The voice of reason

I’m watching “Arsenic and Old Lace” and thinking, don’t these people realize Cary Grant is a Brit. Sure we all know it … we’ve always known it. But how is it that in every film where he played an American and opened his mouth, no one ever said, “Hey, bud! Where you really from?”

In “Arsenic and Old Lace,” a comedy about a couple of mass murdering old ladies, he’s supposed to be from Brooklyn. How do I get that? It opens with a scene of the Brooklyn Dodgers, his aunts live in Brooklyn and he marries a girl from Brooklyn.

In “Bringing Up Baby” he’s a paleontologist being pursued by a scatterbrained heiress (Katherine Hepburn) who owns a leopard named Baby. The setting appears to be New York and the Hamptons. It’s one of the first movies where the word “gay” is used to imply homosexual. But someone is more likely to ask him “are you gay?” than “are you an American?”

In “The Philadelphia Story” … well, he’s from Philadelphia

And in “She Done Him Wrong,” he’s a New York cop. You’d think Mae West, who’s as Brooklyn as they get, would say, “Yo, you ain’t local.”

Wikipedia describes Grant’s accent as ”distinctive yet not quite placeable Mid-Atlantic,” implying he sounds like he lives on the American East Coast between Boston and Baltimore.

Apparently, a mid-Atlantic accent is cultivated and avoids Briticisms and Americanisms so it can be understood from York to New York. Famous people with mid-Atlantic accents include William F. Buckley, Franklin Roosevelt and Katherine Hepburn. But c’mon! They all sound like they went to New England boarding schools (where the accent was developed) with Thurston Howell the Third. Cary Grant sounds like a Brit … it isn’t even close.

Meanwhile, the U.K. media are in a whirl because former Prime Minister Tony Blair is supposedly speaking with a mid-Atlantic accent. They say it shows a lack of character. I doubt that, since London newspapers are usually wrong.

Blair was on “The Daily Show” last week. I listened to him and thought, “Gee, sounds like Cary Grant.”


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