This month, I’m going to look at movies that reference two November holidays: Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. Expect to see reviews of war films and films about food.
Veteran’s Day, which we celebrate on November 11th this year, coincides with Armistice Day and Remembrance Day. The latter holidays are celebrated in countries outside of the US.; they mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. Specifically, Veteran’s Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. Memorial Day, which is celebrated in May, honors those who died while in military service.
Although my offering today is not specifically about U.S. troops, the spirit of this movie reminds us of people who are veterans of their own personal battles and who achieved victory.
The King’s Speech (2010) is a moving testament to the strength and will of King George VI of England, who reluctantly took over the British monarchy in 1936 when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American commoner. Why so reluctant? Because among other things, King George (played by Colin Firth) suffered from a speech impediment so severe that he could barely communicate with friends and family, let alone strangers. Kings must of course make speeches, and it was imperative for George to do so in 1939, when Hitler declared war against Europe. Enter Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian actor and gifted speech therapist, who guided the King to his ultimate test: An edifying speech to his countrymen concerning the nation’s entry into war.
Below is an excerpt from the movie, accompanied by the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. You will observe that Logue gives the King ongoing non-verbal cues in order to get him through the five most terrifying minutes of his life. As King George struggles through the speech, the camera cuts to shots of Brits throughout the United Kingdom hanging onto every word as they listen to their monarch on the radio. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth, King George’s wife (played by Helena Bonham Carter), is seen agonizing over every word, desperate for her husband to succeed in his endeavor–which he does.
This movie deservedly won the 2011 Academy Award for Best Picture. I dare you to watch the entire film, especially the last section, without getting tears in your eyes.
Note: Beethoven’s beautiful, intense Allegretto has been used in several films throughout the decades. It is particularly appropriate here. The Seventh Symphony, as well as another composition entitled Wellington’s Victory, was first performed to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon in 1813 by Wellington’s forces at the battle of Vitoria. The aim of the performance was to benefit Austrian and Bavarian veterans wounded at the Battle of Hanau. Although Wellington’s Victory was a great hit when first presented, it is the Seventh Symphony which has persevered throughout time.
The King’s Speech, Prod. Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin. Dir. Tom Hooper. Perf. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi, Jennifer Ehle, Michael Gambon. UK Film Council, See-Saw Films, Bedlam Productions. Film. Released 6 September 2010.
“Wellington’s Victory.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. . August 2016. Web. 02 November 2016.
“Symphony No. 7 (Beethoven)” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 23 October 2016.