level. Movies are fiction, no matter if they are based on real people. Documentaries are fact. If TKS was a documentary, this criticism would carry a lot more weight. Otherwise, it's just pathetic.

Javier Bardem should win for best oscar....the King in question, was a wimp in reality and even supported Hitler....please, can we finally choose a character that we can truely believe in???? This fascination with all things English is narrow minded and Javier has proven his worth many times over....

Even if the real King was a bit more Nazi-ish, does that take away from Collin's performance? I mean, actual Nazi character got Kate WInslet an award, and more than a few psycho-killer characters have gone on to get the actor the award (Sillence of the Lambs anyone?)

And not only is the Social Network not 100%, real even though its more recent, neither is 127 hours, the Fighter, or was the Hurt Locker last year, etc. I defy you to name a biopic that was NOT criticized for inaccuracies.

Ridiculous.

Was this film marketed as a documentary? I'd say his illness is affecting Hitchens's brains, but he was just as vicious before. Is he perhaps miffed because no one asked him to consult?

It's interesting how the article questions the historical accuracy of "The King's Speech", when the events and protagonists are now just fading memories and therefore subject to opinion.

No mention of the fact that the events depicted in "The Social Network" are recent events, and the characters are still around to tell their story. To a man they all say it is a complete work of fiction, and the movie characters bear no resemblence to the real-life people they play.

And when do we start hearing about the CGI dancing for Portman? This was supposed to be a civilized awards season that is turning as nasty as those in the past. Silly Oscar campaigns. They should be banned.

Please, it is an award for a movie, not the Pulitzer Prize or the Nobel Peace Prize. Having said that, I think it is good that highlight the differences between film and historical records.

It's a movie. Are we then going to delve into the pro-Nazi leanings of American corporations at the time? We always point fingers instead of looking in the mirror.

Mr. Hitchens is always an interesting read. And, he will put his spin on any topic. This is not a documentary, but even they have arguable POVs and place emphasis in areas deemed of import to the filmmaker. His piece in no way diminishes the accomplishments demonstrated by all involved with this exquisite film.

I have seen nearly 270 films in 2010 in theatres (and still have a few to go) and this is the one film I can confidently recommend to everyone I know from age 8 to 108. My 93-year-old mom, who is mostly blind, loved it. Other films, regardless of how great I think they are, aren't for everyone. This one is.

Mr. Firth could have easily won last year for A Single Man. And Mr. Bridges certainly deserves kudos for True Grit this year. Truly we are blessed to have so many extraordinary artists at the top of their game.

As other commenters have implied, there are many Biutiful films from 2010, and we are the better for seeing them, regardless of adjunct articles or awards shows.

You are kidding me???? Hollywood takes "artistic license" with every film that comes out that is 'inspired by true events." Then of course there's Michael Moore's crockumentaries. And nobody in Hollywood ever questions his 'artistic license'. They just accept it as fact and hand him an Oscar.

The screenwriter, David Seidler, worked for years on research. He got the Queen Mum's blessing to access the records...after she died. The vile campaigning during Oscar season is a frightening insight to the people of that industry.

I saw the movie today. It is fantastic. Typical that there would be people who would want to rain on the parade. This film is an inspiration. No surprise that a jerk like Hitchens would attack it. Here is a guy who cricized Mother Teresa. Long live the King!!!

The Social Network also made light salad of the facts. Where's the outrage there?

One can never be completely accurate in these biopics, even when sanctioned by the living (i.e. "The Fighter" and "Coal Miner's Daughter"). The biggest stretch that could be considered totally in error was "Amadeus", in suggesting that Salieri was responsible for the death of Mozart.

Please, lets not get into the backlash. This is an acting award, among all the others and if biographical details were totally accurate then the movies would lose much of what is represented...this was by far my favorite and there were many great films, but everything is deserving of winning - it was spectacular!!

The King's Speech is certainly very well done and worthy of all the accolades.....however, as 2010 was a stellar year for films, i would place half a dozen other films above it when considering the Oscar for Best Film....besides, True Grit, The Social Network, The Kids are All Right, and The Ghost Writer.....there are two brilliant films that are not getting the attention they deserve.....the exquisite Mother and Child, with stunning performances from Annette Bening and Naomi Watts......and Biutiful, which will stand the test of time and rank as another masterpiece from Inarritu.....

Who cares about the level of accuracy in these films. Generally they are telling a true story, and some of the details have artistic license to tell it the best way. Get a real life.

Does anyone nowadays expect historically-based books/movies to be the Gospel? As an historian, I can tell you that historical truth is rarely as exciting as a script: evidently history needs better writers.

In the interim, can we all just lighten up and enjoy the script, direction, performances, sets, costumes, and editing?

I see it as a campaign to derail the film's chances at the Academy Awards.

"The King's Speech" wasn't presented as a documentary. It was presented as an historical drama.

There is a difference.

When does the backlash against the Social Network's historical inaccuracies begin? Or is it limited to foreign figures in film this year?

You reckon Hitchens not that malleable? Christopher Hitchins is an attack dog and professional apologist for the Bush administration and the invasion of Iraq. A man of integrity? I think not.

Do your homework. The recordings of the real King George were edited to remove the worst of the stammer. And the video making the rounds was of the King after years of speech therapy. As for Nazi sympathizing, that is a cruel smear designed to manipulate Jewish AMPAS voters. It won't work. David Seidler, who wrote the The King's Speech screenplay, has talked of how his grandparetns died in the Holocaust.

would love True Grit to somehow ride in across the finish line first and upset everyone.



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