“THE KING’S SPEECH” TARGETED: SMEAR CAMPAIGN OR JUST THE HARD TRUTH?
On Friday, I received an email about the King George VI biopic “The King’s Speech,” the source of which (“an Academy member”), I must emphasize, I have not yet been able to confirm (though I am trying). Nevertheless, it hinges upon a point that was recently reported by a credibile journalist on the Web site of a credible publication — namely, Claude Brodesser-Akner, a veteran reporter, on the “Vulture” page of New York Magazine’s Web site on November 28 — and will inevitably be raised again, so, with that major caveat, I have decided to share it…
I’m an Academy member, and there are a LOT of us who won’t vote for “King’s Speech” for this reason, which was in New York Magazine:
“Seeing as Speech is Oscar bait in extremis, this blogger feels morally compelled to note that while the film largely glosses over the Nazi-sympathizing past of the tongue-tied monarch (Colin Firth) and deals with his relationship to an Aussie-born speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), when it came to actively working to stymie Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany, George actually communicated quite eloquently.”
The story that the New York Magazine piece links to appeared in The Guardian in April 2002, in a piece by Ben Summerskill entitled “MPs Want Quick Release of Queen Mother’s Papers,” and includes the following reference to a document that was already in the public domain:
“In the spring of 1939 George VI instructed his private secretary to write to Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax. Having learnt that ‘a number of Jewish refugees from different countries were surreptitiously getting into Palestine’, the King was ‘glad to think that steps are being taken to prevent these people leaving their country of origin.’ Halifax’s office telegraphed Britain’s ambassador in Berlin asking him to encourage the German government ‘to check the unauthorised emigration’ of Jews.”
So, bottom line: Is the email that I received part of some sort of coordinated smear campaign that is being orchestrated by someone with a vested interest in stunting the awards propsects of “The King’s Speech,” or is it really from an Academy member who would like others to take note of documented facts about the film’s subject that are not reported in the film? I can’t say for certain, but I do know that it certainly calls to memory other curiously-timed whispers, especially those about John Nash, the real-life inspiration for “A Beautiful Mind” (2001), whose anti-Semitic comments from years earlier were mysteriously circulated during the run-up to Oscar voting.
There have been numerous other examples of stories like this over the years — that “The Hurricane” (1999) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998) did not accurately reflect the real events that inspired them; that “The Hurt Locker” (2009) caricatured the work of EOD technicians; that the people credited for writing “Good Will Hunting” (1997) were not actually the people who wrote it; that the filmmakers of “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) hadn’t provided fair financial compensation to the real Indian “slumdogs” featured in the film; etc. — some of which were more accurate, and more effective, than others.
Photo: Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech.” Credit: The Weinstein Company.