*double face palm* he is the same blockhead in every movie he does with his glib, knowing grins and armoured hair. But hold on! Aren’t some of the best screen actors in the world the best just because they mumble? Jimmy Dean, Montgomery Clift and Brando originated a new realist art form in the mumbled word, an inspired and realistic representation of the dreary, monotone world we generally inhabit. One that’s teeming with clouds of mumbling teenagers and monosyllabic chava types. (See: prime ministers question time for solid proof) Their fresh approach was directly opposed to the spiffingly uptight and tiresomely energetic netherworld of the professional stage actor with his perfectly tonsillated BBC vowels playing to the cheap seats even on a
movie set, and his perfectly held cigarette holder. As impressively erudite,
witty, urbane and avuncular as Noel Coward was he’s hardly an accurate
representation of the chaps one shares a sweet sherry with twixt the meat draw and the bingo.
I think a distinction needs to be made between great screen
mumblers and the District 9 prawns you get in reality TV (nothing a little
culling and gene therapy wouldn’t cure). An extreme example is the character
‘Mumbles’ played by Dustin Hoffman in Dick Tracy. Apart from when Maddonna gets her pre-zumba bum out, he’s the best thing in the movie! Kenneth Brannagh could never have played that character. My argument can be best summed up by pitching Brannaghs ‘Henry V’ against Brandos gum chewing in ‘On the Waterfront.’ It’s the elevated piety of the Romantics versus the street art of Caravaggio. Caravaggio’s Supper at Emmaus is his Godfather 1. If it comes down to a choice between that festering gumboil Brannagh and his tutored tonsils spouting spiffingly sounding syllables to a sycophantic crowd of latte drinking, Guardian reading London luvvies, or a gritty, barely coherent Walken in ‘The Deer Hunter’ gimme the mumbler anyday, even if I do have to turn my new hearing aid up to the stun setting.
I think Tom Cruise mumbles because he’s constantly distracted thinking about all those Tai male prostitutes he’s got chained up in the cellar.