The worst cockney accent in film history

Mary Poppins (1964) is quite an enjoyable film with some good songs and humor. But many people will also remember the absolutely awful English cockney accent that American Dick Van Dyke used as the chimneysweep Bert. At a recent event to publicize a remake of the film with Emily Blunt in the title role and in which he makes a cameo, the good-humored Van Dyke apologized for perpetrating on the public “the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema”. Truer words were never spoken.

What surprised him, he says, was that during the filming no one on the set told him that he was making a total hash of it. Maybe this was because he was a big American star and they were too polite to correct him.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

He also said he was completely unaware during the shoot that anything was wrong with his attempted cockney accent. “I was working with an entire English cast and nobody said a word, not Julie [Andrews], not anybody said I needed to work on it so I thought I was alright.”

In an earlier radio interview I heard, he said that he did have an accent coach during the film but that the coach was, for some reason, Welsh Irish and this may not have been the best choice. Here is a sample of his accent from the film.

In this interview with Conan O’Brien, Van Dyke discusses his infamous accent.


  1. jrkrideau says

    I was quite young and did not know any Cockneys when I saw the move. It must be the strangest “Cockney” accent I have ever heard.

    A Welsh voice coach was not a good decision. At least, not remembering old friends and colleagues from places like Cardiff or Swansea.

    Still, I enjoyed the film. It may have been the first or second one I had ever seen in a cinema. We were 50 or 60 km by some not-very-good roads from the nearest cinema.

  2. jazzlet says

    Surely a voice coach isn’t really a voice coach if they can’t teach an accent other than their own, not all accents in a language, but certainly ones from an area as small as Britian if they are British.

  3. busterggi says

    Look, just because the Brits can’t sound as authentic as DvD, woll, thet’s theer prollem it is.

  4. Ross Stephens says


    despite its size the UK has an astonishing array of accents. Where I used to live (on the Yorkshire/Lancashire border) you could travel five miles in any direction and encounter an accent as different from the village I lived in as a Texan drawl is to a New York accent. I guess it has something to do with ancient travel times and valley / watersheds but it really is weird and surprisingly long lasting in the age of TV/radio.


  5. timberwoof says

    In Prince of Thieves it’s apparent when Kevin Costner’s language coach quit.
    The worst Cockney accents are perpetrated by American Renaissance Faire cast members who think that that’s what Renaissance English sounded like.

  6. Timothy says

    Gotta love Dick Van Dyke. I heard him being interviewed on a radio program before the 2016 Presidential election. It was a fascinating listen. He was intelligent, insightful, and polite.

    We need more stars like him.

  7. mailliw says

    I think people are unfair on DvD, it’s nowhere near as bad Nastasia Kinski’s attempt at West Country in Polanski’s Tess.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Timothy @#7,

    I agree. Every interview I have seen with van Dyke shows him to be a genial, friendly, modest, funny person.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *