"The King's Speech" used vintage royal microphones

Fri Jan 28, 2011 12:37pm EST
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By Avril Ormsby

LONDON (Reuters) - Vintage microphones used by the British royal family to deliver speeches to the nation feature in the Oscar-nominated film "The King's Speech," the story about how King George VI overcame his stammer.

Three priceless microphones with gilt, silver and chrome details, bearing the royal coats of arms and other insignia, were dug up from the vaults of British music company EMI and used to record music for the film at Abbey Road Studios.

"It was exciting to know we had the very microphone used by King George VI, the central character of this film, and I thought how appropriate and inspiring it would be to have the microphones present at our recording sessions," Peter Cobbin, senior recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios, said in a statement.

"The royal microphones are works of highly skilled craftsmanship. They are aesthetically pleasing and iconic."

The historical drama features Colin Firth as King George VI, the reluctant monarch, who learns to overcome a crippling stammer after he is forced to take over the British throne following the abdication of his elder brother.

The British film, which centres on his working relationship with his unorthodox Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, has been nominated for 12 Oscars, including best picture, actor, director and original score.

Cobbin had spotted the original microphones at the EMI archives, in Middlesex, outside London, years earlier, and brought them back to life when the score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, was recorded at Abbey Road studios.

Dating back to 1923, they were used by the royal family for speeches on significant occasions.

The film, which also features Helena Bonham Carter as George VI's wife and mother of the current monarch Queen Elizabeth II, had been shot by the time the score was recorded, and the microphones are not seen in the film.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)