The Rise and Fall of Katharine Hepburn's Fake Accent
August 8, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

 
If you read a lot of queer novelists from the 80s it was apparently a common joke that the only people who still talked in mid-Atlantic where aging gay men.

Soderberg's attempt to recreate the stylized acting of the period ( along with a slightly botched mid-Atlantic accent sprinkled in ) is one of the more amusing things about The Good German.
posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Midatlantic accent is one of my favorite things about Beyond Belief on the Thrilling Adventure Hour, to be honest.
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Did Hollywood really create this accent? The article itself notes that it was the accent taught in upper-class finishing schools.
posted by Area Man at 2:21 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah I was a bit confused about that - I was under the impression Hepburn's accent had more to do with her patrician upbringing.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My grandmother occasionally affected this manner of speech, particularly when she was on the telephone. Hers was a bit more British. She was also fond of saying "toodles" instead of goodbye.

Interesting article. The video clips were really fun to watch, and made the text much more accessible.
posted by k8lin at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My aunt, who was born and raised in western Minnesota and lives in Fargo, has a version of this accent. I think she must have put a lot of effort into it.
posted by Area Man at 2:26 PM on August 8, 2013


Teddy Roosevelt talked kind of like that and he died in 1919
posted by interplanetjanet at 2:30 PM on August 8, 2013


This accent is one of the main reasons I can't watch the classic movies from this era. It just shouts "ACTING!". Makes it impossible to forget that I'm watching something happening on a Hollywood sound stage.

I wonder what norms/affectations of our own era will look this way in sixty or seventy years. (Besides the orange-and-teal color grading thing, and action scenes that look like they hurled seven different cameras on free-swinging gyroscopes into the scene and edited together the footage at random.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I took a class from a professor who was raised in an upper-class setting in Rhode Island, and he absolutely had a thick, semi-British accent that matched (or even surpassed) Hepburn's. Everyone thought he was a well to do Englishman who had spent some years on the West Coast of the US, until he told us otherwise. Certainly the cultivation of various accents exist, but not all are put on.
posted by but no cigar at 2:38 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:38 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've seen very little written about another accent commonly encountered in movies, television, and radio from the 1930s through the early/mid 1960s; what I call "Newsreel" or "Accent Noir". It's spoken with a very nasal inflection, and usually very quickly.

A challenge: try to say "Make it snappy, sonny boy!", "Why, I oughtta' pop you one, see!", or "Flash! Flash! Japs bomb Pearl Harbor!" in anything but that accent.
posted by elmwood at 2:42 PM on August 8, 2013 [38 favorites]


I rewatched High Noon (1952) last night, and Grace Kelly definitely talked this way. Gary Cooper definitely did not. It seemed like more of an expectation for women to adopt the accent, at least in the movies.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:43 PM on August 8, 2013


Cary Grant, yo.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:46 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I find this accent almost as entertaining as Scots accents--I could watch movies from this era all day long just to soak in it.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:47 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cary Grant was an Englishman, so he was already trying to suppress his natural accent. Maybe it was easy for him to settle somewhere in the middle.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:49 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


You want mid-Atlantic in more modern times? Skip past the prizewinning acting and listen to Mick Jagger's accent in that magnum opus of 90s time travel movies, Freejack.

No, really. Don't.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The apotheosis of spoken english had been reached when Ms. Sayer haughtily intoned that "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:07 PM on August 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have been wondering about this for years. I think there was even an AskMe about it once. I've noticed it in news interviews with upper-class young women from the 50s and 60s - it sounds so foreign to my ears, it's hard to believe that it was so prevalent at one time and has pretty much disappeared within a generation. Makes more sense when you realize how cultivated it was.
posted by lunasol at 3:12 PM on August 8, 2013


A nice patrician accent adds a certain... touch of class.
posted by gimli at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2013


This is one of the quirky things I love about TV from the late 1960's. The middle-aged characters, unless they have some reason not to, have these nearly identical grand studio voices while the young folk around them have all their casual regional accents mostly intact. The divide persists to the late 1980's, when Grandma and Grandpa are the ones with the great elocution.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:29 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is that what Julianne Moore was doing in The Big Lebowski or was that a differet sort of stage voice?
posted by griphus at 3:33 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is one of the quirky things I love about TV from the late 1960's. The middle-aged characters, unless they have some reason not to, have these nearly identical grand studio voices while the young folk around them have all their casual regional accents mostly intact.

