x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The King's Speech fan with a personal interest

Long-time Abu Dhabi resident Luci Churchhouse has more than a passing interest in Oscar-nominated film The King's Speech.

Gefforey Rush enacts Lionel Logue in The King's Speech. Laurie Sparham / The Weinstein Company
Gefforey Rush enacts Lionel Logue in The King's Speech. Laurie Sparham / The Weinstein Company

ABU DHABI // When she watches the Academy Awards broadcast in the wee hours of tomorrow morning, Abu Dhabi resident Luci Churchhouse will have a personal interest.

One of the most acclaimed films of 2010, The King's Speech, tells the story of how Mrs Churchhouse's great-grandfather, Lionel Logue, helped King George VI overcome a debilitating speech impediment.

As the film shows, the help of the unorthodox Australian Logue allowed the king to inspire and calm the frightened British people before and during World War Two.

The film is up for a dozen awards including best picture, making it one of the most-nominated films ever. The Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, who played Logue, is nominated for best supporting actor.

"We are all very excited and have got our fingers crossed for the results of the Oscars and we are definitely planning to stay up and see the results as they come in," said Mrs Churchhouse, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 11 years. "Geoffrey Rush did an amazing job of portraying Lionel so well and really deserves the Oscar for best supporting actor."

Mrs Churchhouse, 45, is originally from the UK but moved to the UAE from Indonesia. She now works for a training and development company. Logue is her great-grandfather on her mother's side. Mrs Churchhouse's mother Alex Marshall (née Logue) was the daughter of Logue's eldest son, Laurie.

Although her mother and siblings attended the London premiere of the film last December in Leicester Square, work commitments kept Mrs Churchhouse in the UAE.

So she invited a group of friends to a screening - and a post-film toast to her great-grandfather - when the film opened at Khalidya Mall's Cine Royal on January 27.

"The most emotional part for me was when it showed Lionel with his sons at home and I thought 'Oh my goodness! That boy is playing the part of my grandfather'," she said. "I can still remember him well, as I was a teenager by the time he passed on."

Mrs Churchhouse, who never met her great-grandfather, said that although she was aware he had been an important person and made frequent trips to Buckingham Palace, the relationship with the king was rarely talked about.

Her mother remembers Logue as "rather kind and generous, but certainly not in a lovey-dovey way".

Whenever Logue's grandchildren visited him on Christmas Day, they had to wait until he returned from Buckingham Palace to have their Christmas dinner. Logue would have been with King George VI as he delivered each year's Christmas message to the nation and empire, said Mrs Churchhouse.

In general, the family loved the film, despite their belief that some of the more private, contentious moments between Logue and the king had been fictionalised. "My mother says that there are a few discrepancies," said Mrs Churchhouse.

"For example she certainly doesn't think all that swearing happened, and Lionel never called the king 'Bertie'. There has obviously been a certain amount of poetic licence, to spice it up to make it more appealing to a wider audience. But on the whole the main storyline is true."

And some moments that rang very true, said Mrs Churchhouse.

"My grandfather was always a keen car enthusiast and there was a particularly poignant moment in the film for my mother when Lionel's son, my grandfather, drives him up to the palace in the sports car," she said. "My mother says that she can vividly remember that car."

Logue died in 1953 at the age of 73. Although the story of how 'Grandpa Logue cured the King' was waiting to be told, for the Queen Mother it was too painful to repeat during her lifetime, said Mrs Churchhouse.

The film's screenwriter, David Seidler, suffered from a speech impediment himself, and had listened to the king's speeches as a little boy. He started the production process after the Queen Mother died in 2002 at the age of 102.

The film's researchers eventually tracked down Mark Logue, Logue's grandson via his youngest son Antony, and Mrs Churchhouse's second cousin. He provided records including Logue's diaries and letters exchanged with the king.

After visiting the film's set, and the death of his own father in 2007, Mark Logue was inspired to more closely examine the life of his influential grandfather.

Ultimately he co-wrote, with Peter Conradi, The King's Speech: The Story of How One Man Saved the British Monarchy, which was published last November. Mrs Churchhouse's husband gave her a copy of the book for Christmas, but she held off reading it until after seeing the film.

"As the film had been so hyped up I didn't want to spoil my initial reaction to it by comparing it with the more factual version in the book," she said.

Since then she has been able to read about how her great-grandfather rose from humble beginnings in Adelaide. To recognise his contributions to the king in 1937 Logue was awarded membership of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 1945 was elevated to the rank of Commander.

Even as she watched the film, said Mrs Churchhouse, the connection between the big screen and her family was hard to absorb.

"It certainly took me a while to get my head around the fact that this was the story of my family," she said.

newsdesk@thenational.ae

The Academy Awards can be seen on Fox Movies beginning at 3am.