Q. I've heard most foreign films playing in French, German, Spanish and Italian-speaking countries are dubbed into the local language rather than subtitled. Is this true? I'm thinking about moving to Spain. Dubbing is such a crude, destructive practice, it's hard to believe it's routinely employed in supposedly sophisticated Europe. Are great performances in great films being obliterated by second-rate local actors? Can it be that the distinctive voices of Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, Sean Connery, Rosie Perez and Steve Buscemi are unknown to European audiences who think these iconic actors sound just like the grocery clerk down the street?
Rich Gruber, New York City
A. Quite so. In cities such as Paris, the original version ("V.O.") will play, but elsewhere in a country, it's dubbed all the way. I think it might have been Peter Bogdanovich who told me his John Wayne impression fell flat at a dinner party in Rome because no one at the table knew what John Wayne sounded like.
Answer Man, October 28, 2009