Have you ever sat down in your study or TV room settling in to do some work and just flipped on the television for a little background noise? Maybe even landing on Turner Classic Movies where I find myself quite a bit.
You begin to work when something familiar begins to break your concentration. It’s Dick Powell spouting out a line to a detective. The detective begins his counter and you know it’s Regis Toomey. You still haven’t looked up at the screen. You just instinctively know who the actors are. It’s not that you have seen the film dozens of times, but rather that you’ve heard those voices before. It happens to me time and time again. I hear the voices and know who they are. It’s the quality of those voices. Each actor displaying an almost haunting individuality. A delivery in their speech pattern, that no matter the role, the actor is instantly recognizable.
I have found that those great lead actors and character actors of the 40’s and 50’s seem to display those singularly significant and distinctive voices much more than the actors that followed that era. Yes, some of today’s actors display those same vocal qualities, but not quite in the vast numbers from actors of the past.
Tell me that Joseph Cotton, James Cagney, Kirk Douglas, and Charlton Heston wouldn’t perk up your ears. You may even be surprised that you recognize William Talman, James Gleason, Andy Divine or Royal Dano by their voices. It’s amazing how individual each of the golden oldie actors sound to me at least. Maybe I’m delusional. I just don’t think so.
It may seem interesting to you to give yourself the test. Of course you really need to be a buff or have an appreciation for those gems of the past. At least you will have to have had some exposure to the classic actors for this to be successful. So, if you fit in the category of having these qualifications, simply slide a DVD of an old movie in the player and close your eyes…and listen.