"She's right! We all talk like Maurice Chevalier! Hon-hon-hon!"
Actor and singer Maurice Chevalier was the first French entertainer who became an international superstar after he moved to Hollywood. His fame and long career made him the most famous and easily recognized Frenchman of the 20th century. So, whenever comedians or even serious actors had to portray an archetypical Frenchman they imitated Chevalier's voice, which had a heavy French accent. A Stock Parody that is still in vogue today, even though most comedians and audiences have no idea where this stereotype originated from.
The Maurice Chevalier accent is a typical Funny Foreigner subtrope, especially whenever a story is set in France. All these French characters talk in the same way: "the" and "this" are pronounced "zee" and "zis". The "w" is pronounced "ooweee". Some Gratuitous French words "mais oui", "sacrebleu", "zut alors", "mon ami" or "mon chéri" are used non-stop. There's often a grotesque emphasis on the final syllable of the last word in a sentence, for instance: "Zis is veiry importààààààànt!" Chevalier's iconic "hon hon hon" Signature Laugh has also become the standard way Frenchmen laugh in English-speaking fiction.
Nowadays the Maurice Chevalier Accent is used to voice many French characters in English-speaking media. In comedy and animation this can be amusing, but in serious stories it becomes Just a Stupid Accent and can really take you out of the story, because it literally becomes ridiculous Poirot Speak. In fact, whenever a comedic accent is needed you can rest assured that it will usually be French. It gets to the point of overkill. Sometimes, like in the movie Shrek (where the British character Robin Hood inexplicably speaks English with a French accentnote ), people are depicted as being French for no apparent reason other than evoking laughs while using the accent.
The accent is a bit Truth in Television for most Frenchmen whose English is not yet that fluent, though everyone who tries to speak a language that isn’t his own will have problems mastering it. Ironically enough even Maurice Chevalier himself lost his native accent after a while and sounded more like a normal English speaking man. Only in his early Hollywood years it was very rusty, but he also played it up for the microphone and cameras, because he was usually typecast as the archetypical Frenchman and thus had to sound like an "authentic" Frenchman who didn't speak English that fluently.
It may be worth pointing out that this trope is even more unrealistic when the French speaker in question is from Quebec. Québécois Francophones have markedly different accents in English than people from France (for example, th tends to be alveolarized, turning "this thing" into "dis ting" rather than "zis sing"). Giving a Quebec character this accent, as some films and movies have, piles Cultural Blending on top of it, especially if the character is also supplied with a beret, Gauloises, etc.note
- Although he cannot be heard, as this is the printed page, Batroc the Leaper is written with a thick "Frontch" accent, and has even reflected (in his own plainly written thought balloons) that he plays it up for effect.
- Gambit of the X-Men is so infamous for laying on the "mon amis" and "ma chéris" that he's given a Take That! in one storyline where Mad Scientist villain Mr. Sinister clones an army of him.
Gambit Clone: Ma chéri.Lackey: Is the accent genetic?Mr. Sinister: Of course not. It's trained, because it's so folksy and charming. But I left him brain damaged, because Mister LeBeau always did lean that way.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- Louis the cook in The Little Mermaid.
- Lumière in Beauty and the Beast, whose voice actor (Jerry Orbach) goes beyond the usual joke and actually does a full Chevalier impression, not just the accent- though note that the entire story takes place in France and yet he and his feather duster girlfriend are the only ones speaking in a heavy French accent.
- The French dub of the movie rolls with this by having Daniel Beretta keep Lumière's accent but making everyone else use modern intonations.
- The Genie in Aladdin plays a French waiter and typical Frenchmen near a romantic dinner, while using the accent.
- Prince Naveen in The Princess and the Frog, even though he's supposed to be from a fictional European country, and the few native words he uses sound closer to Italian than to French.
- The Swan Princess: Again, the frog speaks French for no particular reason. Except that he is voiced by John Cleese, who seems to enjoy voicing French characters. (And it could be a Stealth Pun, as "frog" has long been a slang word for the French.)
- Shrek: Robin Hood, despite being an English folklore character, speaks with a French accent.
- In An American Tail: Fievel Goes West the French Cat in Cat R. Waul's gang speaks with an incredibly thick Chevalier accent.
- The English dub of Asterix in Britain gives the Gauls this accent (and the French version had the Britons speaking French with a British accent).
