Thursday, October 15, 2009

ghostly voices


"Some Enchanted Evening' has been playing in my head ever since
the magnificent Bryn Terfel sang it at the Manor Ball, which got me
thinking about the movie South Pacific. Did you know that Rossano
Brazzi was actually dubbed by the dashing Giorgio Tozzi, a leading
bass for many years at the Metropolitan opera? I've always
wondered why Tozzi, himself, wasn't cast in the role of the
Frenchman, Emile de Becque.
.
I had the good fortune to meet the ever-so-charming Mr. Tozzi
when he was Professor of Voice at Indiana University's distinguished
Jacobs School of Music, when my daughter was an undergrad in the
program. (That's Tozzi, pictured above on the left, with Rossano
Brazzi. Personally, I think Mr. Tozzi is much more handsome.)

Speaking of dubbed voices, Marni Nixon is known as "The Ghostess
with the Mostess" since she dubbed some of the most famous female
musical film roles ever. Gosh, she's so beautiful, I'm thinking the
same thing. Why wasn't she cast in these fabulous roles, since she
did all the fabulous singing? (That's Nixon pictured above with
Deborah Kerr.) She had the uncanny ability to adapt her singing
voice to sound exactly like the actual actresses' speaking voices.

Some of the highlights of her career were providing Marilyn Monroe
with a few top notes in her performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's
Best Friend" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), the singing voice
for Deborah Kerr in the Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I
(1956), Deborah Kerr's singing voice again in An Affair to Remember
(1957), the singing voice for Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961).
Nixon also sang some parts of the score of Anita by Rita Moreno.
In parts of the quintet setting of the song "Tonight", she sings both
Maria and Anita's lines, according to her autobiography. And one
more, she also did the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn as Eliza in
My Fair Lady (1964).

Nixon's many dubbing roles did not appear on the titles of any of the
films, and she did not begin to be fully credited or widely
acknowledged until the movies' subsequent release on VHS, decades
later. She has now, under her own name, recorded songs by Jerome
Kern, George Gershwin, Arnold Schönberg, Charles Ives, and Anton
Webern. The gorgeous Ms. Nixon is still singing today, by the way, at
the age of 78.

62 comments:

  1. Great research Willow. It is always a bit deflating to hear that the people one looked up to were actually dubbed.
    Sorry I could not make it to the ball, my fairy godmother arrived late.

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  2. How did I manage to be the first (hasn't happened for ages!)
    I was lucky enought to see the revival of South Pacific last summer in NY.
    I knew every single word of every single song......
    now I'll be singing some enchanted evening ALL DAY

    ..........and somehow you'll know...............
    (sigh)

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  3. Wow ~ I never knew that! And she's still gorgeous...love that last photo!

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  4. .....you'll know even then..... (yes, sigh) :^)

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  5. Some good secrets revealed there, Willow.

    I love movie soundtracks and often play South Pacific or Oklahoma. There are at least two songs from each show guaranteed to make me cry.

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  6. did she have anything to do with Milli Vanilli? smiles.

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  7. Thanks for the information.

    I agree with you that both singers had the "looks" (and of course the voices) to be in Hollywood themselves, but the studio system was built on having their own actors.

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  8. Great post! In an interview once with Marnie Nixon, I heard her tell a great story: She was touring in The King and I and a delighted fan came backstage and told her what a great performance she had given: she sang just as beautifully as Deborah Kerr!

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  9. Have never heard of her and had no idea that these actor's voices were dubbed. Glad she is getting acknowledgement now.

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  10. Well, part of the reason those singers didnt perform on camera is they arent actors... hence not box office draws. Mr Brazzi had performed the role on Broadway .. and Natalie Wood replacing Carol Lawrence (who was Maria on Broadway)was because at that point no one West of Broadway knew Carol Lawrence.......

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  11. I love Giorgio Tozzi and did know he dubbed Brazzi in South Pacific. But didn't have a clue about Nixon!

