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Thread: Pulitzer-winning Washington Post chief art critic explains why Meyerbeer is great

  1. #76
    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    I confess with some shame that I haven't read Dickens or Eliot since my 20s. My last brush with Dickens was coaching a bunch of high school students in the musical Oliver and having to teach them to do Cockney accents.

    The experience was less than profound.
    Hope they were better than Dick van Dyke's in Mary Poppins!

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  3. #77
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Hope they were better than Dick van Dyke's in Mary Poppins!
    His wasn't great. I thought mine was pretty good at the time, but there was nobody to correct me if I got it wrong. The kids...I don't know. People are remarkably variable in their linguistic dexterity. I've sung successfully in several languages, but I have yet to find any classical repertoire in Cockney.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    His wasn't great. I thought mine was pretty good at the time, but there was nobody to correct me if I got it wrong. The kids...I don't know. People are remarkably variable in their linguistic dexterity. I've sung successfully in several languages, but I have yet to find any classical repertoire in Cockney.
    Half my family were cockneys so there would have been plenty to correct you here! They thought Van Dyke was excruciating. It seems to be a very difficult accent for an American to bring off. Of course, Disney should have had Tommy Steele (a real cockney) opposite Julie Andrews but the thing was made for American audiences and I don't suppose many people noticed.
    Last edited by DavidA; May-20-2018 at 08:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Half my family were cockneys so there would have been plenty to correct you here! They thought Van Dyke was excruciating. It seems to be a very difficult accent for an American to bring off. Of course, Disney should have had Tommy Steele (a real cockney) opposite Julie Andrews but the thing was made for American audiences and I don't suppose many people noticed.
    In 1980 Cheryl Kennedy (born in North Enfield) was to play Eliza in a Broadway revival of My Fair Lady starring Rex Harrison. American Equity had disputed the casting, but Harrison insisted that the role be played by an English actress. Unfortunately, though she played the role for abut a year in the pre-Broadway try-outs, she had to withdraw before the Broadway premiere, after a physician diagnosed nodes on her vocal chords. She later told my singing teacher, who coached her when she returned to singing, that the producers were continually telling her to sound more cockney, like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins!!!
    Last edited by GregMitchell; May-20-2018 at 11:20.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    My impression is that English-speakers on both sides of the ocean are generally miserable at accents. An English person I heard interviewed called his countrymen "language idiots," and I thought, "you should hear us!" But maybe it's just easier to notice flaws in one's own kind.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidA View Post
    Half my family were cockneys so there would have been plenty to correct you here! They thought Van Dyke was excruciating. It seems to be a very difficult accent for an American to bring off. Of course, Disney should have had Tommy Steele (a real cockney) opposite Julie Andrews but the thing was made for American audiences and I don't suppose many people noticed.
    Even as a very young child when Mary Poppins came out, I thought it was absurd that Dick Van Dyke even attempted an English accent. I'm a very big fan of his otherwise, though. And it works both ways. Not long ago I saw the Broadway revival of Golden Boy, starring Tony Shalhoub, a very good actor many of you probably remember from his starring role with Stanley Tucci in the wonderful movie Big Night, or as an alien in Men in Black II, or as the star of the TV series Monk. Shalhoub is from Wisconsin and is as American as can be, but is skilled with accents, and did a good job as the Italian father in Golden Boy. Alas, Lorna, the hard-boiled girl from Newark, was played by Yvonne Strahovski, an Australian actress, who was coached into using a thick yet inaccurate accent that wasn't quite Brooklynese or New Yorkese, and nowhere near Newarkese. It brought an otherwise great production down a notch. A generic American accent, as done so perfectly by the Australian actress Rachel Griffiths, for example, would have been fine.
    Too bad Dick Van Dyke didn't have the Geico gecko commercials to study. They are the best examples of a cockney accent we routinely get on American TV these days.

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    Senior Member DavidA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    My impression is that English-speakers on both sides of the ocean are generally miserable at accents. An English person I heard interviewed called his countrymen "language idiots," and I thought, "you should hear us!" But maybe it's just easier to notice flaws in one's own kind.
    This is not so. Get a great actor - Olivier, Guinness, Maggie Smith - and you will find (with the odd misfire) they are pretty good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Woodduck View Post
    My impression is that English-speakers on both sides of the ocean are generally miserable at accents. An English person I heard interviewed called his countrymen "language idiots," and I thought, "you should hear us!" But maybe it's just easier to notice flaws in one's own kind.
    I'm not sure this is true anymore. Quite a few American actors these days manage very creditable English accents, and the reverse is, according to some of my American friends, also true.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Senior Member Barbebleu's Avatar
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    I remember watching 'The Wire' and being astonished to find out that Idris Elba and Dominic West were British. I was totally convinced they were American. Mathew Rhys in 'The Americans' is another great example of a Brit ( actually Welsh) with a fine American accent. The woman who played Liev Schreiber's wife in 'Ray Donovan' is Irish and has a pretty good Boston accent. I think it may have been true years ago but modern voice coaches are pretty good and it's not so unusual to find good accents on both sides of the Atlantic.
    No sound ever comes from the Gates of Eden.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbebleu View Post
    I remember watching 'The Wire' and being astonished to find out that Idris Elba and Dominic West were British. I was totally convinced they were American. Mathew Rhys in 'The Americans' is another great example of a Brit ( actually Welsh) with a fine American accent. The woman who played Liev Schreiber's wife in 'Ray Donovan' is Irish and has a pretty good Boston accent. I think it may have been true years ago but modern voice coaches are pretty good and it's not so unusual to find good accents on both sides of the Atlantic.
    Agreed. Idris Elba was phenomenal in The Wire. Another British actor who is thoroughly convincing as an American is Hugh Laurie.

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    I'll agree that some are better than others (for instance, when I watch British TV shows it seems like all the bit-part actors playing Americans sound like they're all going for a particular New York accent). Laurie always sounded like he was trying to impersonate a frog when he did American accents.

    The worst and least creditable to me are affected southern accents - of virtually any type. Kevin Spacey's in House of Cards is a notable recent one that I thought was terrible but garnered much praise in northeastern publications. Though after his boy-rape revelations I doubt anyone would challenge me much on this point anymore, compared to the pushback at the time.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bz3 View Post
    I'll agree that some are better than others (for instance, when I watch British TV shows it seems like all the bit-part actors playing Americans sound like they're all going for a particular New York accent). Laurie always sounded like he was trying to impersonate a frog when he did American accents.

    The worst and least creditable to me are affected southern accents - of virtually any type. Kevin Spacey's in House of Cards is a notable recent one that I thought was terrible but garnered much praise in northeastern publications. Though after his boy-rape revelations I doubt anyone would challenge me much on this point anymore, compared to the pushback at the time.
    What Hugh Laurie does right is that he does not attempt an exaggerated regional accent, but instead keeps it generic. He is a very plausible American surgeon in House, and the flat monotone serves his sarcastic character well, even if it is frog-like. OTOH, Kevin Spacey is remarkable at impersonating fellow celebrities, but surprisingly, his southern accent is as you point out unconvincing, as in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But his Bobby Darin in Beyond the Sea was amazing. I guess a lot of it is how well the actor is coached, and how motivated the actor is to get it right.

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