Friday, January 21, 2011

Wembley Stadium and The King's SpeechHenry Thorpe

Henry Thorpe chief accountant
Wembley Stadium 1923/1950
I never thought when I was playing on the floor in my grandfather's office in Wembley Stadium in 1947 that a replica of it would feature in 'The King's Speech' a five star  UK film that I saw yesterday at the Arts Cinema, The Bridgeway, on Northcote Point, New Zealand.

For a start none in my family would have ever contemplated Wembley Stadium with its famous twin towers ever being pulled down but as they say 'There you go'.

My grandfather Henry Thorpe was the chief accountant since the British Empire Exhibition in 1923/24 and had virtually run the place in partnership with Sir Arthur Elvin from those offices and I must compliment the designer on the research as the windows in the film gave a very good impression of how the room looked.

Dramatic and design license was however taken with the twin towers in the speech sequences as you could see them in the distance as the Duke of York was trying to speak. In reality they would have been behind him. It was very life like.

My grandfather was a remarkable man. Born in the slums of Manchester, the son of a railway wagoner who helped to make railway wagons for coal he became a railway clerk at the age of 15. Henry Thorpe or Pop as he was known at Wembley and to his family went to night school and at the age of 28 became the very first graduate of the London School of Economics in about 1904.

Pop then came in the top percentage for The Civil Service Exams. Britain at that time was surprisingly completely egalitarian, you could have any job as long as you passed these CS exams but usually if you were of the lower class you couldn't. Pop did and was rewarded with a spell running the railways in Ceylon as it was called then. His wife, my granny, was transformed, like Cinderella, from mill worker to Duchess with servants overnight. It was not an easy transition.  Queen Mary was her model and Mary Ann Thorpe left Coronation Street behind for the Upper classes out queening the formidable Mary of Teck. Granny scared me stiff.

Back in UK after the Great War Pop ran The Wembley Empire Exhibition and must have heard that horrifying King's  Speech. Now Wembley Stadium is a ghost too! Pop loved TV and had one of the first in UK. Lucky for me! He would be surprised that his little grand daughter was penning his posterity notice on an unheard of computer. Pop could add up huge columns of £sd in his head all in one go including farthings. He didn't need a computer but he was a early adopter and would have loved it.

Now the film. To my dismay the theatre was not nearly 'full' enough for this enjoyable film. I can see why Colin Firth was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe but I also enjoyed Geoffrey Rush and Elena Bonham Carter who actually made me like the Queen Mum. I think they too could have received nominations.

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