Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Houdini Talks" on his birthday

Magician and filmmaker Adam Steinfeld has released a new experimental Houdini short film, HOUDINI...talks Houdini. The first part of the film is a recreation of what a 1926 Houdini radio interview might have sounded like.

Says Adam, "Most Houdini feature films make an error of giving Houdini's voice a mid-west Americanized accent, and if you listen to early Edison recordings from 1914, you will clearly notice his thick Hungarian accent. So to be accurate, and to deviate from the norm of past filmmakers, I hired a voice artist direct from Hungary, Gergo Benedek, to give Houdini's real words a more authentic ethnic augmented reality characterization."

CLICK HERE and enjoy hearing from the Handcuff King on his birthday. You can read more about the film at the S.A.M. blog The Magic Compass.

UPDATE: Based in part on our feedback below, Adam brought in another voice actor to re-record the voice and has posted the new version HERE.

Related:

38 comments:

  1. Strongly disagree about the accent. Harry spoke English with a Wisconsin German accent. A "Hungarian" accent implies the native language is Magyar. But Houdini's household language was German, and many Wisconsin Germans speak exactly the same way Houdini did on the Edison discs, even today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree Houdini didn't have a classic Hungarian accent. He definitely has an accent, but I've never been able to tell what it is. Your explanation above sheds light on this. Thanks.

      What's funny is Hardeen, only 2 yeare younger than HH, has a heavy Brooklyn accent. He sounds like Huntz Hall. How could these brothers sound so different?

      Delete
    2. Hi David, thanks for your comments, not to worry, I contacted a seasoned voice artist, based in Berlin, who will record this week a new “voice-over”, for my Houdini short, before I enter it, in any film-festivals, he listened to the Houdini/Edison recordings, and assures me, he can replicate the accent, with more of a focus of a German accent, as you suggested, it should be finished by end of week. Keep ya posted.

      Delete
    3. Great news, Adam. Thanks for sharing.

      Delete
  2. Yeah, I have trouble believing that someone who came to the US when they were 4 years old would speak English with a foreign accent.

    Is it true that this is the only recording of his voice? It just sounds like someone speaking slowly and with a bit of a "showman's" stage delivery, to make sure the recording is understandable. (I can't find it now, but I read a San Francisco newspaper interview that said he had pretty different speaking styles offstage and on.) I heard another version of this same clip that was muddier, so perhaps that's why he sounds foreign to some people. https://youtu.be/UuqRzDZWjEA

    ReplyDelete
  3. For the moment, his stage speech for the USD is the only known recording of his voice that exists. HH fans are holding out hope that recordings made from his mid 1920s radio broadcasts are out there somewhere.

    I believe he spoke slowly and enunciated every syllable to make his USD recording as clear as he could, and it was also the way you had to speak on a vaudeville stage. When you speak before a crowd without a microphone, you have to raise your voice and speak slower than you normally would.

    I asked a fellow whose father actually witnessed Houdini perform which famous actor approximated HH's voice. He replied that his father said HH sounded a lot like the late Paul Newman. Whenever I see a Newman film on television, I think of HH.

    ReplyDelete
  4. With all due respect......this attempt to recreate Houdinis voice is the biggest fail I have seen or heard in a LONG time. What was this guy thinking?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Houdini was called "the syllable accenting American" or something to that effect. If you listen to his voice recording you hear just that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Hungarian accent is way off the mark - why would he have one when that wasn't the language spoken at home? I've listened to the Edison recording a lot, and got an actor to reproduce it for a recent live theatre piece. He is an expert on dialects and remarked about how surprising Anglicised it was - presumably because of much time spent in the UK. The reason for the separation is that that is what was required for recording onto Edison cylinder - I've had a go myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. remember, this is an experimental short, to capture the spirit-of-Houdini in a compressed 3 minutes, for internet consumption, his voice is one small part of it.

