Thanks for your question; I had fun researching it--very appropriate
at this time of year too.
A newspaper article written in 2000 described Norman George as a
50-year-old, part-time actor, part-time copy editor from New
Hampshire. In the article he is quoted as saying that he does very
little to achieve the resemblance to Poe other than shaving his
temples and using liberal amounts stage makeup.
Norman George had an early interest in Poes life and work, born from
seeing Vincent Price in the Roger Corman adaptation of Fall of the
House of Usher when he (George) was 11. He fueled this passion by
reading Poes stories and collecting memorabilia. He went to Boston
University and graduated with a degree in journalism.
He was asked to pose as Edgar Allan Poe in 1982 by a Boston historian
who wanted an actor for a dedication of a plaque to the writer. Soon
after that George wrote, produced and staged Poe Alone: the Last
You asked about Poes voice. In this same article, What makes
George's performance even more impressive is that there is no film or
audio record of Poe. Everything that George knows about the
author--his body language, the sound of his voice, the way he
dressed--he's learned from old photographs, letters and historical
accounts, which he's been collecting since he saw "Usher" in 1961.
In the Spirit of Poe: Actor Brings Literary Legend to Life, by
Eileen Rivers. The Washington Post, 10/19/2000, M21, Final edition.
(note: the article is available online, but there is a fee of $2.95 to
access it: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-adv/archives/front.htm)
Some of Norman Georges credits are:
Poe, A&E Biography the Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe
Poe, Death of Edgar Allan Poe (Wendell Cordtzs production)
Poe, Edgar Allan Poe and His Cottage (WNYE-TV)
He has portrayed the character in educational films and television
and radio documentaries in the United States and Canada. His La
Périchole: New English Libretto premiered with the Sarasota Opera in
1984; The Raven and the Dove: A Romance in Providence in 1987.
You can find photos of Norman George in and out of his Poe makeup at:
Norman George participated in an episode of NPRs Talk of the Nation
in 1996. Its a fascinating program incidentally and George has some
great insights into Poe. You can listen to the clip (you will need
Real Player) and hear Georges thoughts about Edgar Allan Poe as well
as his real voice by going to:
Talk of the Nation: Edgar Allan Poe, October 31, 1996
Google search (also Google Groups search, which is where I discovered
norman george poe
norman george actor
Searched indexes of a number of newspapers as well.
Hope that answered your question!
Request for Answer Clarification by
02 Nov 2002 15:33 PST
Thank you, luciaphile. I tried both of those search strategies myself
and found them to be frustrating dead ends; my guess was that George
avoided giving biographical data because he did not want to break his
identification with Poe. Maybe I ran out of patience too quickly; I
never found the NPR link. Good work.
I asked specifically about George's accent, not his voice. In the
recording I was recently given, his accent to me sounded misapropos to
the point of distraction, a curious blend of Southern (which made
sense) and Irish or Australian (which didn't) that made some words
virtually unintelligible ("sound" came out like "saynd," for example).
I heard odd emphases and pauses in some lines that I thought led away
from and not toward understanding. I also caught an actual misreading
("suddenly there came a tapping/ As if someone gently rapping"--should
be "as of") that suggested a failure to master either the sense or the
grammar of the line. He also consistently pronounces "my" as "me" in
the Cockney fashion, most irritating in a first-person narrative such
as "The Telltale Heart," leaving me to wonder if it was an
affectation, and if so, to what purpose. I imagine even a Cockney
could overcome that habit for a formal reading of poetry--and even if
that was Poe's own style of speech (does anyone know?), I would be
willing to guess that he would have observed the conventions of
standard English when giving a reading. All these things made me
wonder who George is, why he talks that way on the recording (is it
his own natural speech, or did he assume it for the part?), and why I
see unqualified praise for his performances without a single note of
question of things that jumped out at me, a Poe aficionado for nearly
half a century.
So if you can furnish a little information about the accent and not
just the voice, I would consider my question fully answered.
Clarification of Answer by
02 Nov 2002 20:31 PST
I apologize for misreading your question regarding Norman Georges
accent. Hopefully, this will clarify my answer to your satisfaction.
When you listen to Norman George speak on the Talk of the Nation
program, youll note that he speaks with fairly traditional sounding
American accent and with none of the vocal mannerisms you
describebased on this as well as the newspaper articles I found (both
the one I cited in my answer and the one Ill be citing now), it can
safely be inferred that the accent he uses for his shows is not his
normal speaking voice and accent.
An article for the Peoria Journal Star offers the following
information: The actor from New England researched, studied and
perfected the rhythms, textures, sounds and allusions of the language
spoken by wealthy mid-19th century Virginians. Tough duty when no
recorded evidence exists.
Poetry Lives ICC Will Present a Nearly Exact Rendition of Edgar Allan
Poes Last Lecture, by Scott Hilyard. Peoria Journal Star,
(as with the Washington Post article I cited in the answer, this is
available online, but there is a fee if you want to download the
Peoria Journal Star
What Norman George has evidently done is to study how the accents of
people in Poes day, region and social class would have sounded and
then attempted to approximate that into his performances. Poe lived
in a number of different locations (including Boston, Virginia and
London) throughout his life and that may also figure into Georges
In regards to searching, I know how frustrating it can be. Sometimes
you need to do a bit of skating around. Using the Google groups
feature (://www.google.com/grphp) was instrumental in locating the
NPR clip. If I had to guess, I would venture that a couple of factors
account for there not being a great deal of information on George on
the web: hes not a traditional actor and he does mostly theatre.
There are more than a few articles about him, however, in the
newspapers (which makes sense, he and his work makes for a great
story). These, however, are generally not available from regular web
search engines. You either need to search each individual papers
archives or you need access to a database or print index to search a
group of papers.
I hope Ive answered your question more thoroughly. Let me know if
you need additional clarification.