Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Perils of RTCMP (Updated with Confession)

As one of the Siren's favorite high-school English teachers used to say, "There are certain words, kids, that are in your reading vocabulary, but not your speaking vocabulary. And if you try to use a reading word when you're speaking, you risk sounding like an idiot."

Despite the studio heads' determination to endow old stars with simple names, there are a few Old Hollywood names that fall into this category. The Siren's tendency is to go with RTCMP, which of course stands for Received TCM Pronunciation. If she hears it a certain way on TCM, that's the way she says it.

Trouble is, on TCM, certain names aren't consistently said the same way.

So, for fun and educational purposes, the Siren decided to poll her readers on a group of names that she's heard different ways from different people who should know, on TCM and elsewhere. The Siren will post her own answers, and reasoning, later on. In the meantime, uh, how you say:

1. Tyrone Power. First name--accent on the first syllable, or the second?

2. Frtiz Lang. LANG, as in sang, or LAHNG? (The Siren also hears "Lung" from time to time. That can't be right.)

3. Douglas Sirk. SIRK, as in lurk, or SEERK?

4. Katharine Hepburn. Three syllables in the first name, or two? Or ('fess up) do you just sort of rush through it so people can't tell which you're doing?

5. Franchot Tone. Emphasis on which syllable of the first name? Cho, or Sho? Do you pronounce the t, say it fast so people can't tell if you did or you did not pronounce the t, or do you simply avoid referring to the man at all whenever possible?

6. Alida Valli. The Siren knows how to pronounce the first name, all right, but the second--accent on the first syllable, or the second?

7. Elissa Landi. The Siren leaves this one open, as she's heard people say that second name at least three different ways.

8. Sonja Henie. SAHN-ya or SOHN-ya?

9. Myrna Loy. MUHRNA, or MEERNA?

10. Robert Donat. Last name...anybody?

11. William Dieterle. Help a Siren out.

And finally…

12. George Sanders. Plain old Sanders, like the purveyor of fried chicken, or SAHN-ders?

Note: The Siren's assuming we all know how to say Borzage at this point…right?

Note Number Two: If you have a name that consistently gives you trouble, or that hurts your ears when you hear it mispronounced, by all means, share.

Note Number Three: Are you wondering if the Siren went with this oddball post just to give her an excuse to post that mesmerizing picture of TY-rone or Ty-RONE Power up there? Wonder away.


All right, the Siren goes public with her answers. These are offered in the spirit of confession, not correction. Not all of them are right. Some of them definitely aren't.

1. Ty-RONE, but the Siren sounds very Bama even to her own ears saying that one, for some reason. More like Tah-ROHWWN.

2. LAHNG. The Siren's reasoning is the same as commenter Ned; he wears a monocle, it's Lahng. But god no, not Freetz. That would be like one of Mick Jagger's South American lady friends: "Meek! Meek!"

3. For years, it always rhymed with lurk. Then one fateful day, the Siren saw Molly Haskell discussing Written on the Wind on The Essentials with Robert Osborne. And Ms Haskell says "Seerk." This causes the Siren elocutionary anguish to this day. It makes perfect sense, as the original name was "Sierck," but everybody else says Sirk. The Siren switches it up, depending.

4. The Siren hereby confesses that one of the Alabama-isms she cannot shake is putting three syllables in Katharine, much like she can't stop herself from pronouncing the "l" in "folk" or emphasizing the first syllable in "umbrella."

5. The Siren avoids saying his name whenever possible. When it isn't, she says "FRANSH-oh" because that's how Gene Kelly says it in the title number from the anthology That's Entertainment.

6. VAL-ee.

7. LAHND-ee.

8. SOHN-ya.

9. For years the Siren said "Muhrna" like a normal person. Then, one day, as the benevolent shade of William Powell is her witness, she heard one of the TCM announcers (not Osborne, one of the faceless ones) say "Meerna." It confused her no end. She tried it for a little while and has sworn off it.

10. DOH-not.

11. DEE-ter-lee.

12. Another dark night of the vocal soul. The Siren always said "Sanders," as in Colonel. Then she saw Angela Lansbury discussing him and Ms Lansbury, who of course knew the man, said "SAHN-ders." Now, maybe that's just a British thing, and with all love for Yojimboen and the other U.K. natives who grace us here, British does not = correct. British = British. But still, it was Angela. LANSBURY. Now the Siren ping-pongs a bit.

Last notes on names in comments: THAY-da Bear-ah, Robert Osborne says ZAY-sue Pitts (for years the Siren said ZAZ-zu), and SEE-odd-mock, although she intends to adopt David Cairns' "see-odd-mack" since if poor Robert (a great director) had to wear a name tag the least she can do is respect his efforts.

And no, nobody says OH-pools. Nobody the Siren socializes with, anyway.


Peter Nellhaus said...

I knew of one person who completely mangled Budd Boetticher's last name.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Not too mention the Asian names I've heard mispronounced. And there's logic to Thai's giving themselves short nicknames.

swinny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
swinny said...

