Sunday, August 17, 2008

A long post, but there's a pony in there somewhere...

Sadly, I lost an audio reference to Dick Van Dyke's accent a couple weeks ago due to my podcast listening habits -- I delete things as soon as I'm done listening to them, so the episode of The Now Show which had an extended joke about the infamous bad cockney accent is now long gone. Dang. It was a pretty good one, too. So good, in fact, that I told it to my girlfriend, which means that I was an American doing a sarcastic impression of a Brit doing an intentionally bad impression of an American doing a bad Cockney accent. You see how these things echo down the ages?


Working our way more or less backwards through the references, most recent to least, we'll start with this review of voice recognition software...

The Inquirer, August 15, 2008, 1:03 PM, "The FBI's technology just isn't good enough" by Nick Booth

While Naturally Speaking can recognise eight different US accents, it thinks there is only one British accent.

"Bloimey Mooray Poppuns," as language expert Dick Van Dyke once said. "Thoy thinks us fore-runners are all the soime!"


The following reference is pretty specific...

The Memphis Flyer, August 14th, 2008, "Of Mice & Menace: New Moon actors crash Harold Pinter's Birthday Party" by Chris Davis.

"The cast's collective ability to use a foreign accent is not one of the production's stronger points, and much of their generally good acting is subverted by bad diction. TheatreWorks veteran Mark Rutledge is appropriately mundane as Petey, a mousy presence whose boring daily rituals transform themselves into absurd comedy, but his weird pronunciations get in the way of otherwise honest work. The same might be said for Sylvia Wilson's interpretation of Meg, Petey's talkative, sweetly twisted wife whose utter simplicity, even during the play's more perverse moments, is ultimately winning, even if she sounds a bit like Dick Van Dyke on a combination of helium and lithium.


The Coventry Telegraph, Aug 15th, 2008, "Daniel's so happy to be in Bert's shoes" by Marion Mcmullen

The infamous mock Cockney accent aired by Dick Van Dyke in the Mary Poppins movie has been banished, but the dancing is more spectacular than ever."


The Sun, August 13th, 2008, Review of A Good Year.

Armed with the worst English accent since Dick Van Dyke, (Russell) Crowe plays Max Skinner, an odious bond trader forced to re-assess his soulless existence when he inherits his uncle’s vineyard in Provence.


The first sentence I've pulled here may be one of the stupidest things I've yet seen in a critique of D.V.D.'s accent.

The Star Online, August 6th, 2008, "Say that again, please" By Mumtaj Begum and Zack Yusof.

"Well, the thing is, while everyone kind of forgets that Hugh Laurie (House MD), Damien Lewis (Life), Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) and, now, young Jim Sturgess starring in the upcoming film, 21, are actually from England, the same cannot be said of some of their American counterparts."

So, the thing is, kind of (*SIGH*) while some actors doing American accents are actually from England and you can forget their nationality, the same cannot be said of American actors doing English accents. (You know, except for the Americans who actually can do British accents.) Brilliant.

"Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. Simply horrible. Need we say more? Van Dyke’s crime against the English accent is a heinous one indeed. Cockney, schmockney as they say."


I warned you that this movie would be back...

The Sun, August 8th, 2008, "Sneak review: Fred Clause"

Dick Van Dyke had an excuse for doing a terrible Cockney accent in Mary Poppins – he is American.

But how Brit Rachel Weisz can explain her 'you wot' effort in Fred Claus is anyone’s guess.

Even EastEnders would have to turn down the Oscar-winner. Thankfully, her role as Fred’s girlfriend is fairly limited.

Bonus marks for spelling "Claus" incorrectly.


This is an interesting article that manages to get about halfway through before trotting out the D.V.D. cliché. At least he shares billing with Guy Richie.