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  12. She did have an on screen part in Sound of Music as one of the nuns.
    I think she actually had to sign a contract stating that she would not reveal that she was dubbing. (I heard this on NPR recently.) On learning this from Marni, Ms. Kerr's reply -obviously disapproving that Marni had to be kept a secret-was something like, "Well, I did not sign THAT contract." Steven Cole's book about Ms. Nixon, I COULD HAVE SUNG ALL NIGHT (2007), has been on my list for a while. Thanks for this reminder. I am off to the library and/or the book store! I think Marni has written a book also??
    Willow, did you ever hear the Prairie Home Companion show, back in '02 or '03 where Marni did a parody "I Could Have Dubbed Myself"(I Could Have Danced All Night)? I had taped the show because blues/folk singer Taj Mahal was on....and Marni was an extra special bonus. Love the photos of her!

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  13. Thank you for researching this Willow and bringing it to the attention of all. It is unbelievable that Brazzi's voice would have been dubbed! =D As for Ms. Nixon, I will buy her CD. I love her singing voice. I sincerely hope she was compensated well for her talent!

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  14. Daryl, not all opera singers can act, but Tozzi can! He got his start on Broadway and spent many years playing the role of de Becque himself in various revivals and road tours of the show, including one at Lincoln Center in the late 1960s.

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  15. FireLight, I would have loved that segment of Prairie Home Companion! She sounds like a stitch. I've got Nixon's book on my library list, as well.

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  16. I find it rather sad that she wasn't given the credit for all of her beautiful work. I've saw most of the musicals mentioned and had NO idea the songs were dubbed. :/ I quite agree that it would have been lovely to see her act the roles herself. ;)

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  17. Willow what an interesting post today. I did not know about those dubs. I love all those movies and the music. Now you got me humming Some Enchanting Evening. This ball of yours has sure led me to some mighty fine new friends.
    QMM

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  18. QMM, that's one of the best things about the manor ball, the mixing of bloggies and meeting new friends. I'm glad.

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  19. Fabulous post, Willow.

    Speaking of casting choices, I always wondered who in the world thought Natalie Wood was the right choice to play Maria. Natalie Wood as a Puerto Rican? Please.

    The acting of both leads in West Side Story was dreadful. What makes that movie for me is the music and dancing. Leonard Bernstein was a genius, may he rest in peace.

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  20. Oh, Reya, I totally agree. Leonard Bernstein was a genius and his West Side Story is a jewel, very operatic, in fact.

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  21. Hello Willow,

    I did know both these stories but was sad at the time to realise that the stars were not singing! One would hope their remuneration was sufficient to outway the denied recognition! I have always admired the lip-syncing ability of actors even it's to their own voice!

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  22. even "when" it's to their own voice - that is!!

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  23. To be able to have dubbed those songs, I can only think that Ms. Nixon was quite an actress. Voice over actors have to get their heads inside the characters whose voices they are dubbing - whether it's singing or speaking. I also think that the on camera actors were fantastic to be able to "sing" to the beautiful tracks that were provided. They needed to hear the phrasing and match their actions to be as convincing as they were. Did you ever hear Audrey Hepburn's own voice singing in the movie version of" My Fair Lady?" I saw a docu about it and wish I could remember where I saw it. She was fantastic, but her own version of the songs weren't used. I'm so inspired to learn that Ms. Nixon has put out an album at her age! Way to go Marni! I suppose the lack of credit given to the brilliant singers was a thing of the times the films were produced. No one wanted to smash the illusion of the well known stars who got all the credit! The magic of the movies and all that jazz. Didn't you love the scene in "Singing in the Rain" where the curtain peels back to reveal Debbie Reynold's character singing her heart out over the silent star's miming? Thanks for all the neat research Willow!

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  24. I recently saw a clip on TCM of Leslie Caron singing in "Gigi" with her own singing voice, which was very charming, by the way. Sadly, Caron was dubbed over in the film by Betty Wand.

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  25. I must admit I was worried. But I read, "had you penciled in the dance card," made me laugh out loud. Not that it was bad but I can't dance. I never learned how. I don't know my left foot from my right one. I love to watch dancers dance. I used to go to Arthur Murray dance studio in Tucson, Arizona in 1952, but never got up enough courage to try it. Now, I am so old and get out of breath so much that if my right foot goes out I have to pause and wait for the left one to catch up. I don't think you could get used to that. So in the end, it probably turned out for the best.

