Alex tells how stars murder our accent

ALEX Norton roars

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Alex Norton
Alex Norton

ALEX Norton roars

with laughter at the

thought of one of the

least memorable performances by actress Katharine Hepburn.

Made in the 1930s, The Little Minister is set in Scotland, but

it is a Hollywood version no-one on this side of the pond would recognise - and Norton will highlight it in a TV documentary next week on Scottish accents.

"When I was watching it

I thought, 'It's Hollywood, she was a big star in a big movie, did they not have the money to pay for a Scottish voice coach?'"

he says in amazement.

"Or maybe there weren't any Scottish voice coaches or there was somebody who claimed to be able to teach her an authentic Scottish accent and conned them, and they probably thought it was okay.

"I am a big fan of her work, I think she is fantastic, but when I watched it I wished I could have been there and said, 'Katharine, let's sit down and have a wee talk and I'll tell you how you should be doing this'. "

The journey of the Scottish accent on screen is the focus of Norton's hilarious show, Dream Me Up Scotty!.

There are clips from films and TV programmes featuring magnificent mangling of our language by stars and wonderful sketches from contemporary TV shows, including Chewin' The Fat, Burnistoun and Gary Tank Commander.

"You don't get so many bad Scottish accents now," Alex says. "You still get some, but not as many, but I don't think in the 1930s, in the heyday of the sound film, cinema goers expected to hear authentic accents from where they came from.

"They went to escape, the movies were a fantasy peopled by big stars who, as far as they were concerned, could have come from another planet.

"They went to see fantasy tales and they were peopled by fantasy stars, so I don't think people sat up there and criticised the accents, they just didn't expect to hear it.

"It is only in recent years we have become more attuned to authenticity when it comes to accents."

Accent aberrations appearing

in Dream Me Up Scotty! include

a wonderful pronunciation of Drumnadrochit in Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster. Imagine the cartoon mutt trying to get his chops around that.

Interestingly, it was Disney's animated box office hit Brave that proved to be a turning point for Hollywood's accent on Scotland. Characters spoke with Scottish voices from different regions rather than

a showbiz version of 'Scotchland'.

Alex says: "It's really only in Scotland we care about these things.

"Look at James Doonan. He was Scotty in Star Trek for many years but I don't think there were many letters in the New York Times or the Los Angeles Herald saying, 'Why oh why has this guy been allowed

to get away with this accent?'"

Before Hollywood was so open-minded about warts-and-all Scottish voices,

it dubbed Bill Forsyth's That Sinking Feeling and Gregory's Girl for worldwide audiences.

Alex says he was one of the luckier members of the cast because he got to do his own voice, although he had to do it very precisely, dotting every i and crossing every t.

"I finally saw it when I was out

in LA and it was on telly," he remembers, still cringing at the thought. "A bunch of friends and

I all gathered round to see it

and I was dying of embarrassment because everything that made

the film terrific when it first came out was gone. It was like it had

been filleted."

The laughs continue on television on Hogmanay with Alex when he appears in comedy drama Two Doors Down alongside Arabella Weir, Daniela Nardini, Jonathan Watson and Doon MacKichan. It

is set at a chaotic party thrown by Eric and Beth Baird as they count down to the Bells in traditional style with family and friends.

Packed with great gags and funny one-liners, Alex says he found it hard keeping a straight face playing alongside Jonathan.

"Wee Johnny was on top of his form. We had a real difficulty getting through our scenes and keeping a straight face. I mean real difficulty."

It took Alex back to family Hogmanay parties at his uncle's house in Carnwadric when everyone did a turn.

"They had a tape recorder so

they used to record the party and send it to Australia. All my dad's other brothers emigrated to Australia, so it would go round them all. They would all listen to this Glasgow New Year party of

all of us doing our turns," he says, laughing.

l Dream Me Up Scotty! is on BBC1 on December 23 and Two Doors Down on December 31.

angela.mcmanus@eveningtimes.co.uk

ALEX NORTON: Remembers Hogmanay parties in Carnwadric

I was dying of embarrassment … everything that made the film terrific was gone

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