- Trope Namer in Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part I
- John Cleese as the French Taunter in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, despite the film taking place in an anachronistic but pre-Norman medieval England. Even Galahad asks him: "What are you doing in England?"
- Eric Idle during the title song, "The Meaning of Life" and the waiters in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.
- Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther.
- The Marx Brothers, ocean liner stowaways in Monkey Business, each try to pass themselves off as Chevalier at the passport desk by singing - Harpo's sounds most accurate, thanks to the phonograph record he's lip-synching to.
- The Red Shoes (1948): Some people speak actual French, others talk English with a grotesque French accent.
- In French Kiss, every single French character speaks this way. In particular, Luc (played by Kevin Kline) is all but doing an outright Maurice Chevalier imitation.
- In Reality (2014) a French character has a terrible accent in spite of being a successful businessman who lives in an English speaking country.
- Sacha Baron Cohen talks with this accent as Jean Girard in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
- Frenchie in The Boys. He also sprinkles his phrases with French words.
- French teacher Monsieur Leblanc on Our Miss Brooks. Likewise with any French character that appears on the show (or was heard in the radio version).
- John Cleese and Michael Palin in the "Flying Sheep" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- 'Allo 'Allo!: All the French characters speak with this accent.
- During the "Everyday French with Pierre Escargot" segments on All That, Kenan Thompson would affect Maurice Chevalier's signature laugh. And that's pretty much the extent of the accent.
- In an early episode of Cheers it was mentioned that Coach was learning French by listening to tapes in his car. Carla told him she didn't think they were doing him any good, asking him to say "How are you today?" in French. Coach responded, in English, repeating "How are you today in French?" in a Chevalier accent.
- Presenter Antoine de Caunes realised there was only one way to go when he presented spoof European-cultural show Eurotrash for British TV. In a show sending up the weirdest aspects of European pop culture for British viewers, with a French presenter note , de Caunes seriously exaggerated his French accent to play up to the expectations of a British audience. Complete with the laugh.
- Star Trek:
- Averted by Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The producers originally wanted the Captain to sound French but Patrick Stewart's attempts at a French accent came off as this. The producers then decided that a Captain's voice based on a comic actor was unsuitable for their series, and told Stewart to just use his trained RP accent (Stewart naturally - being a Yorkshireman — then had an Oop North accent). In just one episode does he speak French, and it's in an RP accent then too. His family are also English-speaking and accented too when they appear (in just one episode again), which is presumably Translation Convention since it's France.
- Played straight in Star Trek: Picard, when Picard is trying to pretend to be a black marketeer with an eyepatch. He opts to go for an over-the-top French accent.
Picard: I thought I looked...(puts on accent) appropriately sinisterrrr.
Raffi: No comment.
- The "Weird Al" Yankovic song Genius In France references this trope repeatedly, as the singer sings about how French people sound when they talk and the way they go "hon hon hon" when they laugh at his stupid jokes.
- This accent was used in a recurring nasal-sounding voice from Bally and Williams machines in the latter half of the '90s. The most prominent usages are in Attack from Mars, as a Parisian bystander watching the Martians wreck the Eiffel Tower; and in Medieval Madness, as Elite Mook Francois du Grimm.
- Jacques le Roach, the French cockroach chef on The Animal Show, talks like this.
- Invoked in the pre-show warm-up for The Now Show 2017 Edinburgh Festival special (and probably other Now Show warm-ups). Steve and Hugh first explain that the sound guys need the audience to do a quiet laugh and a loud laugh, so they know what to expect and can get the mixing right. In order to make this more fun, they then suggest the audience do a pirate laugh. They then ask for the audience, without thinking about it or discussing it with each other, to do a French laugh. And almost everyone goes "Hon-he-hon-he-hon" in unison.
- In the "Voltaire" sketch on John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme, the characters all have "outrrrrajous French accents". Finnemore-as-Voltaire informs Simon Kane that if he's not going to do one, he doesn't get any more lines.
- During one of his early albums, Steve Martin mentioned going to Paris, without speaking a word of French. When the cab driver asked, in French, where he'd like to go, Steve tried adopting a French accent, "I would like to go to ze 'otel!" as if it would help.
- Whenever he did a French impression, Robin Williams used this accent. See above in the Film — Animation folder.
