The voice of comedy
Gracita Morales
in Performance and Spanish film
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This chapter analyses the typification and standardisation of the voice in Spanish cinema, which is argued as the result of a long history of film dubbing, with its strict codification of vocal types according to gender and role. This practice has resulted in a series of unwritten rules and expectations that continue to shape and restrict the kinds of voices that Spanish audiences hear on screen. Under these norms, while non-standard voices may be permitted and are even cultivated for comic and character parts, leading roles continue to demand what the chapter calls the ‘phonogenic’ expression of unproblematically feminine and masculine identities. With her unmistakable, high-pitched voice, the chapter shows how Gracita Morales was inevitably slotted into supporting roles, her child-like affect and lack of verbal inhibition put to classic comic ends as weapons used to skewer the pretensions of a would-be upwardly mobile and modernizing middle class. Despite being categorised in this manner, Gracita Morales become an example of what Kathleen Rowe calls ‘unruly women’, female comics who by talking back and laughing loudly claim their right to a traditionally male privilege, thereby challenging the notion of comedy as a male-dominated genre.

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