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.