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June 1995, Week 3


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Jenny Joy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 16 Jun 1995 12:26:35 -0400
text/plain (39 lines)
I believe the "Hollywood accent" that is in debate at the moment is actually
what is called "Standard Speech". It is still taught to many theatrical
students enrolled in comprehensive training programs. Performers were trained
in this speech pattern so that an audience attending a professional play
would hear speech that was even and fluid on the ear, and thus easily
understood. Admittedly, some performers may have been pushing past this and
over the top into a British sound.
Obviously, techniques originally conceived for the stage don't always work as
well in film. But since much early film was heavily influenced by the stage,
and since many early successful film stars had stage backgrounds, it's
conceivable that their accents came with them until the trend changed.
Regarding the comment that actors at one time were expected to have cultured
and educated backgrounds, I must point out that historically, the very
opposite has been the rule. Characters may have been written as upper class,
but traditionally most performers have been anything but. Historically, you
would be hard pressed to find a man or woman from a "respectable" background
prancing about on a stage or in front of a flickering camera. This was
greatly discouraged. I recall reading about a time when actors were not
allowed a burial plot on hallowed ground.
However, people of extremely poor backgrounds were often capable of achieving
the highest success creating characters that reflected cultured, monied
backgrounds. Who could imagine Cary Grant any other way? Yet he was born poor
in England and joined the circus. He freely admitted that he invented and
gradually grew into that cool, suave, debonair guy we all know and love on
the screen.
I know there are exceptions, Grace Kelly being a notable one, but from what I
have learned about theatrical and cinematic history, this has been the
general rule.
Jenny J
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