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June 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 6 Jun 1995 12:16:21 -0600
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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Birgit Kellner writes:
" Gloria Monti wrote about "misrepresentations". During the last
weeks, I happened to watch two films, both of which involve
"misrepresentations" in some sense, both of which, coincidentally, were
directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and both involve "misrepresentations" within
the realm of white characters, and in both cases, forgive my
"reception-only"-perspective, for I'm only watching, and I neither have time
nor the infrastructure to get a more scholarly (viz. well-read) perspective
on the films I watch.
-       SPELLBOUND. Before Gregory Peck enters the scene, every main
character speaks British English, at least an English with a remarkably
non-US-accent. This lead me to believe that the film was set in Britain, and
I was quite surprised when the plot went on to New York without major sea or
air travel involved.
-       TORN CURTAIN. The German spoken in this film is oddly out of place,
idiomatically ridiculous and hilariously mis-accentuated. East-German
characters with an Austrian accent, East-German post-office-clerks with a
distinct English accent etc. Three key-roles are played by German actors,
Guenther Strack, Wolfgang Kieling and Hansjoerg Felmy (noteably all of later
crime-TV-series-fame), which accounts for at least some broken English."
In the case of SPELLBOUND, there is an even odder mixture--there's Ingrid
Bergman's Swedish accent, the English accent of Leo G. Carroll, and various
inflections of what (to my ears) passes (among the shrinks at least) for
upper-class American dialect.  (The patients and orderlies, as I recall,
are more distinctly American in voice, with various regional inflections.)
This might be justified, other than as an accident of casting, on the basis
of class and education.  Until quite recently, representations of academics
or professionals such as psychiatrists were often presented with a snobbish
inflection (like the affectations of speech that supposedly represent Harvard
and Yale, at least--my apologies to any alumni of these institutions).  Of
course, one of the subjects (and in-jokes) of SPELLBOUND is the representation
of psychiatry and the psychiatric establishment.  With its origins in Europe,
it would have to be represented by Europeans.  And then there's Michael Chekhov
as Bergman's presumably Austrian mentor, an apparent disciple of Sigmund in
the flesh.
All that, I suppose, could lead to yet another thread--the (mis)representation
of intellectuals and academics in American (and other) films.
On something of a tangent, may I also cite Hitchcock's MURDER, in which the
guilty party turns out to have kill the victim because of her discovery that
he was a "half-caste."  In the original version, though, it was the discovery
that he was *gay* that led to the murder--which required a change from the
British censors.  (But the character is visually coded as "gay" since he
performs a circus act in drag.)
And has anyone mentioned THE RAINS CAME and its remake THE RAINS OF RANCHIPUR,in
which--respectively--"Hindu" Tyrone Power and Richard Burton fall for an
I'm also curious what people think of attempts to do "colorblind" casting--long
a practice in opera and growing in acceptance in theater, but rather limited
in film.  Branagh's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is one of the few films I can think
of to practice casting this way.
Don Larsson, Mankato State U (MN)
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