On August 29, 1964, Walt Disney Productions released the musical film Mary Poppins, based on the popular books by P. L. Travers. After the premiere, mere minutes after "The End" appeared on the screen, Travers turned to Walt Disney to express her satisfaction with the film -- all except for that Mr. Van Dyke. Completely miscast for the part, she said. Would have to be replaced, she insisted. Walt just smiled. After two years of working with the prickly Travers, he had a film in the can, and there was nothing she could do about it.
That incident, 43 years ago as of this writing, marked the very first complaint about Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent. And the Brits have complained about it every day since.
Now, granted, Van Dyke's cockney accent is pretty damn awful. At times, he sounds more like he comes from Perth than from London, and occasionally, he sounds like no human being has ever sounded in the history of speech pathology. Henry Higgins would not know what the hell to make of him. But as far as inaccuracies go, the film is full of others. Greenwich does not set its time by the cannon fire of Admiral Boom; Nannies can't fly; small children do not compose help wanted advertisements in verse; and (I know this from experience) the wait staff at most English cafes consists of entirely of Polish immigrants, not dancing penguins.
And yet, four decades on, the British continue to whinge about Mr. Van Dyke's accent. Hardly a week goes by when I don't see or hear a reference in the British media to the indignity the nation has suffered due to his vocal chords. Jesus Christ, why don't they just get Michael Caine or someone re-dub the damn thing and add it as an alternate soundtrack on all future DVD releases? What do they want, an official apology from the U.S. State Department? Dick Van Dyke extradited so his severed head can be paraded around London on a pike? (I have to admit, that would be a glorious sight -- have you seen his magnificent white moustache lately?)
Thus, the establishment of this blog, which shall document the English ire about this crime against the Queen's Tongue as She Ought Be Spoke. I shall document complaints about Mr. Van Dyke's accent wherever I find them. I shall find them in the papers; I shall find them on the podcasts; I shall find them in the fields and in the streets; I shall find them in the hills -- I shall never surrender... at least not until the bloody Brits finally shut up about a 40 year old Disney movie.
This week's complaint comes from an Independent review of Woody Allen's latest film:
"No one joked about (Colin) Farrell and (Ewan) McGregor's Dick Van Dyke-like London accents..."
This is a particularly nice, snobby comment, as it really says "McGregor, who is Scottish, and Farrell, who is Irish, can't do a proper working-class London accent, making them just as absurd as Dick Van Dyke, that American who, as we all well know, made a half-assed attempt nearly half a century ago, the fuckin' BASTARD!"
More to follow, I'm sure.