1. Tie-RONE. Actually, both syllables are pretty close, but definitely not TIE-rone.
2. Sang
3. Lurk
4. 2 syllables. I don't think I know anyone who actually uses all 3, no matter how the name is spelled. Also this is easily avoided by just calling her Kate.
5. FRAN-sho. No T. This comes directly from Joan Crawford, so I'm gonna trust it.
8. SOHN-ya, but that might be a regional thing.
9. MUHRNA. Omg there are people who say actually MEERNA? I am appalled.
10. DOE-nat. Kind of like doughnut, but a flatter second syllable.

The Siren said...

So Peter, how do you say Boetticher? I always hear Betticker. And I'm sure you're familiar with "Joe" Weerasethakul...had some fun on Twitter one day with that.

Ashley, congrats on being the first one to back some horses here. My answers--the ones I have, anyway--TK.

Catmommie said...

I don't know if this qualifies as an unimpeachable source. I just watched the Warners Archive dvd of Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, and Robert Montgomery in No More Ladies; the disc had a trailer for the film, and the name Franchot was definitely pronounced "FRANCH-oh."

"Meerna???" No. Just NO.

The Siren said...

Ashley, also, I can't call Miss Hepburn Kate, as she never gave me permission to do so. :) That's the same reason it's never gonna be "Betty" Bacall here. Don't you just know she'd flay me alive?

The Siren said...

Catmommy, I didn't even bring up the "ch" issue. I will do. :)

Peter Nellhaus said...

Yes, you're saying Budd's name as I've also heard it pronounced.

I forgot to mention the time I heard someone on television discussing Jean Seberg's movie directed by Jean-Luc "Goddard".

My mom taught me how to say Franchot correctly. My introduction to him was in a Twilight Zone episode.

The Siren said...

Peter, I would so love to discover that Paulette and Jean-Luc are related.

Jennythenipper said...

Donat= Dough + not

Sonja Henie, I pronounce the way God and Sherman Potter from MASH intended me to, "Sewn-ya Hen-ee."

Murna Loy

Fran-sh-oat Tone (Seriously, if anyone ever brought him up in conversation, I'd squeal and hug them, so it wouldn't matter what their pronunciation was!)

The Siren said...

Jenny, I feel the *exact* same way about William Dieterle. Mangle away, as long as you KNOW the man! Hoping Lou Lumenick shows. He once told me how to pronounce Dieterle and I, of course, promptly forgot.

Donna said...

I thought it was pronounced Die-ter-leigh

Sanders, Saunders, Sonders, any way you say it, I luvs him.

Lauren Hairston said...

I guess I could be crazy (and I'm definitely in the minority), but I really thought I had seen a documentary somewhere that stated Myrna Loy pronounced her name "Meerna." Anyway, she's awesome no matter how her name is pronounced!

I'm George Sanders-obsessed and I pronounce it "Sanders" not "Sahnders," but that could just be because I'm just a stupid American! Anyhow, it's pronounced "Sanders" in trailers:

Ned said...

For Fritz I've always used the German pronunciation (lahng) because what else can you do with a guy who wears a monocle? And 'lung'? Somebody's trying way to hard on that one.

Agree with Ashley on Sirk (as in lurk) and Ms. Hepburn's first name, Kath-rinn. Two syllables only, please. Now that I think of it, I can't recall anyone referring to her as Kath-a-rine, but I could be wrong.

6 and 7? Here's how I've heard them:

LAHN-dee and VAHL-ee, but I have heard Elissa referred to as LAND-ee.

Sohn-ya would be my pronunciation for the skater's last name. 'Sahn-ya' is beastly.

But no less so than 'Meerna'! Who talks like that?

DOE-nat is how I would refer to that dapper chap.

As for George, I've always used the KFC colonel's pronunciation.

As Sanders himself might say, "And why not?"

As for other names, I've recently heard Billy Crudup's name pronounced 'CRUDE-up'.

Your guess is as good as mine.

Ned said...

Sorry, I meant TOO hard. Damn fingers...

Stefan Ramstedt said...

This is great. I have one here. Hou Hsiao-hsien. I've heard it as both Siao-sien, Chiao-sien and Chiao-chien... Any ideas?

D Cairns said...

I always thought it was MIHrna. I don't think I've heard it pronounced differently in the UK, but maybe I haven't been part of enough Loy-centred conversations.

And apparently Dieterle is DEEterly.

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trish said...

Tyrone: I've also heard it as TI-rone, as in "it".

Alida Valley

SOHN-ya Henie

George: I've used both Sanders and Saunders.

Now how about these names?

Jean Negulesco

Curt Siodmak

Valentina Cortese (in Europe) Cortesa (in America). Is it pronounced "eh" or "uh"?

Rozsaphile said...

Don't trust dear Mr. Osborne regarding Miklos Rozsa, which he consistently mangles. (The name is frequently misspelled too.) Just rhyme with Zsa Zsa (as opposed to the "sz" sound in Liszt). Purists might opt for "Miklosh." Among other immigrant composers, the German Franz Waxman (originally Wachsman) seems to have adopted the ordinary U.S. pronunciation.
Also: Pronounce Elmer BernSTEEN vs. Leonard BernSTEIN.

Cliff Aliperti said...

Donat is the toughest one on the list for me, but I'm going with Jenny on it ... even if I always have to catch myself from saying Dough-NAY.