Yes! Aunt Bee's from Mayberry, my foot.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:34 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


My husband's aunt speaks with a weird version of this. She is in her late 70s, so she grew up when these movies would have shaped her idea of what was an educated, classy way to speak. So she has a sort of Katharine Hepburn by way of Brockton, MA accent. (And if you think Boston's accent is funny...!) We literally don't know anyone else who has an accent like her.
posted by Biblio at 3:35 PM on August 8, 2013


My great aunt who grew up upper-middle class in The Bronx had an accent like that. She was born around 1910 so just about the same age as Hepburn and went to one of the seven sisters colleges. I was from the blue collar side of the family so I figured that was just how the nicer folk talked.
posted by octothorpe at 3:49 PM on August 8, 2013


"putting on airs"
posted by telstar at 4:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I learned of the mid-Atlantic accent trying to identify the way aspiring socialite Rarity speaks on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The beautiful thing about it is that in her case it is also clearly a put-on, especially given her rather less pretentious roots.
posted by darksasami at 4:12 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I suspect Aunt Bee had an accent similar to Goober's, before she went off to Morgantown, West Virginia, where she learned to speak properly. She only came back to Mayberry because Andy was a widower with a small child, and the housekeeper, Rose, done got married and moved on.
posted by MoxieProxy at 4:14 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Little Edie had what I think of as the Hamptons version of this. I love it, personally.
posted by goo at 4:18 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Apart from this accent, I think there was something different about the Canadian speech I hear on old CBC shows. This wasn't just broadcaster speech, but the speech of every day (well, maybe middle class) people interviewed in all sorts of contexts.

Their speech was somewhat slower and more precisely enunciated than modern Canadian speech, and, I think, more highly inflected as well.

- late 60s: Vancouver hippies
- 1963: Women discuss baby toting
- 1955: Public forum on health care (scroll ahead to hear from the audience)

In conclusion: modern Canadians are a bunch of jibbery-jabbery mushmouths.
posted by maudlin at 4:24 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would dearly like to learn the Mid-Atlantic accent, and use it in everyday conversation. It would be so very charming! Particularly since my usual manner of speech is grammatically unsound and full of fartwords.

Seriously, I totally want a Mid-Atlantic accent. I would pay money for lessons and everything.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:29 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


These two don't strike me as movie goers....
posted by IndigoJones at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2013


I don't know, maudlin. I think they're speaking slowly and precisely because they know they're on radio or TV.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:33 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been told I talk too fast, but I refuse to believe that's the problem. The problem is that it doesn't even begin to make me sound like William Powell.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:33 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The accent of British descendants and even some Hindus in Southern India is Mid Atlantic.
posted by INFOHAZARD at 4:38 PM on August 8, 2013


I do enjoy the Mid-Atlantic accent. Rally I do.


I have just been watching a bunch of old Warner Brothers Cartoons. Their parody accent just KILLS me.




Rally it does.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:43 PM on August 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


It is also excellent for cracking up co-workers.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:47 PM on August 8, 2013


There's a story about the great acting teacher Stella Adler: She was buying a scarf or something at Tiffany's or Bergdorf or whatever. The sales clerk asked her if she'd like the item shipped back to England. Ms. Adler replied, "No, no dear, I'm not English, just affected."
posted by wabbittwax at 4:56 PM on August 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


I always think of it as a William F. Buckley accent.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 5:07 PM on August 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


In conclusion: modern Canadians are a bunch of jibbery-jabbery mushmouths.


And here I thought they were speaking French.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:12 PM on August 8, 2013


I didn't know this was a thing and thought all this time that Jennifer Jason Leigh was channeling Katherine Hepburn in The Hudsucker Proxy.
posted by cazoo at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The apotheosis of spoken english had been reached when Ms. Sayer haughtily intoned that "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."