      However, I appreciate everyone's voice input on this board and, since, I edited, the short myself, I'll be happy to test, a variant NEW version, with your theater actor friend, who's experienced in dialects.

      Just let me know, and I'll email you details, of text words to be recorded, and length, plus, I'll give your actor friend credit in new revision, my email; Adam@MagicLive.com

      At least we are all agreed, Houdini did not sound like; Tony Curtis, Adrien Brody or current, Michael Weston.

      Delete
    2. Appreciate that Adam. Unfortunately my actor contact is a pro and so would want paying to do that - I paid him for doing my piece, even though he's a friend!

      Delete
    3. Given how self-conscious HH was about his lack of formal education, IMO it's highly likely that he consciously used the so-called "mid-Atlantic" or "trans-Atlantic" accent in public speaking, which was affected by members of the upper class, by actors and stage performers from the early 1900s - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Atlantic_accent.

      Delete
    4. Yes, the "mid-Atlantic" accent. I only recently read a article about this (a Facebook share) and I think you're onto something here. Bessie had it too.

      Delete
    5. Good point, now I remember, the story (link below) https://youtu.be/Gpv_IkO_ZBU

      Delete
    6. There also seems to be an assumption that the American-English accent which is in contemporary usage in the States has remained largely unchanged in a hundred years - it hasn't (despite what Trump might think!), it has evolved to accentuate the vowels and has become more 'nasal'. If you listen to any number of early sound recordings (Edison, etc, pre-sound-cinema), the general American accent is far more close to the British accent than it is now - obviously, as back then recent immigrants were bringing their native tongue with them.
      The way that we now think about the way that Americans used to speak long ago is biased as it is based on the 'talkies', which weren't popularised until the 20's at least, at which point the American accent had developed significantly from what it had been when Harry was growing up, almost a half-century previously.

      Delete
  7. (LINK BELOW) new revised version, with new voice-over of Houdini, in my short film, with slight German accent mixed w/mid-Atlantic, old Radio, slow talking style as in Edison Recordings. Enjoy the short.
    -----------
    HOUDINI...talks Houdini (version 2)
    LINK
    https://youtu.be/dGE8O9NsJNA

    ####

    ReplyDelete
  8. I listened to version 2 then the Edison recordings several times. I think this new voice actor sounds very close to the Edison voice. If you took this track and used a digital effect in something like pro tools plugin to mimic an old Edison or Victrola I would bet it would be sound very close!

    Good work Adam!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for listening to version 2 (German accent), I'll try what you suggested...it's not easy to find right balance.

      Delete
    2. just tried your idea, of plugin, to mimic an old Edison recording, and it works! It's in my editing software audio already, I increased the Parametric and the Resonant Filter, and that did it, well, it's closer to the effect of old Edison radio, than before. Thanks for the suggestion.

      I will post new 3rd version tonight, or tomorrow.

      Delete
    3. here's new link 3rd audio version, more old radio vibe closer to Edison recording, it's not perfect, but it's closer. Let me know, what you think? Thanks.
      LINK
      https://youtu.be/UB_bE3WNmB4

      Delete
  9. The accent still sounds like HH grew up in Germany until he was about 12 to 15 years of age. People who leave their native countries in their teen and later years to live in the U.S. can't shake their native accents.

    On the Edison recordings, I hear the Mid Atlantic with a twinge of the New "Yawk" accents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes; I have to say that I can't pick up any German (or Hungarian) accent in the original Edison recording.

      Delete
    2. Wisconsin German + Noo Yawk + mid-Atlantic - it's all there in the Edison recording.

      Delete
    3. As a filmmaker / magician, I'm never satisfied with the final edit, and have no problem replacing any voice...it's just implementing the idea is not easy, this is one of many Houdini shorts, I created....happy to see all the chatter.

      Just to let you all know, I did take it a step further this week, and contacted a local WI theater group and pro-VoiceOver artist, who grew up in Wisconsin, and this is what he said;

      "I am a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, am of German heritage myself, and I have never heard of a "Wisconsin/German" accent. I could certainly replicate a German accent, but in listening to the Houdini soundbite from the Edison disks on the link you provided, I don't hear much of a German accent from him at all."