I never even thought I might be saying Tyrone wrong, but I believe I put slight stress on the second syllable.

Lang, Sirk as in lurk, 3 syllables on Katharine, Franchot as SHOW at the end. MUHRNA and Sanders.

Like Donat a couple of others I have to catch myself on (because I swear my way is better, but I do try to be correct!) are Theda Bara, which I believe is THAY-da and the equally tough to spell correctly ZaSu Pitts (ZAY-zu).

And for all I know I've corrected myself into being wrong on those last two, but what's really bugging me on this subject lately is how the hell do you pronounce Marie Prevost's last name?

Yojimboen said...

Difficult task. Depends on who’s pronouncing I s’pose. When you grow in a different culture (Brit) the pronunciations you hear as a kid stick with you. Some American pronouncers just sound weird to me.

Here are the UK vs the US versions:

Ti-ROAN Power to go with its origin: County Tyrone.

“LAHHNG” as in the difference between Ma’am and Ma’ahhm.

Lurk. I’ve never heard “Seerk”.

Two syllables. To hear Kath-a-rine is very odd. Makes it sound like US sports announcers who say “Ath-uh-lete”.

(FTIW That phenomenon is called “Epenthesis” – lovely word – the tendency to add a syllable where there was none. “Nukular”, “Filum” etc.)

My mother pronounced the ‘t’ and that’s good enough for me!

When I was a small child I thought alidavalli was one word, like macaroni. D: (Equal accents on all syllables for me.)

Same goes with alissalandi.

SOHN-ya Heenee.

I have an in-law named “Meerna”.
(Her excuse is she’s French – and as we all know the French can’t pronounce “Myrna”. Or “Bob”)

Memory serves, I vaguely remember reading he pronounced it “Do-NATT” to avoid the similarity with the sinker.

“Die-ter-le” as in Athulete.

I thought sanders were machines used to scrape wooden floors.

Note number two: Why do you Americans insist on mispronouncing the first half of “Femme Fatale” and correctly pronouncing the second. Could you please make your minds up?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Just got the screeners of Todd's rendition of Mildred Pierce and looked at episode one. Quite remarkable. A straightforward period film and, so far, quite low-key dramatically. Ed Lachmann shot it, and if it resembles anyone it's the Fassbinder of his TV movies. Not Berlin Alexanderplatz but his lesser-known ones like Fear of Fear and I Only Want You to Love Me. Kate Winslett is perfect. Utterly unlike Crawford. This is deeply socially-consciouss cinema about the limited options faced by "grass widows" in the depression.

Storngly resisting the temptation to gulp it all down in one go.

paloaltodad said...

Joan Crawford was married to him and she pronounced it Fran/-shot. Lahng, and Tyrone as in County Tyrone, for which he probably was named.

And wasn't Louis B. Mayer famous for mangling names? and yet I doubt most people even thought of correcting him.

MrsHenryWindleVale said...

Dieterle -- I always thought of that as Peggy Lee's drag name, used during those spells of mental wandering when she became an androgynous German aesthete named "Dieter."

... in other words, "DEE-tuhr-LEE"

Tom Block said...

Harry d'Abbadie d'Arrast feels left out.

X. Trapnel said...

A certain amount of snobbery is attendent on absolutely correct pronunciation, and few do it well without sounding self-conscious or affected. If somone is going to say Lahng do they say Freetz as well or awkwardly shift gears between American and German accents? Best to find a middle ground.

By the way, is correct pronunciation incumbent only on Americans? According to John Simon, Truffaut referred to H. Hawks as "Oaks," while George Orwell noted that the English consider it beneath their dignity to pronounce a foreign name or word correctly.

Pussy Goes Grrr said...

I was just going to leave a bunch of blind guesses and old college tries, but then I remembered this awesome, helpful website run by the Library of Congress:

It doesn't have everyone, but it does clear up a few (if you know some IPA):

2. Fritz LÄNG
5. FRAN-shō Tone
6. Alida Valli = ä-LĒD-ä VAL-ə
7. Elissa Landi = ə-LIS-ə LAN-dē
8. Sonja Henie = SŌN-yä HEN-ē
10. Robert DŌ-nat
11. William DĒT-ər-lē

Someone also mentioned Curt/Robert SYOD-mak, and I've long been confused about Max Ō-fools. Also, I personally say TY-rone Power, Douglas Sirk as in lurk, and George Sanders as in Colonel.

I can't guarantee that "Say How?" is 100% authoritative, but it seems well-researched! Pronunciation is always one of the great banes of a cinephile, so thanks for making this (very entertaining) post.

X. Trapnel said...

Does pronunciation change with residence, i.e., Lahng directed M and Lang directed Scarlet Street? I've always said Ophuls as it would be in German: Op-huls in part to avoid the Oaf sobriquet of the oafish Howard Hughes.

Cliff Aliperti said...

I understand some pronunciations are going to differ based upon where you come from, but I'm mostly curious about how these people referred to themselves. After all, they should know their own names (or screen names) whether they're using a traditional pronunciation or not.

Correct or not, if my name was Katharine and I had a specific preference for either two or three syllables, I'd imagine I'd correct you if you said it a way that made me uncomfortable.

