Here’s a daft one I want to share. I had only just written about that World War 2 prisoner of war movie The Great Escape (in this post) and it was on TV here, on Easter Sunday.
To anyone in the UK that will not seem like such a coincidence. There was a time when that film was on TV every single bank holiday. At least it seemed that way. Still, it was good to watch it again. It must be 10 years since I last saw it.
Now here’s the thing…
One thing really caught my attention this time around. Probably because of where we are now living. James Coburn, an American actor, played an Australian prisoner. His Aussie accent must be the worst example of bad accents in the history of movies. Damn, it was really bad.
That Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep character in Mary Poppins is possibly the most famous – or infamous – bad accent. Van Dyke’s attempt at a cockney (East London) accent is the stuff of movie legend. It has been the butt of many a joke, and rightly so.
That said, I would contend that Coburn’s Aussie accent is at least 100 times worse. Could they really not find an Australian actor to play that part? Did they even need to have an Aussie prisoner? There was only the one so why couldn’t he have been just another Brit or American? Crazy.
Comparing the two
First of all, it is important to remember that Van Dyke was in a Disney movie meant for kids. Also, that movie was part animated so was never meant to be serious. The Great Escape, while it had humour and was completely jingoistic, was at least meant to be an adult movie with a serious theme. It was also based on real and very serious historical events.
James Coburn sounded like an Irishman, pretending to be an American imitating an Aussie accent. Possibly even worse. When I first noticed it the other day, I sat to attention waiting for him to speak another line. It turns out he never had that many. Very few for one of only three top American actors in the movie. I wonder why?
Watch that film again and judge for yourself.