The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

  Steve's Logo

49th Parallel (1941)
Olivier's accent

One aspect of 49th Parallel that often attracts comments is Olivier's accent as Johnnie - the Trapper. Some people think that it's such a bad accent that it should be considered racist*. Others think that he got it just right and that it's one of the best portrayals of an up-state Québécois accent on film*.

Johnnie is supposed to come from Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He's a trapper and has been out of contact with everyone on a trapping expedition for about a year. Of course he's going to talk a lot and be excitable. Even more so when his homecoming is interrupted so violently.

It's not supposed to be a French accent, from Paris or anywhere else in France. It's not even supposed to be a regular Quebec accent from a big city like Montreal. This is a man who was born outside the big city and has spent his life far from other people.

Olivier himself spent some time with a Québécois trapper to try to capture the accent as best he could. How well does he do it?

The trouble is that not many people know what a rural Québécois sounds like. The best we can do is to compare it to the accent of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. M. Chrétien is from Shawinigan, just north of Trois-Rivières. M. Chrétien billed himself as the "boy from Shawinigan" although we must bear in mind that as a politician he was used to talking to people from around the world and he would have wanted them to understand him clearly. So he probably would have toned down the excesses of his accent.

I found an interview with Jean Chrétien by former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein on his show on CBC, The House. They have a bit of a dig at each other and a bit of a joke, it's all quite light hearted.

Listen to the interview - since removed from the CBC site

How do they compare? Did Olivier nail it? Did it get close? Is his accent a parody?
email me and let me know.

Back to index