Well, if we're talking all of spoken English -- not just the weird, patrician Ivy Leaguer accent Hepburn affects -- then "A HANDBAAAAG?!" would like to differ.
posted by cog_nate at 5:19 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some snippets of early American voices. (One sees why Coolidge preferred silence.)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:42 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is that what Julianne Moore was doing in The Big Lebowski or was that a differet sort of stage voice?
"Maude doesn't have an accent. She has an attitude." -- J.Mo on Maude's speaking skills.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:43 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]




Seriously, I totally want a Mid-Atlantic accent. I would pay money for lessons and everything.

I can totally and rally just slip into into it if I'm not careful. It's all looooong drawn out overly enunciated sounds. The rhythm established by hours of watching old movies. If you want a nice cartoonish version of it, Try Gloria Upsom in the Auntie Mame movie.

But if you want instruction: USING YOUR VOICE.
posted by The Whelk at 5:49 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, SPEECH
posted by The Whelk at 5:50 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sparky's mother in Sparky's Magic Piano has a super intense version of this accent (skip to 5:50 to hear it).
posted by awenner at 5:51 PM on August 8, 2013


Is that what Julianne Moore was doing in The Big Lebowski or was that a differet sort of stage voice?

Don't be facetious, Jeffery
posted by hal9k at 6:05 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Say there, sonny boy! Buy a Plymouth car! What are you waiting for? Let's get a move on! Hup hup! Buy a Plymouth now! Time's a'wastin! Lickety split, see! Buy one now, before the sneaky Japs bomb Pearl Harbor and we have to start making tanks! Those Plymouths ain't gonna' sit around all day, Mac!
posted by elmwood at 6:17 PM on August 8, 2013


My favorite part is pronouncing the "h" in "wh."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:28 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apart from this accent, I think there was something different about the Canadian speech I hear on old CBC shows. This wasn't just broadcaster speech, but the speech of every day (well, maybe middle class) people interviewed in all sorts of contexts.

Their speech was somewhat slower and more precisely enunciated than modern Canadian speech, and, I think, more highly inflected as well.


Canada has its own Theatre Standard, which dominated right up until the Donald Sutherland/Adrienne Clarkson/etc. generation. It was a given that if you wanted a career that involved talking, you would take elocution/diction lessons; this is no longer the case. Occasionally you'll hear it -- Don McKellar comes to mind -- but CTS is mostly dying off, literally.

I suspect Newfoundland joining Canada had something to do with starting the move away from that accent.

(P.S., a little off-topic: My grandmother and her sisters all sound(ed) exactly like Scott Thompson.)
posted by Sys Rq at 6:38 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a sudden desire to watch Bringing Up Baby.
posted by Area Man at 6:38 PM on August 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Locust Valley Lockjaw is probably a better term for this than Mid-Atlantic. Everyone I've ever encountered speaking this way has been the product of northeastern US prep schools.
posted by beagle at 6:42 PM on August 8, 2013


Don't blame Newfoundlanders for that, Sys Rq. From what I understand, students at Memorial University of Newfoundland were required to take elocution lessons up til the mid 70s, or so.
posted by peppermind at 6:49 PM on August 8, 2013


Also, previously.
posted by beagle at 6:51 PM on August 8, 2013


When Hollywood turned to talkies, it created a not-quite-British, not-quite-American style of speaking that has all but disappeared.

Apparently Madonna didn't the memo.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh weird. I always wondered where the hell this accent came from. At one point I thought maybe it was the last gasp of an accent from immigrants. But I was wrong.
posted by Halogenhat at 7:20 PM on August 8, 2013


Jack Lemmon as Jerry in Some Like it Hot, regarding Joe's Cary Grant impression: What are you trying to do to that girl, putting on a millionaire act? And that phony accent? Nobody talks loike thet!
posted by elsietheeel at 7:31 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is pronouncing the "h" in "wh."

At my daughter's kindergarten parent-teacher conference, the teacher mentioned that Kiddo needed some phonics work since she pronounced "what" & "where" as "(h)wat" & "(h)were". My wife & I looked at each other and said sheepishly, "Um, actually, she gets that from us" (a daughter of 2 English professors, and a guy who watched too much PBS as a kid). The 23-y-o teacher's blank look led us to promise we'd "improve" our diction at home.
posted by NumberSix at 7:47 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been accused of having the accent. To the extent that I do, I come by it fairly honestly: a congenital lack of glossal agility means that I produce certain sounds farther back in the throat than most Americans. Add the diction exercises I took as a kid to compensate for a stutter, and my natural Midwestern accent comes out skewed, sometimes beyond recognition.