- The Broadway production of Hamilton has Lafayette, originally played by Daveed Diggs, use this accent when he appears in Act 1 to fight alongside the revolting Americans fighting for independence from Britain after coming from France. At first it's Played for Laughs in "My Shot" when he doesn't know how to pronounce "anarchy", but as the story and war go on his lines become more complex and fast-paced. It becomes very impressive when he gets to "Guns and Ships", in which he has to rap in that accent at what is probably the fastest lines in Broadway history at nineteen words in three seconds while also jumping around the stage.
- Of Thee I Sing: The French Ambassador is typically acted with a thick Chevalier-like accent. Some justification can be found in the fact that Chevalier is name-dropped in the soldiers' chorus preceding his entrance.
- In the original dub of Disco Elysium, Jean Vicquemere (played by the English Dot Major) is voiced with this kind of accent ("'Arry, I'm your FACK-quing PART-néirrrrrrre!!"), emphasising his French Jerk qualities. When The Final Cut replaced him with an actor doing a geniune Franco-American accent, several fans reported finding the new accent unrealistic.
- Randie's friend Jacques in Squid Row combines this with Funetik Aksent.
- Polandball: Franceball's laugh is usually portrayed as "Hon hon hon", but its actual way of speaking is more Poirot Speak like other non-anglophone countries.
- In Gorgeous Princess Creamy Beamy, natives of French West Stereotypia talk like this.
Eet eez a small nation, deevoted to upholding zee stereotypes of owair fairfazzers! Cheese, wine, love, berets, stripy shairts, a zense of cultural zuperioretee, and talkeeng like zis instead of speaking ze actual French!
- In the first videos of the Italian Webseries Insopportabilmente donna, Tess Masazza's French accent is quite prominent. Over time her Italian has quite improved.
- Lapoleon in the Best Fiends web shorts is given this accent, to further highlight his name, while also adding to an air of wealth that he has thanks to being prepped to be the "Emperor of Everything" in the future.
- The animation The End of the World uses unabashed Hollywood Geography and a hurricane of accents for all the different characters, in addition to the narrator's "own" indescribable accent ("WRAUNG!"), but it's the French characters who are remembered above all:
"Sheet guys, we got ze missiles, zey are comingue! Fire our sheet!""But I am le tired.""Well, have a nap. ZEN FIRE ZE MISSILES!"
- In the Mickey Mouse cartoon Mickey's Gala Premier (1933), Maurice Chevalier is one of the celebrities who welcomes Mickey by singing in his signature accent.
- Looney Tunes: Mel Blanc used this voice for many French characters, and even other francophones, such as Canadians like the lumberjack in Wet Hare. However, Pepé Le Pew was based more on actor Charles Boyer's accent, although he does do a brief Chevalier imitation in Scent-imental Romeo.
- The earliest Chevalier impressions can be found in the Merrie Melodies cartoons "Buddy's Show Boat" (1933) and "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" (1933).
- The Simpsons:
Lisa: I'm at the wrong school!Class: HA HA HA HA HA HA!Teacher: En français!Class: HON HON HON HON HON HON!
- Jacques the bowling instructor in the episode "Life in the Fast Lane".
- The clumsy waiter in the episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much".
- Jacques and Ugolin in "The Crepes of Wrath".
- In the "Treehouse of Horror VIII" segment, the French militaries who bomb Springfield all speak with a Maurice Chevalier accent and even conclude with a "hon hon hon" laugh.
- The French cook in "Guess Who's Coming To Criticize Dinner?"
- The French military officer in "The Trouble with Trillions".
- The West Springfield Elementary French teacher and his students in "Trilogy of Error".
- Jacques, male member of the ice dancing team from Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race has this although he's French-Canadian
- On The Huckleberry Hound Show, Daws Butler voiced Powerful Pierre in this way.
- In ''Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM)' Antione speaks with a thick French accent with all the idiosyncrasies of Maurice Chevalier.
- The narrator on SpongeBob SquarePants, who is a reference to Jacques Cousteau.
- Planet Sketch: June Spume had one, as her only line in the show was "I am June Spume, zis is mah tune.".
- Around the World with Willy Fog: Fog's French servant and travelling companion, Rigodon, has a stereotypically French accent in the English dub, complete with words like "the" and "this" being pronounced as "ze" and "zis", though he does sometimes pronounce the th sound correctly. He also throws in a few Gratuitous French words and phrases.
- In some TV documentaries and news broadcasts, real-life French people are often dubbed while using Maurice Chevalier accents (presumably because that's the French interpreter's natural accent in English). This often comes across as comical instead of being serious.
- Certain French actors in English movies speak with this accent, including Jean Reno.