So now I'm curious, which way did Joan Crawford say Franchot, because I think there are two views on that right here in the comments! And how did Tyrone Power say Tyrone?

Thanks for posting that NLS resource in the previous comment too, that looks like a great resource!

Unknown said...

I didn't read the whole thread, but when I was a kid my Mom told me a joke. Don't remember the joke but the punch line was:

It's on yer heinie"

A play on Sonja Heinie's name. So that's how I've always pronounced it.
Now what about Rene Auberjonois? There's some Frenchie folks out there.

Jennythenipper said...

Cliff, I agree you have to go with the pronunciation that works for you. I always think of the quote from Manhattan, "Did you hear how she pronounced Van-Go. Van Gock. Like an Arab she spoke." Basically, perfect pronunciations is pretentious, I think. Again, if someone said, "Robert Don-ay" to me, I'd be so busy hugging them I wouldn't care.

But just to put a bit of evidence in the "Dough not" column, I just found an old British newsreel today where he was mentioned as "Dough not."

Unknown said...

I googled Auberjonois. It's


That doesn't seem so hard now that I see it.

Yojimboen said...

Nice grip ‘n grin pic, David. I’ve been seriously torn about the new Mildred ever since it was announced. I genuinely believe Todd Haynes may be the best film director in America, but for me (repeat, for me) watching Kate Winslett is like biting tinfoil.

I find her to be the most mannered, artificial (don’t look now, honey, but I can see your wheels turning) actress currently cashing a paycheck.

Tony Dayoub said...


1. Tih-RONE, because my best friend was named after him, and I've heard Robert Osborne pronounce it this way.

2. LANG as in sang

3. SIRK as in lurk

4. KA-thrin

5. Fran-CHOT is how I've heard Osborne say it,vocalizing the "T."

6. Va-LEE

7. & 8. You've stumped me.

9. MURH-na

10. DOUGH-nat

11. DEE-turh-lay

12. SAN-ders, like the Colonel.

D Cairns said...

"Joe Monkeybitch" was Mayer's version of Mankiewicz.

Curt's brother Robert Siodmak walked around Universal wearing a jacket with a sign on the back saying "It's See-Odd-Mack".

Sirk was originally Sierck, so "Seerk" would seem reasonable, ie it was probably the original pronunciation. But if you change it to Sirk you gotta expect people will rhyme it with Dirk. But then, nobody says "Opuls".

Yojimboen said...

There’s a lovely old H’Wood yarn about Ty Power and Zanuck. (Maybe it’s been printed somewhere, if so, forgive me.)

Zanuck and his executives used to take lunch (and a dip) at the exclusively Executive Pool on the Fox lot. There were reportedly two other pools on the lot for actors and technicians (whatever they were).

Most days Power would stroll down to the executive pool, dive in, swim a few laps, then return to his trailer for lunch.

Zanuck et al fumed in silence at this actor despoiling their water, but no one – least of all Zanuck - dared say a word to their number one moneymaker.

Power knew this and loved to twist their tails.

Until one day Zanuck got an idea. Overnight, he half-emptied the pool and topped it off with three truckloads of ice.

At lunchtime the next day the pool was 33º Fahrenheit; sure enough Power arrived for his tail-twisting dip.

He dove in one end, swam to the other, got out and walked away without a word.

He never came back.

DavidEhrenstein said...

She doesn't seem mannered here, Yojim. Just looked at episode two which climaxes wiht ("spoilers" I suppose for those who haven't seen the Crawford version -- and who in here hasn't?) the death of Mildred's youngest daughter. Absolutely gut-wrenching in the most emotionally direct way Todd has ever attempted. No stylized "distanced" framing here. Just the death of a child in all its horror. And Kate is superb, dragging herself home from the hospital, collapsing on the front lawn (with the camera quite high overhead) and picking herself up and going inside to clutch vdea and sob like there's no tomorrow.

A lot of interesting shading with Veda too. She's not the pure bitch that Ann Blyth played so superbly -- at least at this point. She and her mother have a fight then make-up with Veda actually apologizing to Mildred.

I''m Over The Moon about this already and I'm not even halfway through.

Karen said...

I always said TY-rone Power, but then I saw a short subject that he narrated and he introduced himself as Tir-RONE Power, so now my head is swimming and I may never recover.

I say LAHNG, like a Cherman.

I believe Sirk pronounced it Seerk, but I've neither heard him do that himself nor do I care if he did because he is not as beautiful as Tir-RONE Power.

And I say Fran-SHOT Tone. You know, a lot of this comes from never hearing ANYONE say these names until I was well into my 40s. When you're 14 years old and reading them in the TV Guide, you just do the best you can.

The one that I can never wrap my brain around is Walter Wanger. TCM and the IMDb tell me his last name rhymes with RANGER, but that just doesn't compute.

Yojimboen said...

I'll admit, David, I'm very, very jealous. I can't wait to see it, but for Todd Haynes; re Ms Winslett, I'll just have to grit my teeth and think of England.

Vanwall said...