It's not uncommon for strangers to suppose me British, or Irish, or, in one or two instances, German; but eventually I'll let out with a braying nasal South Side Chicago vowel, and all doubts are laid to rest.
posted by Iridic at 8:15 PM on August 8, 2013


Sys Rq, I can definitely hear Theatre Speech in the CBC hosts, but even the non-pros sounded different from current Canadians. It jumped out at me when I heard a show on Rewind a while back, and its been obvious ever since.

I just can't find any good clips of modern Canadian civilian speech as a contrasting sample.
posted by maudlin at 8:18 PM on August 8, 2013


I totally remembered this as being in a Mid-Atlantic accent, and it totally isn't, but I'm totally going to post it anyway.
posted by threeants at 9:20 PM on August 8, 2013


Someone (I can't recall / Google who) once talked about the upper-crust New England (or perhaps Connecticut) accent as one that pronounced the word "yes" as "ears".
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:24 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a sudden desire to watch Bringing Up Baby.

This is a normal desire that you should have at all times.
posted by brundlefly at 10:41 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


pronounced the word "yes" as "ears

That's a very upper class British accent too. Even the Queen's accent has become less posh.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:44 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not really a sham accent. Quite a few of my East-coast blueblood relatives speak with this accent. It certainly sounds affected and fake if you're not part of that 'set,' when you first hear it. But it's actually how they talk. Even my teenage cousins speak it.
posted by jackbrown at 11:24 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it weird that this is called the 'mid-Atlantic' accent, as I am from the actual mid-Atlantic (DC) and, uh, we don't sound like that. (If anything, I sound like a faster-talking, more cheerful Aubrey Plaza.)

Although I am currently on a trip to London and have had several people tell me how much they like my accent. So there's that.
posted by nonasuch at 12:40 AM on August 9, 2013


Push your bottom jaw out a bit past your top jaw.
Clench your teeth together such that they are always touching.
It makes it all just that much easier to pull off.
Similar but different is the accent Of New Jersey former Governor Tom Keane.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:18 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is pronouncing the "h" in "wh."

Mandatory link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lich59xsjik
posted by dave99 at 2:38 AM on August 9, 2013


It's funny that there people from Yale who sound more English than some of my friends from London, who themselves sound practically American in a manner that almost perfectly mirrors Hepburn - burying themselves in colloquialism as a sort of anti-aspirational camouflage.

I like that natural mid-Atlanticians don't sound anything like this (as in long-term expatriates like Neil Gaiman). They've got a much flatter tone and seem to veer from continent to continent depending on the word, while the movie accent, to my ears, is so very definitely rooted by comparison.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:41 AM on August 9, 2013


Australian Newsreel Voice is pretty fascinating too.
posted by h00py at 4:05 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


At my daughter's kindergarten parent-teacher conference, the teacher mentioned that Kiddo needed some phonics work since she pronounced "what" & "where" as "(h)wat" & "(h)were". My wife & I looked at each other and said sheepishly, "Um, actually, she gets that from us" (a daughter of 2 English professors, and a guy who watched too much PBS as a kid). The 23-y-o teacher's blank look led us to promise we'd "improve" our diction at home.

Isn't there a difference between the "correct" pronunciation, were a bit of h is placed after the w, and the affected pronunciation where the h goes before the w?

For "where", for example, I also would call out "hware" as incorrect. Either the lazy "ware" or the very subtle "w-hare" seems to be correct.
posted by gjc at 4:06 AM on August 9, 2013


A nice patrician accent adds a certain... touch of class.

Something about Mr. F. Buckley, Jr., really inspires me to want to hit him in the face.
posted by gjc at 4:11 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, MoxieProxy, I'll see your trivia...

