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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR news, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

GUY RAZ, host:

And I'm Guy Raz.

King George VI was Queen Elizabeth's father. He was a royal who did not expect to be king and did not want to be king. As the Duke of York, he ascended to the throne shortly before the start of World War II. His country needed inspiration, but before the new king could inspire, he had an obstacle to overcome. He was a stutterer. His struggle is the subject of a new movie starring Colin Firth. We'll hear from the actor in a moment. But first, Bob Mondello reviews "The King's Speech."

BOB MONDELLO: We're introduced to the Duke of York, second in line for the British throne in 1925, as he's about to address a crowd in Wembley Stadium -well, about to try.

Mr. COLIN FIRTH (Actor): (as King George VI) I have received from His Majesty, the - the - the king...

MONDELLO: Prior to the invention of the microphone, a prince with a stutter only needed to stand up straight and look good in a uniform. But this is the age of radio, and the Duke is in despair. His wife, looking for a speech therapist, goes anonymously to an Australian named Lionel Logue.

Ms. HELENA BONHAM CARTER (Actress): (as Queen Elizabeth) My husband has seen everyone, to no avail. I'm awfully afraid he's given up hope.

Mr. GEOFFREY RUSH (Actor): (as Lionel Logue) We need to have your hubby pop by. He can give me his personal details. I'll make a frank appraisal and then we'll take it from there.

Ms. CARTER: (as Queen Elizabeth): Doctor, forgive me. I don't have a hubby. We didn't pop and nor do we ever talk about our private lives. No, you must come to us.

Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue): I'm sorry, Mrs. Johnson, my game, my turf, my rules.

Ms. CARTER: (as Queen Elizabeth) Hmm. And what if my husband were the Duke of York?

Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) Duke of York?

Ms. CARTER: (as Queen Elizabeth) Yes.

MONDELLO: Much therapy follows. Logue's notions are, to say the least, unconventional.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Logue insists on calling the prince, Bertie, as his family does, makes him sing tongue twisters while leaping, has him swear like a sailor, and do breathing exercises with the duchess sitting on his stomach. And the prince makes progress in tiny increments, but not fast enough. His father dies, his brother takes the throne just long enough to abdicate and marry an American divorcee. And suddenly, the terrified stutterer is King George VI. And there's a war looming that will not let him stay silent.

Director Tom Hooper, who crossed up sports movie expectations in "The Damned United," now crosses up biopic expectations in an elegant buddy flick that's smart, lush, and a lot more amusing than you'd expect. With Geoffrey Rush's teacher cracking the quip, and Colin Firth so good as the panicky king that by the time he gets to his crucial speech about going to war, you'll be panicking right along with him.

Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) ...most of us, we are at...

Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) We are - take a pause.

Mr. FIRTH: (as King George VI) Sorry, I can't do this.

Mr. RUSH: (as Lionel Logue) Have a look at the last half (unintelligible).

Ms. CARTER: (as Queen Elizabeth) Bertie, it's time.

MONDELLO: Seriously panicking. I'm Bob Mondello.

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