TCM-speak is mutable and ever-changing; every so often it falls into the mysteriously fone-ett-ic-all-lee-pronounced language of the Independent Duchy of Teleprompter-under-the-Hedge - Charrrllls Boy-Yer is a prime example of Prompt-Speech by ordinarily knowledgeable movie folk, (yeah, you - you with the Mank in your name,) and then the next minute you have to figure which Rosa-Roza-Rozha you're hearing, spoken in the varying dialects of Dunnothatlengwidgetimetopunt: thought balloon overhead "Ti, TY, Tie, rone-RONE being a furrin Irish name so don't ask me." The Frankish, auf-Deutschen, Austro-Hungarian Empire-ish, Vikinger, and Russkie monikers are mangled according to whim, page 53, with a soupçon of approved dialectical salt'n'peppa for flavor. (No Swabian lisping, tho, sorry, and you better bless your saints it's not Broad Scot or other "bahb'rous dahlects, as they say in London Town.) The Great Ellis Island That Was Hollywood made your name what they thought it should be, pronunciation be damned. Ah, the record player is needling me - Hollywoodland Lesson Number 453: "Repeat ofter me: Borzage. Borzage. Borzage. Borza....."

Laura said...

Wait, SANDERS isn't pronounced LOVE BUNNY? My bad.

Actually, I always took the lack of a "u" after the "a" in SANDERS as a cue it's pronounced like the Colonel's surname. And although I always mean to pronounce LANG like LONG, since that's probably how it's pronounced in his Mutterstongue, I almost always say it like SANG. Habits, you know.

Yojimboen said...

"...and you better bless your saints it's not Broad Scot or other "bahb'rous dahlects", as they say in London Town."

That's "Broad Scotch" to you, McDude, and "bahb'rous dahlects" sounds more like London AR. (Better check that last with the Boss Lady.)

Noel Vera said...

Apichatpong? Awesome director. I never call him Joe.

Hou Hsiao Hsien - ho show (as in chow) shien, with accent on "en." I don't have the software to support Mandarin, so I don't know how to write it.

Vanwall said...

M Yo - is that single malt?

Too far back in the day to remember all the studied Robbie Burns loquacities, I dropped a bleedin' consonant, shoulda been "Broad Scots". We come from the Border Rievers, should'na missed that, thankee kindly.

Yojimboen said...

Well onywey, McVW, it’s a braw bricht, meenlicht nicht the nicht and fair fa yer honest sonsie face!

Gloria said...

Well... And that in English, in non-english speaking countries, Hollywood stars' names get weirder (and funnier): Teerownaih Pohwair was my mom's favourite actor, by the way.

Alida Valli, Elissa Landi... These are easy! You got good tips in previous comments but when in doubt ask an Italian! No seriously, in case of Spanish, Italian or Japanese film people the best thing to remember is that we just have five wovels to deal with (local accents notwithstanding): AH, Ai, EE, OH, OO (= a, e, i, o, u)

Dan Callahan said...

That photo of Ty-rone sunbathing is very inspirational.

The trouble with learning the correct pronunciation of a name is that everyone who is pronouncing it incorrectly looks at you like you're crazy, or pretentious. Say "Dee-ane Arbus" instead of "Diane" and you'll get double takes.

The same applies to poor Billy Crudup. I learned that it was "Crude-up," tried saying it like that, and got funny looks. Not that the incorrect way sounds any better for him.

I actually interviewed Elissa Landi's daughter, but I called her, "Your mother," so I can't help there.

For Marie Prevost, go with Gloria Swanson's pronunciation in "Sunset Boulevard": "Pree-vohst."

And yes, let's stick with Joan on Franchot Tone. She never pronounced the T.

Shelly said...

I have listened to a great many old-time radio broadcasts featuring classic stars; Lux Radio theater, Screen Guild Theater, etc. As name pronunciations are contemporary on these programs, and because exaggeratedly perfect diction seems to have been a feature of radio announcing at the time, I would like to be able to say here and now that the pronunciations from radio shows are always accurate. But I just don't fel confident enough to make that claim. Radio pronunciations have been my starting point, though, in the absence of other evidence. Miss Hepburn was often Ka-tha-rine, especially when William Keleigh hosted the Lux program, and CD DeMille said it Fran-SHO Tone. You have inspired me to dig into my collection for more "real-time" name pronouncing.

VP81955 said...

I have listened to a great many old-time radio broadcasts featuring classic stars; Lux Radio Theater, Screen Guild Theater, etc. As name pronunciations are contemporary on these programs, and because exaggeratedly perfect diction seems to have been a feature of radio announcing at the time, I would like to be able to say here and now that the pronunciations from radio shows are always accurate. But I just don't feel confident enough to make that claim. Radio pronunciations have been my starting point, though, in the absence of other evidence.

Since Ms. Loy was on the second "Lux" episode from the West Coast (working with Bill Powell in an adaptation of "The Thin Man" on June 8, 1936), it would be easy enough to hear and find out how host Cecil B. De Mille said "Myrna."

Goose said...

Here's one - how do you pronounce Khigh Dhiegh?

Frequent Chinese villain, memorably as the jolly brainwasher in The Manchurian Candidate.

Karen said...


Vanwall said...

Goose and Karen - curiously enough he played Judge Dee, the historical Chinese detective, in a TV movie. I loved his Wo Fat line in 5-0, "As we clever Chinese say, the plot thickens!"

