Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998 02:53:56 EST From: Bapopik Subject: ADS "Oscar" Awards; British actors in US ADS "OSCAR" AWARDS The article that Allan just posted made the Channel 11 News at 10 tonight. Our Word-of-the-Year award should be no less popular. We should have more awards! I suggest Aw'scuz (Oscars), which we can announce in March. It would include Best Film (Miss Daisy, I'm drivin' you to de sto'), Best Actor (Are you talkin' to me?), Best Actress (the Meryl Streep award), Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (or, Female Actor), but also Worst Film, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Supporting Actress. ISN'T THERE DIALECT IN FILM?? WHY DO WE COMPLETELY IGNORE IT?? The NAACP and Latino organizations have such awards--why not us? And of course, if we had an online magazine, people could make suggestions and vote... ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------- BRITISH ACTORS IN U. S. This interesting article (which would, along with "AMISTAD anachronisms," the above "Oscars," and even Gareth's column, all be in the online magazine that we don't have) was originally in the New York Times. I found it in the Toronto Globe and Mail, 30 December 1997, pg. C2: British actors cross the linguistic divide By Michael McGough New York Times Service (over photo of Leslie Howard and Vivien Leigh) TALKING THE TALK/ More and more Britons are learning American accents to take on roles in Hollywood. What is perplexing about this traffic in verbal versatility is that it is largely in one direction. (below photo) It's more difficult for a British actor to do a convincing American accent than vice versa because of differences in the muscular action that produces sounds. Britons who have succeeded include Leslie Howard (above), shown with Vivien Leigh in _Gone With the Wind_, David Suchet (below right), who plays a New Yorkerin the film _Sunday_, and Peter Sellers (below left), shown in _Dr. Strangelove_. (...) American actors bridle at one popular explanation: that British actors are simply better trained than Americans. A less offensive variation on that thesis is that in Britain, a country in which dialect connotes not only region but also social class, actors had better be able to adjust their accents endlessly. The most satisfactory explanation for the accent gap, though, seems to lie less in linguistics than in economics. "Follow the money," that watchword of Watergate reporting, explains the influx of British actors into American roles. Tim Monich, one of the dialect coaches who help actors master the Queen's English (an ADS online magazine would interview this guy--ed.), states this thesis succinctly: "There is much more incentive for English actors, Australian actors, Canadian actors, Irish actors to have a career in Hollywood and to increase their casting, of course, to do American roles." (...) Thus an American accent can be an asset even when an audience is not going to be primarily American. As a teen-ager, the British actor Simon Fenton crossed the ocean to play a United States Navy brat in _Matinee_, the acclaimed 1993 comic film set in Key West, Fla., during the Cuban missile crisis. That performance led to a tryout for a role in _Chris Cross_, a Canadian television series that was distributed in both Britain and the United States. The linguistic trade deficit between British and American actors may be aggravated by a professional decision by American actors not to attempt foreign accents. Monich said directors and studio heads are leery of having Hollywood stars speak in a foreign accent, because this would dilute their bankable images. Opportunity, talent and training being equal, is it easier linguistically for a British actor to play an American than vice versa? There is a remarkable lack of unanimity on this question. And, indeed, several expert insist that the American-to-British manoeuvre should actually be the easier one. "For an American to do a standard British accent, it's a matter of dropping sounds," (stage director Richard) Seyd said. "For an English actor to do an American accent, it's a matter of adding sounds, and it makes the accent more self-conscious when you add a sound, and more difficult when you add a sound, than when you're leaving sounds out." Fenton agrees that doing an American accent involves adding sounds to what he sees as the "neutral" British accent. But, unlike Seyd, he sees the British-to-American transformation as the easier one. "I think it's easier to add than to take away," Fenton said. But David Alan Stern, a dialect coach and the author of a series of manuals and audiotapes called _Acting with an Accent_ (IS THIS GUY A MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY? Gotta ram these points home--ed.), said Fenton's explanation would be "exactly the same perspective that an American actor would feel" if called upon to do a British accent. Stern said it is more difficult for a British actor to do a convincing American accent than vice versa, not because of the addition or subtraction of sounds but because of differences in the muscular action that produces sounds. Standard British speech, he added, focuses its tone and resonance in the front part of the mouth, whereas American speech centres (American speech centres?-ed.) most of its muscle work in the middle part of the tongue. It is easier, Stern said, for Americans to learn to use the front-face muscles that produce a British resonance than for British speakers to make the muscles lazy to seem American. Is Stern's explanation the last word on the linguistic side of the accent gap? No such luck. Suchet, who has been an acting teacher as well as an actor, agrees with Stern that British English is more muscular, but he draws an opposite conclusion. "In order to speak American, the first thing you have to do is not move your mouth very much," he said. "Now, that's an easier thing to do than to say to someone, 'Move your mouth more.'" Any opinions?