      As for me, in my travels, as a magician, I met many Hungarian entertainers with thick accents, and to me, it sounded, just like those Edison recordings, or maybe, they lived in USA too long, and their accent was Americanized.

      I haven't given up in fine-tuning this short, but a few film-festival deadlines are soon, and I plan to enter.

      If any of you know, a Voice Artist, with theater background, that you think, can duplicate the voice well, will with all that mix (Wisconsin German, Standard American and Mid-Atlantic too), I'll be happy to listen to it, just drop me an email (Adam@MagicLive.com), and I'll send over the short 80 word text/script.

      Delete
    4. The VoiceQuest artist might well think of the "Wisconsin German" accent as 'Scansin or Sheboyganese - lots of slang terms for the same accent grouping.

      Cutting to the chase - my wife is an actress and casting director based in the Midwest and she's offered to find you a suitable voice actor - noting again that professionals will want to be paid something, how much would you be willing to pay? If nothing, then we *might* be able to find someone willing to do it for fun/experience, but that's more of a gamble and the quality/accuracy may not be as good.

      Delete
    5. thanks for "Voice Quest" offer, and advice, and possible casting, let me see first, how this new Wisconsin character actor does first, he'll record new file around April 17, if that doesn't work, I will get back to you. Thanks!

      Delete
  10. Vat do you mean? Da Vata Torture Cell? I don't hear a German accent in the Edison recording. HH may as well have been born here in the U.S. Children that grow up here in the U.S. don't acquire foreign accent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Wisconsin German" is a specific regional US accent - much, much closer to "standard American" than to European German. HH's accent combined that with NYC and mid-Atlantic, at least when he was speaking in public.

      Delete
  11. I just heard the 3rd version and HH still sounds like Col. Klink from Hogan's Heroes:

    Dere is no escape fvrom Stalag 13!!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks again, for all your comments,
    funny stuff, ha, be patient....a new AMERICAN Houdini voice, is in the works...I can't believe around 30 comments, so far.

    Here's an UPDATE:
    I received an email, from character actor, recommended by, local Wisconsin theater group & PBS-TV WI station, I contacted last week.

    this is what actor said:
    "I listened to the materials you sent and did some of my own research and I feel fairly confident that I will be able to mimic the accent."

    So there you have it, what seems like a simple task on paper, is not, but I believe, this time will work, with this voice talent.

    Keep ya posted, it be recorded around April 17, in two weeks or so, then I'll post it, on this site. Thanks!

    "Great success is built on failure, frustration, even catastrophy."~ Sumner Redstone

    ReplyDelete
  13. John - is there any way of attaching a sound file to a comment here? If there is I'll post the version of the Edison recording that I had reproduced for the Linking Rings theatre project, just out of interest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think files can be attached to comments. Best you could do is post a link if you have it posted somewhere online.

      Delete
    2. Thanks John. It's not posted anywhere online though as it was produced for use exclusively in the live Linking Rings show, as mentioned.

      Delete
  14. a new Houdini VOICE, is in the works,
    I’ll post this NEW version, around April 17, this time, a reading from character actor, part of, Wisconsin theater group, more Americanized, and staying true to the Edison/Houdini recordings.

    Thanks for all the suggestions.

    Keep ya all posted.

    ReplyDelete
  15. here it is, final version of my short Houdini documentary, with new Houdini voice, a mid-west / Wisconsin accent, Wisconsin theater character-actor did a credible reading, I'll be entering this in a few film-festivals.
    https://youtu.be/BPWHqM786PM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've changed the UPDATE link to this version. Thanks, Adam.

      Delete
  16. This third version sounds like the best one. I prefer it to the other two that were heavy on the German accent.

    ReplyDelete

Translate

Receive updates via email