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The bad gal in great 'King's Speech' is a Baltimorean

The villains in the wonderful drama "The King's Speech," about King George VI (Colin Firth) and his speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), are mostly internal -- like the fears and demons that lead the King to stammer -- or seen only in newsreels -- like Adolf Hitler.

The most unsavory character we get to spend bad-quality time with is a Baltimorean: Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American whose hold on King Edward VIII led him to renounce the throne. (That's the real Simpson, right.)

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If your view of Simpson's story was limited (as mine was) to dim memories of her lover's testimonial to their bond in his abdication speech, you'll be shocked by the picture of them here.

Edward gave up his crown to marry a twice-divorced commoner (in the movie's view, a giddy socialite, or social climber) and avert a constitutional crisis. The bare facts once made them both seem admirable to naive, uninformed, baby-boomer schoolchildren like me.

But as played (splendidly) by Eve Best and Guy Pearce, they're feckless, selfish and vulgarly hedonistic. And they're soft on fascism, to boot.

She glories in dominating a prince and then an emperor while taking at least one other lover and accepting at least one flattering gift from the Nazis.

He thinks he's behaving as the ultimate knight gallant while registering to his family as a basket case.

The Sun's Frederick Rasmussen reported in 1986 that after they married and became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, they bought a plot at Green Mount Cemetery. (They ultimately ended up in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle.)

That's Eve Best, right, with her "King's Speech" director, Tom Hooper; as Wallis she pours her evident high spirits into romantic domination. It's a witty, hair-raising tour de force in a film that's full of transcendent performances.

Photo of Eve Best and Tom Hooper by Stephen Lovekin

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