Trish said...

I too am looking forward to Mildred Pierce!

I loved Haynes' Far from Heaven but thought there was far too much teak in it to be genuine Sirk (as in lurk). I'm uneasy about seeing Crawford, Carson, Arden and Blythe replaced by other actors, but please -- there's no place to go but up from Zachary Scott.

Shelly said...

Since Ms. Loy was on the second "Lux" episode from the West Coast (working with Bill Powell in an adaptation of "The Thin Man" on June 8, 1936), it would be easy enough to hear and find out how host Cecil B. De Mille said "Myrna."

VP, I checked the episode. the pronunciation from the episode is Mer-na. And BTW, CB was not hosting that night. Instead, Thin Man director W.S. Van Dyke, who directed film, hosted. Both he and the series announced pronounced Myrna's name in the same way.

Goose, I'm sure I've heard Khigh Dhiegh pronounced Keer Delay. but I don't have an audio source at hand to confirm it.

Uncle Gustav said...

And what, pray tell, of George Zucco? Is it Zook-owe, Zuck-oh, or some combination of the two?

Sondermann said...

From a native German speaker:

Fritz Lang

The 'a' is a short 'a' like the second 'a' in "Martha". "Fritz" is indeed pronounced with a short "i", like in "Blitz".

"11. DEE-ter-lee."

The last "e" is a short one, like the "e" in "alert".

"Douglas Sirk" - if his name was intended to sound more or less like his native name "Sierck", it should be pronounced "Seerk".

"Siodmak" in German would be "Seeodmak" - the "a" a short "a" like in Lang.

And just for fun - the German pronounciation of Sternberg would be "Shternberg", the "e"'s being pronounced like the "e" in "where".

"Stroheim" = "Shtrohiem" (ei pronounced like the ie in "lie").

Sondermann said...

One more -
I believe the "ur" in "Murnau" is usually pronounced like the "ir" in "sir" (apologies if I'm mistaken). Should be like the "ur" in "sure" though IF you want to follow the German pronunciation, that is.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Just looked at Mildred Part 3. Really interesting in regards to women's sexuality. Monte says Mildred's chief attraction is her legs -- claiming that the legs of working women are far preferable to those of society debutantes. Clearly they are in thrall to one another sexually, but there's zero romance. This contrasts with her very business-like sex with Wally (James LeGros). Can Mildred love any man at all -- or is it all ust sex? Veda, meanwhile is deep into nymphet femme fatale in her regard for Monte. She's learned about sex from observing and her mother. Plus he talks about sex with her frankly. "He told me how many times." When Mildred explains to her that Monte's money has run out and she's the one supporting him it's clear that Veda doesn't believe her -- though she never says a word. Morgan Turner, who plays young Veda is a real find. Her transitions from charming little girl to batty one to all-out seductress is teriffic and scary.

Todd's ideas about sex and society are leagues ahead of everyone save Chereau.

Ned said...

After many years pronouncing Zasu Pitts' name incorrectly (see: to hear Thelma Todd's whack at it) it will be difficult to switch gears, but so be it.

Still, when one changes the spelling of one's name, as Douglas Sirk (or some studio apparatchik) did, a close phonetic translation would have been better if he wanted to retain the German pronunciation. Jotting down "Sirk" guarantees that Americans will pronounce it like lurk.

I suppose one of the great values of colloquies such as this is updating the old database. Zay-Soo it is. I mean, would Thelma Todd give us a bum steer?

As for the pronunciation of Murnau's name, I suppose you could get away with Mer-now, but the guy was so elementally European that Moor-now just seems a better fit. But, as someone else suggested, sticking with what works for you (apart from truly ridiculous pronunciations) is not a bad thing.

Great blog.

Mrs. R said...

Tyrone Power pronounced his name "TurONE," as can be clearly heard on public service announcements and the film where he introduced a series of vignettes by John Ford. Of course the name escapes me at the moment.

Yojimboen said...

I called my French in-law who pronounces her own name “Meerna” and asked her how she pronounced the movie star for whom she’s named. She said: “Merna Loy” of course, why?
Go know.

P.S. David – Enough Spoilers!

Sondermann said...

"But, as someone else suggested, sticking with what works for you (apart from truly ridiculous pronunciations) is not a bad thing."

Surely in the case of Immanuel Kant, where a "correct" pronunciation might easily offend some...

Trish said...

Khigh Dhiegh is "Kye Dee"

Keer Delay is the Canadian actor Keir Dullea from Madame X and 2001: A Space Odyssey

Karen said...

Ah, Mrs R., that's it! You're right; it wasn't a short subject where I heard Tyrone Power pronounce his own name, but in the intro to that John Ford anthology. It's called The Rising of the Moon.

DavidEhrenstein said...

"Kier Dullea gone tomorrow"

-- Noel Coward

Yojimboen said...

What do you get from Zasu Prunes?

Robert said...

score-SEZZY? score-SAY-zee?

Also, just saw MUR-na Loy in Lonelyhearts. She's the center of the movie, performance wise. Even though she acts with her balled fists in that one scene.

Uncle Gustav said...

