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Accents: They DO NOT WORK!


Ascotrudgeracer
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Merle Streep (especially "Sophie's Choice")...why didn't SOMEBODY have the brain strength to simply say, "Just have her talk normal." That badly performed "Pole" talking was about as bad as anything I've ever heard. It was high school drama club accent...or perhaps a female SNL 2 wild and krazy guys.

Or how about when Anglos try to sound Mexican or Italian?

Or Nazis who ALL have British accents (somehow that sometimes works; I don't know why).

I don't know what the answer might be or why this bothers me, but fake (or real) foreign accents can destroy a movie. Maybe it's xenophobia.

I know you all can come up with bad accents in film.

 

Edited by: Ascotrudgeracer on Apr 26, 2011 9:40 AM

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I don't agree, I think Meryl Streep, particularly in Out of Africa, is extraordinary. I think it's part of acting to put on an accent, assuming you can do it well. Sometimes it doesn't really work -- like Spencer Tracy in Tortilla Flat. Like anything else, it depends upon the skill of the actor.

 

Think of all the old films where they rounded up anyone with any kind of accent, which is really different from learning the required accent as Streep does. Two examples: In For Whom the Bell Tolls, these actors play Spaniards: Swedish Ingrid Bergman; Greek Katina Paxinou (won Oscar for that role); Russian-born Armenian Akim Tamiroff. In Juarez, Austro-Hungarian-born Paul Muni; New Yorker John Garfield; London-born Donald Crisp, etc., all play Mexicans.

 

Traditionally, in films where Romans were the bad guys, they generally had English accents! Complicated reasons for that.

 

These days, political correctness comes into play, e.g. the Miss Saigon situation. Probably couldn't have a Peter Lorre playing a Mr. Moto today.

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Don't agree with you at all about Streep's work in these films. She's pretty much impeccable.

 

But in general, I agree with you in requiring actors to "do" accents when it's beyond them. Greta Nissen was dropped from the talkie version of *Hell's Angels* because her character was supposed to be British. Who did they hire to replace her? Jean Harlow!

 

I also think of all those 30s and 40s films with characters who were British but starring the likes of Robert Montgomery, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, and Bette Davis. Then the German/Russian and and other Euro accents with Shearer, Carole Lombard, Edward G. Robinson, Spencer Tracy, Marion Davies, Irene Dunne, Loretta Young, and Richard Barthelmess.

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~like Spencer Tracy in Tortilla Flat~

 

I think a lot has to do with the film. Tracy was great as Manuel in Captains Courageous.

Or a least I could stand it.

Burt Lancaster chose not to use an accent in John Frankenheimers, The Train where he plays Labiche, a Frenchman. But yet Paul Scofield's accent as a German officer is spot on.

 

 

 

vallo (without the accent)

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At least Claude Rains didn't try to affect a Noo Yawk accent in *They Made Me a Criminal*. Or a southern accent in *They Won't Forget*.

 

On the other hand, I can't stop laughing at Laurence Olivier playing a Qu?becois trapper in *49th Parallel*. The last time I mentioned it here, somebody else commented he had an accent that could get up and walk off all by itself. :-)

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Yeah, I don't think I've seen anyone in film that is better at various accents than Streep.

 

BTW, wasn't Rosalind Russell born British and has a distinct accent in her early films.

 

The weirdest for me however is Ingrid Bergman playing Cockney Ivy in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. She played British in a couple of films and as much as I love her, she just couldn't do any accent besides her natural Swedish.

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And then there's Bette Davis, with her odd supposedly Cockney accent in *Of Human Bondage* . It's not very good, but I don't care. In fact, I kind of like it. Things like unconvincing accents don't usually put me off the actor or the movie, unless it's inconsistent - ie, they keep forgetting about it and will lapse in and out of their own way of speaking and their accent.

 

I love Russian accents, real or affected. Also German. But then, I also like the sound of those actual languages being spoken, never mind attempting to speak English with a Russian or German accent. Eve Arden puts on a most amusing Russian accent in *Dough Girls*.

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One thing that always bugged me about the movie FAIL-SAFE was in Larry Hagman's performance. He plays a translator, but he's a good ol' American boy. So why is it that when he's translating the Russian dialogue, does he speak English with a Russian accent?

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> {quote:title=RainingViolets101 wrote:}{quote}

> Worse cocney accent ever - Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins

>

> I think Meryl Streep gave a glowing and brilliant performance in Sophie's Choice...

 

 

I never understood why anyone cares about Van Dyke's accent in MARY POPPINS. In my opinion, he gives the best performance by a male, in any film of 1964. His performance is completely and grossly underrated. His accent may be strange, but so what? Who the hell would want to actually suffer through a legitimate cockney accent?! As for Streep, I do feel she does accents fairly well, but my issue with her, is that I generally find her performances stand apart from the rest of the film as a whole. Like she's in her own film. Not the same one the rest of the cast is in. She never lets you forget she's acting. If I were watching her on stage in "An Evening With Meryl Streep", I'd be entertained and impressed. In most films, however, I find her off-putting. I care little about the accuracy of accents. They're meaningless to me. Julie Andrews turned down the role of Jean Brodie, because she didn't want to be judged on her accent.

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I think the thing with Dick Van Dyke is that his bad accent is the one tragic flaw in his otherwise awesome performance, especially since his standard british accent for the old banker is really good. So you can't help wondering why someone didn't just say, "dude, just don't do an accent," or "just do your standard british," or something like that. Because, come on, Cary Grant played Yanks all the time using his same accent. But I know from Dick Van Dyke's interviews the poor guy knows his accent is terrible and is kind of embarrassed about it. And otherwise he's so good that I too can forgive him.

 

The accent that is funny to me is this: in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Julie Andrews and James Fox are both british, yet James Fox is the one who puts on an American accent, and Julie doesn't even try. Why one and not the other? It seems odd.

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I agree with Misswonderly. I love the accents; even when they're bad. (come on, sometimes a bad accent is the most enjoyable thing about some movies). I was just a kid when I saw Mary Poppins so I didn't know if Van Dyke was speaking proper Cockney (there's a twist) or not. I thought he was fun.

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The other side of the accent issue is that in Out of Africa, in which Meryl Streep gives what I think is her best performance ever, as the Danish Karen Blixen, and almost all of the other characters are either African or English, Robert Redford plays an Englishman without trying to do the accent. He is the flaw in a brilliant film. I wish Ralph Fiennes were around then, he would have been perfect!

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I wonder if Hollywood just figured/figures that audiences won;t know the difference? I mean, a lot of American don't even recognize the accents from around their own country, let alone telling the difference between various British accents or Russian vs Polish.

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