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What Happened To the Great VOICES in Film?


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Initial post: Jan 13, 2012 7:47:07 PM PST
Lots of film actors of yore, trained in the theatre, had terrific voices: Richard Burton, John Gielgud, Helen Hayes, Orson Welles, James Mason, Sean Connery, Katherine Hepburn. Even in lesser fare, it was a pleasure listening to them speak.

But I can't, offhand, think of one young actor or actress today who has a truly distinctive voice. There are some older ones, like Philip Seymour Hoffman or Kristin Scott Thomas, who are distinctive. Are there younger actors I haven't thought of who are a terrific pleasure to hear deliver lines? Or is the great movie voice a dying breed?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2012 8:57:21 PM PST
Good subject.

I love the way Charlotte Gainsbourg speaks her songs and sings her lines. She grew up between two cultures of show business royalty: the English Jane Birkin and French Serge Gainsbourg, so she speaks and sings somewhere in the middle, and it's delightful to hear.
Her best roles were in 'L'Effrontee', 'La Petit Amour', 'Jane Eyre', 'Season's Beatings', 'Golden Door', and 'The Tree'.

For male actors, all I can think of at the moment in Ted Levine. He's played everything from the dutiful, baritone-voiced husband in 'Georgia' to the psychopathic Buffalo Bill in 'The Silence of the Lambs', to the gruff Captain Stottlemeyer in 'Monk'.

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 10:23:44 PM PST
rick tan says:
Michael Cera

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 10:55:15 PM PST
W. Grieve says:
Michael Gambon.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 13, 2012 11:16:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 2, 2012 2:51:40 PM PST
Re: Michael Cera
I don't know if you're being ironic or not, Rick, yet I'm going out on that limb there to agree with you.
He has a very cracking, perpetually-adolescent, droll Canadian accent that is all his own.
If you can accept him as a movie star (unlike, Woody Allen, he didn't have a lengthy history on TV and on records to prepare audiences for his strange talent) he is quite a master in his range. Very charming. It's debatable how long he'll be able to keep it up. How much longer can he play teenagers!?
Youth in Revolt is probably his best work to date.

I'm going to add another few, and since someone has wisely added the unique Irish brogue of Sir Michael Gambon, as companion of sorts: the Scottish lilt of Ms. Kelly Macdonald, so delicate and un-bothered-like, I could listen to it forever.

And one (I may be alone here, but:) I really dig is Miranda July's voice (she of 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' and 'The Future'.)
Here she is doing a funny, strange audio performance piece from The Binet-Simon Test:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYxl6sml6hI

Last one, is the golden throat of Bill Cobbs . . .the first role I remember him from was playing Moses, the old clock keeper (and narrator) in 'The Hudsucker Proxy'. Also in 'That Thing You Do', and John Sayles's 'Sunshine State'. More recently, he played "Grandfather" in 'The Muppets'.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 12:00:19 AM PST
W. Grieve says:
The late Pete Poselthwaite

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 12:06:26 AM PST
rick tan says:
Was jk. I'm more or less neutral on the guy, but he's done now isn't he? Nothing personal, but it seems like alot of factors are working against him now. He doesn't have the output compared to other young stars, no one buys tickets to his movies.

I agree, it is interesting to see what direction he's gonna be able to go. Can he branch out? Maybe. I doubt it. What roles do you want to see him in? I mean, just the way he looks is gonna severely limit the types of movies he can do. Maybe he will surprise people, i don't know. He's very low profile as far as celebrities go. Usually we can get an idea of where an actors career is going from various interviews and whatnot, but it seems like we never hear from this guy.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 12:49:31 AM PST
Re: Michael Cera
>Rick Tan sez: "he's done now isn't he?....He doesn't have the output compared to other young stars, no one buys tickets to his movies."<

Seems to me like he's carved out quite a good niche for himself so far, and now that Jessie Eisenberg has moved on to being a high profile star after 'The Social Network', Cera is like Top Nerd for indie cinema.
'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' was very popular a year and a half ago. Granted, that's a long time ago in Hollywood time, but people remember and like it, and he's stayed in the limelight via TV and youtube.
Next year he stars with Amanda Seyfried in 'The End of Love', which sounds like it could be that 'branching out' we find so doubtful.
There's also going to be an 'Arrested Development' movie (based on the cult TV show) and a horror movie Cera stars in with Emily Browning.