Den of Geek, July 31, 2008, "The Children's Film Foundation: Andrew recalls the heyday of a film company dedicated to the younger viewer" by Andrew Roberts

Mary Field, the CFF’s Chief Executive believed that provincial audiences would not understand regional dialects - and so the CFF promoted RP speech. To a 2008 filmgoer this can make the dialogue of a CFF film sound utterly hilarious, but then after a bout of either The Goonies (a film with possibly the most garbled actors in the history of English-speaking cinema) or the public school mockney of the Guy Ritchie/Dick Van Dyke School of Dialect, a 1950s CFF offering can be very refreshing contrast. Filming was often carried out during the school holidays and a fast growing lead actor often provided a real challenge to the enterprising film maker.


Macleans, July 30th, 2008, "How Do You Cast a Musical?" by Jaime Weinman

"What musical would you nominate as the next one for this reality-show format? I’m going with Eliza Doolittle and Higgins from My Fair Lady — the opportunities for hilarious Dick Van Dyke-esque Cockney accents, and non-singing actors trying to sound like Rex Harrison, are infinite."

Much like the infinite variety of complaints about D.V.D.'s accent.


Here's one from the butt of many jokes on The News Quiz, Jeremy Clarkson:

The Sunday Times, July 27th, 2008, "By ’eck, our funny accents are the envy of the world" by Jeremy Clarkson

"And no. You cannot try to adopt a Yorkshire accent because unless you are from Yorkshire you will shorten the word 'the' to a 't', like Robert Carlyle did in The Full Monty. That’s wrong. Dick Van Dyke wrong. Ray Winstone’s Cold Mountain Deep South... London wrong. Sean Connery in everything he’s ever done wrong. In Yorkshire the word 'the' is replaced by the briefest pause and a small nod of the head."

Dear GOD, the Brits are specific, aren't they?


The Times, July 26, 2008, "Questions answered: Flapping kit, regional accents and Welsh names"

Q: From Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard in Gone with the Wind to Jude Law in Cold Mountain, British actors have been able to pull off US Southern accents quite well. Other regional accents work, but not so convincingly. Why is this?

A: As you move north through Wales, the accent becomes harsher and less musical on the ear. The same is true in Ireland, as it is in England — the softness of the West Country burr dissipates rapidly as you travel north. The same is true in America. Why this should be I know not, but softer, gentler accents are much easier to imitate than their harsher northern cousins.

Huw Beynon, Llandeilo

Historically, many of the immigrants to the Southern United States were from the West Country of England, Scotland or Ireland. The Southern accent that then developed retained some features of British accents, including the vowel distinction between 'caught' and 'cot'. Many Americans pronounce these words the same but in the South they are largely distinct. Southern Americans also tend to preserve the distinction between 'furry' and 'hurry' whereas most Americans do not. The distinct rhythm of Southern American English also makes it easier to imitate. It is, of course, easier for actors to imitate an accent that has identical features to their own accent but it also depends on the individual’s ability to hear and reproduce accurately the accent they must learn. For example, Hugh Laurie’s American accent in House is excellent whereas Dick van Dyke’s Cockney accent in
Mary Poppins is regarded as one of the worst attempts at an accent ever.

Rebecca Stevens, Cambridge"


The Times, July 22nd, 2008, "Home Movies: The test of what makes a film British is bafflingly subjective"

"Yesterday the UK Film Council triumphantly announced that “British films were a $3 billion hit last year”. The use of dollars as the denomination is a bit of a giveaway. The announcement simply prompts the question - what is a British film?

The answer is that instead of being determined by the proportion of the budget spent in this country, the Government has introduced a cultural test. This means that the nationality of the actors and characters, whether the film is 'based on British subject matter' and whether the film is set in the UK are all taken into account when the film's nationality - and thus its eligibility for a generous tax break - is being considered.

Take Narnia. The latest instalment was mainly filmed in the Czech Republic, but it is still a British film. One reason is that Narnia, as Variety puts it, 'is an imaginary place but suffused with a British sensibility'. A small inter-departmental working party is now hard at work determining whether Dick Van Dyke's Cockney accent in
Mary Poppins is or is not British.'

A ministry, perhaps?

No comments: