Vickie Lester will never approximate the Mid-Atlantic tones of Constance Bennett, but…

constance bennett (1)


Walking around Boston I hear a multitude of voices every day, different accents; young, old, and in-between. Every era has its quirks, last year’s vocal fry will give way to something else, perhaps digital drawl or robot resonance? And while people can get very persnickety about cadence and intonation, speech has only ever been about one thing; connection.

It puts me in mind of last year, when I was doing more reading and speaking in public and was kind of edgy about it until I had a nice soothing interchange with a friend in Arles:


I was just reading about Constance Bennett playing cards all night with moguls and movie stars, and not sleeping a wink before she was to do a radio broadcast of Pirandello with David Niven — which she had stubbornly refused to rehearse. Result: she nearly passed out in front of the microphone.


I really like the slight gravelly aspect to your voice, quite unique and very appropriate for your material! Keep in mind that the lower registers are always more expressive than the higher ones (save for when you use the upper range on purpose) – one little exercise that you can do is to put one hand on your chest and one on your forehead (not your nose) while you read and feel how they vibrate. It’s kind of neat and helps to both ground you (good when you are nervous) and bring out a rounder voice. 

More exercises you can do to ground: stand up, inhale and then exhale on a “ahhh” while jumping up and down a bit very lightly and bouncing your shoulders (word to the wise: you will feel silly and that is ok). Try that several times as the idea is to let your voice drop down. Then do the same exhale while tapping across your chest (again lightly, this isn’t MM in the Wolf of Wall Street). Tah dah!

I would just add two really basic exercises: to have a fuller sound and get rid of tension, it can be good to do a few fake yawns to stretch out the upper palate (the roof of your mouth) and blow out your lips like a horse. And for anyone that does yoga, a few minutes of alternate nostril breathing are very good for the voice and a case of nerves too.

Love the CB story – although I know that certain actors will purposefully stay up all night before a big gig or audition so that they will be too tired to be nervous!
click here:

Lost in Arles: Windows to the soul

Ah, that’s better!

CB 1946

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  1. September 1, 2015

    Mid-Atlantic, no; gravelly tones in lower register, always. Had the same deep voice since I was sixteen which probably explains why I was so difficult to cast in my twenties and thirties. Your Arles friend knows her onions. xx

    • September 2, 2015

      As do you! Did our Ms. Pippa tell you she was gearing up to narrate my novel? I couldn’t be happier.

  2. September 2, 2015

    Funny, on TCM Party # we were discussing the hard pronunciation of Los Angeles.. Pronouncing “Los Angeles”

    There was once heated debate over how to pronounce “Los Angeles.” Although the name is now commonly pronounced “Loss An-je-les,” its original Spanish pronunciation is “Loce Ahng-hail-ais.” Non-Spanish speaking Angelenos seemed to prefer the harder-sounding anglicized version. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Los Angeles Times vigorously defended the Spanish pronunciation and printed directly below its editorial page masthead, “LOS ANGELES (Loce Ahng hail ais).” When the U.S. Geographic Board recognized the anglicized version in 1934, the Times was outraged, declaring that the pronunciation made the city “sound like some brand of fruit preserve.” The newspaper further suggested that Easterners plotted to deprive the West Coast of its softer-sounding Spanish names, proposing that California would next have to tolerate such place names as “Sandy Ego,” “San Joce,” and “San Jokkin.” In all fairness, however, the Times did not express the same distain for the prevalent pronunciation of San Pedro as “San Pee-dro” rather than the Spanish “San Pey-dro.”

    • September 2, 2015

      The more sibilant Spanish pronunciation sounds so gorgeous. Fascinating stuff about the Los Angeles Times, thank you, Ana!

  3. September 3, 2015

    How funny – I was just reading that Constance Bennett story in David Niven’s autobiography earlier this week. I thought he told it perfectly – I kept marveling how she could be so cavalier with such a big broadcast – until he answered my question at the final line.

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