Apologies for derailing this into a pathetic Michael Cera Appreciation Thread for a moment there.

We now return you back to your regular programming.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 4:07:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 28, 2013 5:07:06 AM PST
Lone Wolf says:
I couldn't agree with you more about there being very few distinct voices nowadays. The Robert Mitchum's, Richard Boone's & James Earl Jones' of Hollywood seem to have all but dried up. All that's left is Gene Hackman, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges & my personal fav - Sam Elliot. That's probably why you rarely, if ever, hear an actor younger than 50 doing voiceovers for commercials. I think most ppl would be much more likely to buy a pack of Duracell batteries after listening to Jeff Bridges masculine & reassuring baritone than Michael Cera's squeaky & feminine high tenor. LOL But yeah, great voices are a rarity. At the very least though, there are still a few really good young actors out there that are starting to make a name for themselves (minus the great voice of course). Michael Shannon, Jeremy Renner & Ben Foster come to mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 4:40:39 AM PST
Sam Elliott does have that great voice. I remember reading somewhere that he was asked to do numerous takes of a fairly uncomplicated speech in "The Big Lebowski", and he finally got a tad irritated. The Coen Brothers admitted that all the takes were fine, they just loved hearing him talk.

John Goodman has a good voice. And Ben Gazzara does---that weird cracked vessel.

I like the film "Presumed Innocent". There are some good voices in that: Raul Julia, Sab Sabatino, Harrison Ford of course, Bonnie Bedalia, Paul Winfield as the judge. Paul Winfield I could listen to all day.

David Strathairn in "Good Night and Good Luck" looked like Edward R. Murrow and had the voice down perfectly. Frank Langella, as William S.Paley---what a great voice. Patricia Clarkson has that distinctive sound of hers. She was so good in "The Station Agent", which reminds me of another great booming voice:

Peter Dinklage!! Great actor, great voice.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 5:24:45 AM PST
Madeline Kahn and Bernadette Peters. I wonder if Mel Brooks cast them because they had great voices?

In the remake of "Dial M For Murder", "A Perfect Murder", there's a detective assigned to the case. The actor playing him, David Suchet, had magnificent tone. It kind of was appropriate, I'm not sure I can articulate why. He was the one unqualified good major character in the film. He seems to represent quiet, uncomplicated morality. And those tones did convey---this is a solid, decent person.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 6:05:40 AM PST
Cavaradossi says:
When you're talking about great voices don't forget Jeremy Irons. Talk about a voice you could listen to all day!

Actually, this topic has an affinity to something happening in the operatic world. Audiences and opera house managers to a large extent have gravitated away from the really big voices that so many of the great operatic roles actually require. I think this is happening because audiences have, for some reason, developed an inability to hear big voices as the voices of young characters, usually the lovers in the story. They think of lighter sounds, both female and male, as more representative of youth. They are probably thinking of the young sopranos, tenors, and baritones they heard in high school and college.

Similarly, in films, the distinctive, beautiful, cultured speaking voices of so many we've named may not be perceived or accepted as the sound of youth by today's young audiences. After all, most young people don't exhibit those sorts of voices in the day to day world. Also, such voices denote authority, and we know how youth instinctively feels about THAT. So, nowadays, not only must you be beautiful of face and figure to star in films and TV, you must also sound "young". Just as the actors struggle to continue looking plausibly young as they age, so are they careful to avoid developing an aging voice, trying to sound as they always did. The result is few beautiful, distinctive cultured voices because they are not wanted.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 6:13:21 AM PST
Yes, Jeremy Irons. "You have NO idea."

For whatever reason, the Brits have an edge, voicewise. Helen Mirren is good.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 8:13:11 AM PST
Cavaradossi says:
W. David English

"You have NO idea."

Jeremy Irons' name will live forever based on his incomparable delivery of that one line! Whenever I think of him, that line comes to mind. Don't forget the emotionally hooded look he gives as he says it. Great movie moment. It's Irons' version of Bette Davis' "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 8:29:20 AM PST
And I think he repeated the line in "The Lion King".

