Mid-Atlantic English describes a version of the English language which is neither predominantly American nor British in usage. It is also used to describe various forms of North American speech that have assimilated some British pronunciations. These pronunciations once had some currency in theatre and film, and were also found among members of the upper classes of American society. It is also commonly found amongst the Anglophone expatriate community, many of whom have adopted certain features of the accent of their place of residence.
International media are tending to reduce the number of mutually unintelligible versions of English to some extent. The term "mid-Atlantic" is sometimes used in Britain to refer, often critically, to British public figures who affect a quasi-American accent. This was particularly notable on BBC Radio 1 in the 1980s, especially in the broadcasts of Gary Davies. It is also used to refer to what some regard as a bland, geographically unspecific form of popular culture.
Americans who have lived for a long time in non-English-speaking countries, such as Princess Grace of Monaco, or actors Richard Harrison and Jean-Marc Barr, as well as British, Australian or New Zealand citizens living in the United States for extended periods of time, like Cary Grant or John Barrowman, sometimes tend to naturally develop a Mid-Atlantic accent as they lose their distinctive regional or national inflections.
This sort of stage-British is now used much less than it was; the recorded speech of Vincent Price in his more formal roles may contain an echo of its sounds, since Price was an American actor trained in England. The British expatriates Anthony Hopkins and Cary Grant, Americans Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Eleanor Parker, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, and Canadians Christopher Plummer and Lorne Greene have also exemplified the accent.
Use of this accent declined rapidly after World War II. Actors such as Humphrey Bogart, William Holden, Henry Fonda, and John Wayne portrayed serious roles in various dialects of American speech, and the export of American cinema familiarized the rest of the world with its features.
Roosevelt's speech is non-rhotic; one of Roosevelt's most frequently heard speeches has a falling diphthong in the word fear, which distinguishes it from other forms of surviving non-rhotic speech in the United States. "Linking R" appears in Roosevelt's delivery of the words "The only thing we have to fea
r is fear itself"; compare also Roosevelt's delivery of the words "naval and ai r fo rces of the Empi re of Japan." This American version of a "posh" accent is now obsolescent, if not wholly obsolete, even among the American upper classes, but an example of a Mid-Atlantic accent can be found on the television sitcom Frasier as used by both Frasier Crane and his brother Niles Crane, and is reminiscent of the highly affected speech of the character of Charles Winchester on M*A*S*H. More recent Groton alumni, even those with careers on the stage such as Sam Waterston, no longer use such an accent. The clipped English of George Plimpton and William F. Buckley, Jr. may also serve as examples. This speech style was also the influence for Julianne Moore's character's (Maude Lebowski) accent in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski.