The British accent, in film at least, is one of the most distinctive speaking voices on Earth. I'm referring not just to the standard classic received pronunciation of say, a John Gielgud, or a Lawrence Olivier, but also to the strong Cockney of Michael Caine, or of the Scots of a chap like Sean Connery. Oh, how they get butchered! By Americans especially...wow.
Though the reverse can also be true, the British can generally pull of an American accent pretty well; I doubt that many average Americans know that Hugh Laurie from the telly programme HOUSE is English, but everyone knows that Renée Zellweger is very most certainly not, and if they don't, the firing squad is promptly at dawn.
Here is a list of five classic film bad accents. Dick Van Dyke is not included, because, well, his Cockney is legendary in badness.
#5) Michael Caine: ZULU.
I love this bloke. Great personality. Charisma. Great movies. He's English, so what's the problem? Well his supposedly upper-crust accent in this legendary 1964 film Zulu is just plain bad. It's like some American trying to tell his best friend what Bertie Wooster sounds like. The film gets the big thumbs up, but Cockney Caine's fey r. p. gets both thumbs down!
#4) Burt Lancaster: ZULU DAWN.
Really? As Lt. colonel Anthony William Durnford? An Irishman? Really? Sadly, yes. The Irish, Aussie, and Sottish accents are much abused by Americans in general, and I apologise on behalf of my fellow Yanks for such abominations. Still a very good 'prequel' to Zulu, from 1979. It has a great to very good cast, and covers the topic effectively.
#3) Charlton Heston: KHARTOUM.
Ok...look at the cast of this film. Laurence Olivier. Ralph Richardson. Michael Hordern. Richard Johnson. Nigel Green. Douglas Wilmer. The best of the best in British acting. So who do they cast as Gen. Charles 'Chinese' Gordon, who was killed in Sudan in defense of Khartoum? Heston! He sounds like he's talking with a pencil betwixt his teeth!
#2) Katherine Hepburn: THE AFRICAN QUEEN.
She almost got the primo spot on the list, but missed it just barely. When I first saw this film, I was certain that they had overdubbed two chickens having a nice barnyard chat. I suppose the director had her do this to cover up the worst performance in Humphrey Bogart's career, but I have no proof of this. As it stands, it's faux-English gobble-squawk at its worst.
#1) Ingrid Berman: DR. JECKYL & MR. HYDE.
I'm no fan of Spencer Tracy movies in general, but this 1941 (so-called) adaptation of one of my favourite novels, is just plain tepid. It's also quite preachy, as well. The main problem, beside all others, is that we have the Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman b-a-d-l-y playing a Cockney woman! Ol' Dick Van Dyke, in comparison, sounds like Michael Caine on holiday in the old neighborhood!
...and I don't mean the House of Lords, mate, innit?