I suspect Aunt Bee had an accent similar to Goober's, before she went off to Morgantown, West Virginia, where she learned to speak properly. She only came back to Mayberry because Andy was a widower with a small child, and the housekeeper, Rose, done got married and moved on.

and raise with...

Unfortunately, Opie didn't take to Aunt Bee and he was particularly snotty about the fact that she wasn't the baseball player that Rose had been. Despite Andy's assurance that Aunt Bee loved him very much and that she had raised Andy up just fine, Opie continued to mope. With a heavy heart, Aunt Bee packed her bags and was headed toward the car. At the last minute, Opie runs into the scene, demanding that she stay—not because he loved her (boys don't talk like that), but because she had a lot to learn about baseball.
posted by she's not there at 4:45 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]



I was wondering about this recently. I know that a lot of early dialogue coaches aimed for that 'high falutin' tone for the talkies. Also a lot of the silent era stars were immigrants who had thick accents and needed vocal and dialect coaching.

In one of my film classes we were shown Singin' in the Rain as a documentary.

That said, I have a very strange accent which is the product of my mother beating any regionalisms out of my sister and me should we ever have evidenced them.

My parents are Pittsburgh natives, my father has an identifiable Pittsburgh accent, my mother, none. Mom had elocution lessons in high school and because she was a social climber, they stuck. She was rigorous with us throughout childhood. We moved to California, but we weren't to adopt the 'slurs and elipsis' of the region. We moved to Arizona and certain twang started to creep in, but not for long. "It's not putt! It's puuuut!"

In addition to Pittsburgh, California and Arizona, I've also lived in Nashville and Atlanta. Boy, do I have a funny accent!

My speach is riddled with regionalisms. I say "The cat wants petting" which is pure Pittsburgh, as is, "I'm in the mood for a pop." I've been known to employ, "might-maybe" when discussing something in the future conditional tense. All of it drives my Mom insane. But she's mellowed with age. She merely corrects me and we move on.

I'm glad that accents and regional speech has crept back into TV and movies.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:54 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can totally and rally just slip into into it if I'm not careful. It's all looooong drawn out overly enunciated sounds.

If I were an elderly society matron I would pay you to hang out with me. The accent would be very much part of the deal.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:03 AM on August 9, 2013


Eloise has (or affects) this accent, judging from some of the exaggerated and emphatic spellings in the book.
posted by Mister_A at 6:13 AM on August 9, 2013


I say "The cat wants petting" which is pure Pittsburgh, as is, "I'm in the mood for a pop."

Pure Pittsburghese would be "the cat wants pet", same construction as "the lawn needs cut".
posted by octothorpe at 6:29 AM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


I find it weird that this is called the 'mid-Atlantic' accent, as I am from the actual mid-Atlantic (DC) and, uh, we don't sound like that.

I've always assumed it referred not to the Atlantic coast, but rather the Atlantic Ocean, because the accent is, as the FPP says, not-quite-British and not-quite-American.

Am I wrong?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:35 AM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's called Mid-Atlantic English (not to be confused with local accents of the Eastern seaboard), a name that describes a birthplace halfway between Britain and America.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:51 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm among the people who think that this kind of thing hasn't really gone away, just changed. Think of news anchors today, and how comedians sound when they put on their "serious news anchor voice." Just as affected, really.
posted by beatrice rex at 8:12 AM on August 9, 2013


I suspect Aunt Bee had an accent similar to Goober's, before she went off to Morgantown, West Virginia, where she learned to speak properly. She only came back to Mayberry because Andy was a widower with a small child, and the housekeeper, Rose, done got married and moved on.

You know, I always wondered why so many people in Mayberry, especially women, seemed to have accents that originated far north of North Carolina. I never stopped to think of this incredibly obvious reason. Helen Crump, especially, would probably never have been allowed to graduate from a respectable teachers' college anywhere in the country without speech and elocution classes in a day when my mother was getting them in public school in upstate New York.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:23 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Helen Crump was not a local girl. IIRC, she went to school in St Louis.