Robert, I've heard Robbie Robertson use both of those pronunciations, along with "Score-chez-ey." And he even lived with the guy!

Ben Alpers said...

My answers (with some explanation):

1)Ty-RONE. Why? Dunno. That's just how I pronounce it.

2) Both are correct. "Lahng" is the proper German pronunciation. Rhyming it with "Bang" is a perfectly acceptable way of saying it, given that he spent much of his career in this country.

3) "Sirk" as in "lurk." But before he came to this country he was "Detlef Sierck," which is pronounced "Zeerk." I figure if the man wanted his last name pronounced as his original name was pronounced in German, he would have spelled it "Zeerk."

4) "Katharine" is pronounced as if it has two syllables.

5) FRAN-sho. Never heard it pronounced any other way. (Boy is he great in PHANTOM LADY!)

6) VAL-li

7) No idea.

8) SOHN-ya

9) MUR-na

10) DOE-nat

11) DEE-ter-lee

12) I've heard it both ways and have no idea which is preferred.

Robert said...

Well, then I've just lost all hope.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Well I just finished Mildred and I'm gobsmacked to the floor.

No "spoilers," just a note to let y'all know that you're really goijg to be seeing something special starting at the end of the month.

Todd's taken what used to be conventional "women's picture" tropes and turned them into something rich and strange and more than atad scary.

Trish said...

Amen, Ben.

Franchot Tone is awesome in Phantom Lady! It's a film that definitely gave him a challenge as an actor...

Ms.Zebra said...

I've got one: Robert Siodmak. Anybody? See-odd-mack, Sigh-odd-mack? muck?

Don't feel too bad about emphasizing the UM in umbrella- I am still teased mercilessly by stressing BELL when saying Taco Bell.

Robert said...

I say SIX Flags, my wife says Six FLAGS. I don't get that at all.

Unknown said...

Sanders = SAHN-ders to us in England, and he was definitely English (albeit not born here) - give us that, at least.

DavidEhrenstein said...

And never forget, Happiness is just a thing called Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Dan said...

12. (Sanders) Transatlantic You say potatoes. Dated an Irish girl who always introduced me to friends as Dahn, and they would of course start calling me Don, which didn't bother me, but irked her roommate who would insist: His name is Dan. The only time you'll hear the short a sound in England/Ireland is if someone is mimicing a Yank accent.

Trish said...

Mildred looks great, David. Just watched the trailer. Guy Pearce!!!

Ellen said...

Help Me-

Michael Curtiz-



Anonymous said...


WHAT fun. Great idea for a story.

It's funny, when I was growing up, we always said "George SAWN-ders" in my home (so much that, yes, I always want to add that invisible 'u' when I type it). Of course, we also said "Maureen O'HAW-ra," not O'HA-ra.

Whether this is because we were Irish, or affected, or simply hated that short, flat American "a," is up for debate.

This post was also making me think, not just of the pronunciation of movie-star names, but of movie stars' pronunciations.

For example, in "Casablanca," Humphrey Bogart -- an upperclass Manhattanite, known to occasionally frequent bars -- tells Ingrid Bergman that his bad manners when they met again may have been due to the bourbon.

Except he pronounces it "bore-bun." Stops me, right there in the souk, for a millisecond everytime.

Have I been a total plebe for all these years, striding up the bar and calling for "bur-bin"? Or is it Mr. Richard Blaine's pronunciation that's fallen out of fashion? Or is it Bogart's own?

Anyway, great fun.

And on another note, I am desperate to sit down soon and watch the "Mildred Pierce" dvds that have just arrived -- and I have great hope.

Adore Kate Winslet, and there's so much in the novel that the first, great film didn't cover (including, not only James M. Cain's fetishistic devotion to Mildred's legs, but his deep study of desire -- and his intensive reporting on how to run a restaurant!)

Also, may I just say, superfluously, how much I love this site? I rarely comment (not because I lurk, but because I'm too thick to always master the sign-in protocols -- whatever template Glenn K uses seems to be much easier for me). But checking it out is always a wonderful respite from the day -- just seeing whatever picture's at the top always makes me smile.

Ned said...

Your second guess was correct.

Kur-tease works just fine.

He was born Mano Kertesz Kaminer and took the name Mihaly Kertesz when he began his acting career. As far as I know, Mihaly is a Hungarian form of Michael, so that part fits well. I have always thought the name Kertesz (as in the Hungarian photographer, Andre Kertesz) was pronounced Ker-tezh, but was recently informed that a more accurate pronunciation would be Kerr-taze, which, with a slight adjustment of the tongue, makes a graceful transition into Kerr-tease. Apparently Curtiz, or those representing his name, used mutliple versions of his Hungarian stage name but they were mostly variations on the original theme, so "Michael Curtiz" must have been fine with him.

Not all artists have been content to suffer through beastly mispronunciations of their given names however. The British opera singer, Maggie Tate, who took up residency in France, tired of gallant but ghastly Gallic attempts at her name (tah-tay) and so changed its spelling to 'Teyte' which seemed to do the trick.

I guess that's enough on the topic, otherwise we'll back to the Fran-sho--Fran-shott debate again.

Anonymous said...