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 9:00:35 AM PST
Hikari says:
@LoneWolf
Tim Allen is the current pitchman for Campbell's Soup. Does his voice make you want to have a bowl? :) It kinda does me. Tim was a good choice . . .he's got a manly tone but it's kinda quirky too and always sounds like there's a smile in it--a good vibe for the comfort food he's pitching.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 10:03:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 14, 2012 10:04:03 AM PST
Hikari:

I'm sure that's exactly what went on in some Ad agency. "What voice makes you want to eat soup?" "How about Christopher Walken?" "No, his voice makes you want to eat soap." "Sean Connery?" "No, his voice makes you want to eat haggis." "Pee Wee Herman?" "No, his voice makes you want to eat Pez, by the shovelful." "Soupy Sales?" "You're onto something there....what do we most want but sales of soup?" "Great...let's get him." "No, his voiceover career is on ice, him being dead and all." "Umm...pity. How about Tim Allen?" "Tim Allen. Tim Allen. Now that just might be the guy. Tim Allen."

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 10:33:20 AM PST
Pete Poselthwaite did have a very distinctive voice. He scares the beejeezus out of you just by shaving thorns off roses in "The Town".

Clooney's got that good voice. It's understated, but he's good at understatement, the less is more thing. When he does raise the volume, it gets your attention. But Pacino hits top volume too quickly in a lot of his films. Reminds me of the final few books by Hunter S. Thompson, when the author reverted to PUTTING EVERY FIFTH SENTENCE IN CAPS!!!!!! The effect obviously intended, emphasis and power, were dribbled away because he beat the device to death. Some individuals online do the same thing.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 11:00:36 AM PST
Matthew McConaughey does, but more for his twang. Morgan Freeman has a very distinctive voice as does James Earl Jones, but younger actors and actresses, I am really struggling to think of one. Brad Pitt and George Clooney both have distinctive voices, but not big booming larger-than-life theatre voices. Very good topic.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 11:06:39 AM PST
7 & 7 IS says:
I liked Eva Green's haughty, dry speaking voice in Casino Royale.Though it's not that distinctive in the same way all the old classic stars spoke.Like Sidney Greenstreet,Peter Lorre and Bogart and all the rest had.They were all so unique back then you could tell who it was speaking if you were blindfolded.But I do like to hear Michael Parks' drawl.Not that he's all that new.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 11:15:40 AM PST
Alice:

Another good, "not-booming" voice is Russell Crowe. He commands respect and attention by making people have to listen to him. In "State of Play", he's very quiet, he's good with people, he doesn't overpower them. He needs to inspire trust (he's a reporter), and this works for him.

No one in the world ever sounded like Peter Lorre or Sydney Greenstreet.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 11:18:55 AM PST
Bill Hobbs derives from the Scatman Crothers school. Distinctive hoarse Afro-American voice. Automatically sympathetic and likable.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2012 11:29:53 AM PST
David: I agree. Peter Lorre was very different, as were Bogey and Greenstreet. Yes, Russell Crowe, and I agree, he was very different in State of Play.

Richard Dreyfuss has a distinctive voice as does John Malkovich. On the other side of the Pond, we have Anthony Hopkins, Pierce Brosnan, Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Judi Dench...all distinctive, all older though. Harrison Ford is another I would toss out there.

Oh, I know, how about Will Smith? He's on the younger side. Ryan Reynolds is another I think who's voice is very much his own. Owen Wilson is not exactly an old man and I would know his voice anywhere.

Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy, Harry Dean Stanton, Dustin Hoffman, all older though. Did anyone mention Kurt Russell yet?

Of course, Sean Connery is one of the most distinctive out there. This is tough. Thanks for the challenge ;-)

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 11:41:07 AM PST
There's a YouTube segment of Harpo Marx talking. Just audio, I think. He doesn't sound at all like you'd think he would.

James Earl Jones. His line readings register on the Richter scale.

Also on YouTube: the notorious on-set ("I Heart Huckabees") screaming bout between director David Russell and Lily Tomlin. They both were unbelievable. Tomlin sounded like she never does in movies, it was almost frightening. Russell throws something at her at one point. You won't believe you eyes and ears. George Clooney almost got into a fistfight with him on one movie because he was berating people on-set who couldn't fight back, technicians.

Posted on Jan 14, 2012 12:13:13 PM PST
stevign says:
James Gammon - (Silverado, The Milagro Beanfield War, Major League, Nash Bridges, Appaloosa)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL4cEH2JdQQ

Sam Elliott (Mask, Road House, Tombstone, Gettysburg, The Big Lebowski, We Were Soldiers)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzZOp-nPho8
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Discussion in:  Movie forum
Participants:  79
Total posts:  1671
Initial post:  Jan 13, 2012
Latest post:  Sep 4, 2013

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