On a related note, Andy once found a newspaper picture of her in the company of some well-known ne'er-do-well and assumed the worst, despite the fact that Helen was the very definition of a fine, upstanding woman. The meeting with the shady character was part of her thesis research.
posted by she's not there at 9:16 AM on August 9, 2013


It's not uncommon for strangers to suppose me British

Please stop writing this way.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me it will always be associated with the hilarious version affected by Gloria Upson, the vacuous, pampered daughter of new money in Auntie Mame.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:10 AM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Out with the Mid-Atlantic, in with the vocal fry.
"One study recorded a college-aged woman’s voice while speaking in an even tone, and then again when employing the creak. When both samples were played for students in Berkeley and Iowa, those peers viewed the affectation as “a prestigious characteristic of contemporary female speech,” characterizing the creaky woman as “professional,” “urban,” “looking for her career,” and most tellingly: “not yet a professional, but on her way there.”
(This article includes some interesting deconstruction of a podcast by guy who Just Hates Him Some Fry. This may've been posted to the Blue before, so apologies if this is a repeat.)
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 11:38 AM on August 9, 2013


Something about Mr. F. Buckley, Jr., really inspires me to want to hit him in the face.

Unless you feel the same urge viz George Plimpton, we have to assume that it is not accent.
posted by IndigoJones at 12:57 PM on August 9, 2013


Plimpton seems much less affected. Can't you just picture a young Billy Buckley standing in front of the mirror, practicing his accent?
posted by gjc at 5:41 PM on August 9, 2013


"One study recorded a college-aged woman’s voice while speaking in an even tone, and then again when employing the creak. When both samples were played for students in Berkeley and Iowa, those peers viewed the affectation as “a prestigious characteristic of contemporary female speech,” characterizing the creaky woman as “professional,” “urban,” “looking for her career,” and most tellingly: “not yet a professional, but on her way there.”

Count me as another person who hates the fry. Specifically because of the "not yet a professional, but on her way there" bit. It is an affectation of faux-timidity, and that makes me crazy.
posted by gjc at 5:46 PM on August 9, 2013


For me it will always be associated with the hilarious version affected by Gloria Upson, the vacuous, pampered daughter of new money yt in Auntie Mame.

I kind of think those are two different things. The nasal northeast debutante thing is something else. Isn't it something like a Narraganset or Newport thing?

To my ear, this is the quintessential mid-atlantic accent. (The other one is old timey Brooklyn)

Katharine Hepburn's accent was both Northeastern and Mid Atlantic, I think.
posted by gjc at 5:55 PM on August 9, 2013


h00py: Australian Newsreel Voice is pretty fascinating too.

Yes! It's pretty much just RP though. Australian authoritative accents pre-70s (newsreels, ABC newsreaders) are pretty indistinguishable from British authoritative accents of the same period. There's not much recognisably Australian there, just as there wasn't much sign of British regional accents in the same period. It was RP all the way really, and quite different to the US mid-Atlantic accent, although the level of colonial affectation is quite similar. It's all trying to sound posh British which was authoritative and classy.
posted by goo at 7:34 PM on August 9, 2013


For me it will always be associated with the hilarious version affected by Gloria Upson, the vacuous, pampered daughter of new money yt in Auntie Mame.

I kind of think those are two different things. The nasal northeast debutante thing is something else. Isn't it something like a Narraganset or Newport thing?


Yeah they're related, kissing cousins, but not the same thing. Gloria is all Larchmount Lockjaw, all the nasal buuuuurrrrrs and elongated sentences. Compare to Mame's crisp, movie studio " what and related to whom?" the vowels go long but the ends are all short and crisp and clean.

On "telephone voice" above. Apparently Tim Curry based Frank N. Furter's accent on how his Mom would talk on the telephone, the limitations of audio technology requires actors ( and telephone users) to speak in very distinct, clear manner with equal emphasis within a sentence.
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Silent movie star Gloria Swanson once notoriously quipped: "We didn't need dialogue. We had faces."

I am sure Miss Swanson, unlike the writer of this piece, had the common decency to credit Billy Wilder for the dialogue he wrote.
posted by La Cieca at 8:17 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, contemporary America females have a dreamy accent that is never mannered, confusing, or annoying. Especially Drew Barrymore in the late 90s.

That said, sound technology is movie has changed dramatically over time. Crooners crooned because, at the time, mikes that could handle that level were new.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 4:03 PM on August 11, 2013


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