I suppose we could also -- given that it's her centennial -- trot out the old story of Jean Harlow sitting next to Margot Asquith at dinner one evening. And calling her Mar-GOT all night.

Until the lady frostily told her "The 't" is silent. As in Harlow."

Great anecdote, although it always smelled to me like the sort of thing that, while it had been polished (do you detect Herman Mankiewicz here, too?) wasn't necessarily true. Harlow wasn't the character she played in "Dinner at Eight." She just played her extremely well.

Ned said...

Because I currently reside in Kentucky, home to a great deal of bourbon distillation, I'll weigh in on the earlier post regarding Bogart's pronunciation of said potable. I don't think you have to beat yourself up about pronouncing it incorrectly. Here in the Bluegrass state, most people ask for Burr-binn, just as you have done.

As for the Bogartian version offered in Casablanca, I've always thought he said something more like "Boor-bin" but I could be wrong. That's how I remember it in any event.

If that's the case either Bogart or his character Rick Blaine, was giving away a familiarity with the origin of the word which comes from the French House of Bourbon, pronounced something like "Boor-bone".

Richard Blaine doesn't seem to have any problem with French in the film, he only acknowledges, at one point, that his German is "a little rusty".

But anytime you're so inclined, a mumbled "burr-bin" will more than suffice.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ned. What you say sounds quite logical, and eases my mind.

Although I suppose I could always follow Victor Laszlo's lead, and order champagne cocktails...

Karen said...

Swhitty, the intra-movie pronunciation that's always fascinated me is "Los Angeleez" with a hard "g"--Jack Carson is the most frequent speaker of this version, but I've heard it in countless films of the '30s and '40s. It seems to disappear in the '50s.

hamletta said...

Karen, considering the Spanish origin of "Los Angeles," everybody's wrong. In Spanish, it's Lowss AHN-hel-ess. With a bit of phlegm on the "H".

That's what Srta. Hall taught me, anyway.

shwitty, that's a great story, but it sounds apocryphal to me. Though having watched The Public Enemy recently lends it a whiff of authenticity. Her line readings are so weird, it's kind of embarrassing.

David E., you are a very bad person. I'm about creaming in my jeans to see this new Mildred.

Trish, I think I know what you mean about "too much teak." I was disappointed(?) by the realism of the sets in Far From Heaven.

They were beautifully done — exquisite, even — but Sirk's sets were all so frankly fake, it just wasn't what I was expecting.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Hey Hamletta. . .

Belvoir said...

Great post and comments!

One thing that has irked me over many years: whenever Bette Davis has been mentioned on the BBC, they always pronounce it "bet", not "betty". I realize that's the more common "correct" way to say that name. But it always smacked me as disrespectful , to cling to the "correct" way rather than her own preference, after decades. I realize it was a somewhat self-created nickname of hers, but still..

(Also: My Irish mum and aunts said that they had always called Reagan "REE-gan". Anyway..)

Sondermann said...

Lorre btw doesn't sound like "Lorry"

(at around 0:20)

Fritz Lang pronouncing his own name

(at 2:26)

Stefan Ramstedt said...

Thanks a lot Noel. Now I can talk about without feeling stupied.

Costantine said...

In Italian, you have to pronounce a double L.
And here you are Alida at age 16 ("Sono stato io!", by Raffaello Matarazzo)

Happy Miser said...

Just remember, folks: It's I-gore not E-gore!

Anonymous said...

Is it Stanley Coo-brick or cue-brick?

I heard Ebert pronounce it as the latter once, which had me scratching my head.


The Siren said...

This thread had become the ultimate exercise in paranoia for me. Damn, I don't think I've been pronouncing ANYTHING right, except John Ford.

Ned said...

And depending on where you live, even John Ford's name might not be safe from interpretation. Since moving to the south, I've discovered that my name can have two and sometimes three syllables (Nay-ahd) and I"ve heard the name Ford pronounced "Foh-ahd", so there ya go.

But I see what you mean. I had always thought Stanley Kubrick's name was pronounced CUE-brick. I would suggest taking this argument to the War Room, but, as we all know, there is NO fighting in the War Room!

Kendra said...

I will forever pronounce Robert Donat's name as DOH-nat.

On a side note, I had always pronounced Roger Livesey's last name as LIVE-sey, until I heard laurence olivier pronounce is as LIHV-sey. I took Larry's word for it

Tild said...

Skip Homeier:

HOH-myer? Or

(the pronunciation that made me do a spit-take when I heard it on the commentary track for Budd Boetticher's The Tall T)


Deborah Lough said...

On Tyrone Power and George Sanders... (and years after the fact, but meh).

My Nana and I used to bicker about George Sanders - I've always said 'Sanders' (pronounced like sand at the beach). My Nana always said 'Saunders' ('Saun...' to rhyme with sawn...). And we were both born and raised in Britain, so it's not cut and dried here either!

Tyrone Power obviously pronounced it 'Ti-rone', probably to distinguish from his father who was 'Tie-rone'. But occasionally even he slipped and said 'Tie-rone' - there are a couple of surviving radio plays where the stars introduce themselves and he pronounces his own name 'wrong'. And of course Annabella always said 'Tee-rone'.