A few years ago Tom Cruise made a movie called Valkyrie. It was a German movie, about Germans who are speaking English, but they sound German. Because it’s a movie about Germans. In Germany. Critics and moviegoers were in fits because Cruise didn’t even attempt a German accent. Not so much as a “Gesundheit” after a sneeze. I dunno. I think he did the right thing here. Maybe Tommy felt like if he couldn’t deliver an authentic replication, it would be an insult to Germans, not to mention really distracting for the audience.
I get that, if it’s what he was thinking. There is no shortage of movies and TV shows that stick in my mind only because of how god-awful the accents are. I will forget the film entirely and just remember bad lines. Especially the Southern doozies. Please feel free to weigh in on this topic and make suggestions for additions:
Worst All-Around Bad Southern Accent Film:
Mandingo – James Mason (think Gigi and Lolita) portrays a New Orleans plantation owner in the 1840s. He has a son, played by Perry King, whose wife, Blanche (Susan George), beds and is impregnated by a strapping yard slave, Mede. In the end they try to boil him in a big kettle and hilarity ensues. Only I don’t think it was meant to be funny. The best scenes involve Paul Benedict (ie Bentley from The Jeffersons) checking a slave boy for hemorrhoids or Blanche declaring to Mede, eyelashes fluttering, “Buts I’s craaaves ya”. Almost every word ended with an s. Also notable is that the last half of this movie used more sweat than all of Cool Hand Luke.
Worst Single Offender in a Film – Male
Nic Cage in Con Air beats out Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides. That is quite a feat. Con Air should have been an awesome action flick. Instead it was an accidental comedy due to frequent narration by Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, as he reads a letter to his daughter while he is en route home from being wrongly imprisoned. I was initially confused as to whether or not Poe had suffered brain damage as part of the story line. It was the only possible explanation of why every “a” was followed by an “h”, any middle vowel got sandwiched beeetweeeeen three mooore, any final or middle “r” was removed and the words were delivered soooo slooowly. Oh, mah haaaavens. The most memorable line was delivered to John Malkovich, who messes with the stuffed animal Nic Cage plans to give his daughter, “Put dah bunneh baaawk in tha bawx”, he demands.
Worst Single Offender in a Film – Female
I hate to do this, but I must call out “she who can do not wrong – almost”, Jodie Foster. I decided to cut her some slack for Nell because that character’s accent was all wonky since she was raised only hearing the “Tweeee in da wiiiin”. Instead, she gets it for Silence of the Lambs. What was that exactly? I recall that her character, Clarice, was from West Virginia, but she gave her this kind of creepy clipped yet slurry accent. It was almost a speech impediment.
Weirdest Southern Accent in a Film
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with Kevin Spacey was just plain bizarre. Hot Damn logged her fair share of time in Savannah back in the day and I never came across anyone who sounded like this. Savannah does have a blend of low-country, deep south and coastal accents, but it works and sounds pretty nice. Makes you want to sit down with a bourbon and coke underneath a moss draped live oak. What Kevin Spacey did to Jim Thompson was like a jumbled tribute to a repressed gay decorator from Gone With The Wind. Awful.
Then there is television. Oh Lawsy! Has anyone seen that show True Blood? What am I thinking? Of course you have. People have lost their minds over it. I tried to watch it. Once. Let’s gloss over that the characters are derelict vampires in a bayou. Just suspend that silliness for a second, m’kay? The dialogue delivery is like retarded meth-heads with white bread in their mouths. It may be hilarious and riveting, but for me it is unwatchable based on how unlistenable it is. Oh, and did I make mention that it is about vampires in a bayou. Jeesh.
Then there’s The Closer. It centers on Atlanta transplant, Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgewick, working as an LAPD Deputy Chief. The story lines are solid, the acting is fine but the accent makes my ears want to furl up and cry. As an Atlantan, I promise that no one here sounds like Flo from Alice and Mel’s Diner. Sedgewick’s accent is at once sassy, curt and 100% exaggerated. It embarrasses me.
I do have an honorable mention to mention. It blows me away how clear and beautiful the singing is of, say, Oasis’ Liam Gallagher. And then you hear him in an interview and he is utterly unintelligible. Usually, he even has to be subtitled. It’s like that with many musicians. AC DC, The Who, The Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne…the lot of them sing English, but talk all foreign and accenty. Except for one. Check out the Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia”. Cracks me up how much Southern twang can come out of that little English man with the big mouth.