Friday, 3 January 2014

The Ghost Singers of Hollywood

Marni Nixon - the 'real' Deborah Kerr and Audrey Hepburn and...

Secret Voices of Hollywood

I suppose we all know that Audrey Hepburn didn't do the actual singing in My Fair Lady, but it turns out the practice was widespread, especially for the female co-stars, as this fascinating documentary reveals..

In many of Hollywood's greatest movie musicals the stars did not sing their own songs. This documentary pulls back the curtain to reveal the secret world of the 'ghost singers' who provided the vocals, the screen legends who were dubbed and the classic movies in which the songs were ghosted.

Marni Nixon*, Betty Noyes and Bill Lee aren’t household names... but they should be. During a prolific era of “ghost-voicing” in Hollywood musicals, they sang as, respectively, Audrey Hepburn, Debbie Reynolds and Christopher Plummer. This bewitching documentary pulls back the curtain on a controversial technique that has gone the way of the ark (for better or worse, non-singing actors now have a stab, viz: Moulin Rouge!, Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables).

As far as the movie moguls were concerned, it was a trade secret and should remain one. This meant that, for years, cinemagoers thought that Natalie Wood was actually singing as Maria in West Side Story, and Mark Lester in the lead role of Oliver! The former was famously disgruntled at being sung over (her own version of I Feel Pretty, heard here, is fine, if a little thin). Lester, on the other hand, was thrilled at his perfect pitch (courtesy of Kathe Green, daughter of the film’s musical director). As Lester now says, “You wouldn’t want me to sing. It would destroy that wonderful image of that little boy singing. Just don’t go there!”

As for the invisible singers, there’s a happy ending. It’s very much a case of credit where credit is due.

Not sure why Robert Wagner features so heavily, though...

Available on BBC iPlayer until 14 January:

* mother of Andrew Gold!

No comments:

Post a Comment