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James Downs

Anton Walbrook played Prince Albert in both Victoria the Great ( 1937) - which coincided with George VI's coronation and the centenary of Queen Victoria's accession - and its sequel, Sixty Glorious Years (1938). Austrianborn Walbrook came to Britain specifically for this role, following a successful continental career as Adolf Wohlbrück. His Gennan films included musical comedies such as Walzerkrieg (1933) in which Hanna Waag played Queen Victoria very differently from Anna Neagle. This chapter will examine portrayals of British royalty in his films, linking them with Walbrook's life and the wider historical context. It will be argued that these portrayals of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were influenced by Anglo-Gennan politics, and comparisons will be made to films by Walbrook's fonner colleagues, such as Ohm Kruger (1941) and Mary Queen of Scots, the Heart of a Queen (1940). The paper will draw attention to the waltz imagery that recurs in all three Victoria films, linking it to the actor's Viennese roots and showing how Prince Albert's journey from Saxe-Coburg to Windsor became intertwined with Wohlbrück's transfonnation into Walbrook.

in The British monarchy on screen
Open Access (free)
The King’s Speech as melodrama
Nicola Rehling

The King's Speech is paradigmatic of the contemporary trend of representing the British monarchy through melodrama, a mode the traditionally sides with the powerless. ' Bertie' (George VI) is a melodramatic figure whose integrity is underscored, in Linda Williams' phrase, by 'the literal suffering of an agonized body'. His speech impediment literalizes the psychic wounds caused by both the demands of royalty and his austere father in this Oedipal melodrama. Like his familiar nickname, his stammering renders him identifiable, despite his selfconfessed ignorance ofhis common subj ects. Melodrama, in Peter Brooks' influential formulation, offers moral legibility in a post-sacred era, but only in individualized terms. Bertie's hysterical symptoms confirm his virtue and that of the monarchy as institution via a relentless focus on the private realm, with the spectre of class antagonisms and republican protests evoked only to be dismissed. Bertie's stammering speaks the burden of royalty, while also providing a vehicle for exploring the in the wake of the new mass media. His final broadcast unites the nation, reinvigorating the national body ailing from his brother's abdication, triumphantly readying it for war.

in The British monarchy on screen