    Thanks for the visit.

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  26. Ms. Nixon has certainly kept her charming looks and voice too apparently. Thanks for this post. It was so interesting. I had no idea someone had been the same dubber (is that a word?) for so many rolls. I quite agree, that Tozzi appears indeed to have been quite the handsome rugged man himself.

    Another very interesting, typical Willoesque post. Thoroughly enjoyed.

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  27. Yes, I agree, fascinating, but a bit deflating when you're a romantic and want all of your favorite stars to have wonderful voices in all of your fave movies...however, I will still be drooling over Brazzi...sigh...

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  28. Thank you Willow for posting this research- who knew...besides you of course. I do hope that Ms. Nixon was paid well even though unrecognized...thanks again for the BALL! I haven't had that much fun for a very long time.
    Agree, always disliked the sappy movie, WSS, but loved the music, one of the few albums that I played over and over back in the day.

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  29. So interesting! I had no idea. How weird is that, to do a duet with yourself.

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  30. A really great blog Willow about a very interesting lady. I'm a huge fan of all musicals, especially the big MGM productions.

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  31. Most interesting Willow. I really didn't know this. Now I want to go see these musicals.

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  32. Glad to see the lovely Ms.Nixon being recognized..she's been a cabaret star here for many years, and appeared as Eliza Doolittle on stage. Also recently, as Mrs. Higgins, Prof Higgins mother.
    I've admired her "secret" career for ages...

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  33. Wow, that would never happen today, everyone wants credit. What a beautiful soul to sing and share her gift "silently"...

    much love

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  34. One of my favourite songs too - I have a feeling Edmund Hockridge used to sing it too.
    Yes, thank you for asking, we are recovered from all that dancing at your ball. The farmer (who I have always thought was born with two left feet and completely unable to dance) excelled himself. Some remarked that he was such a classy dancer - it has really gone to his head (whether it has gone to his feet as well remains to be seen!

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  35. I did know that this lovely lady had dubbed for Deborah Kerr but no one else least of all Natalie Wood! I always thought Mary Martin had done some dubbing too but now I know better!

    I didn't know that Brazzi was dubbed. That maybe accounts for why I was never that keen on him (he spoke well of me too!!) even in South Pacific although I loved the movie. I wanted to be just like Mitzi Gaynor when I grew up!

    Maybe Tozzi was not as well known as Brazzi at the time - box office appeal and all that!

    I love those old Hollywood musicals - such fun. I love musicals generally and was so glad that 'Phantom' was turned into a film.

    I have seen some marvellous musical stage productions including Gone with the Wind at Drury Lane which didn't 'live' as long as some!!

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  36. You ARE quite the name dropper! -J

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  37. I've loved reading all about the ball. No, the ugly stepsisters did not lock me in a room. I was sailing the Greek Isles with Sean Connery. Unfortunately, Edward bit him and we had to return.

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  38. I was always fascinated by the fact that all those voices were dubbed by Nixon. I remember my mom telling me that the singing voices in nearly all those old movies were dubbed. These days, technology being what it is, it's not really necessary anymore, but there's definitely always going to be a gap between the "look" the entertainment industry prefers and the talent it requires.

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  39. I was not aware of the dubbing. Ms Nixon looks like Julie Andrews!

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  40. I think it boils down to name recognition and box office pull...and dubbing allowed having both voice and name at the same time.
    Now we are all singing "Some Enchanted Evening"!

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  41. willowgirl - so cool insights into the other reality of films!!! i was once asked to be a stunt double for arnold schwarzenegger. the small matter of my artistic/poetic sensibilities and my slight frame and sensitive face were apparently of little consequence! it was my presence!!! ha!! mmmwaaah! steven

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  42. Willow, to listen to the June 2002 show from the Greek Theatre in LA....just Google Prarie Home Companion....Click on Archive.....type in the month Jun and year 2002....I think it was the first show in June...you will see Marni Nixon's name in the opening discription....click on the program and you can listen to most if not all of the show!

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  43. "My Fair Lady" is one of my favorite movies and now I will enjoy it even more, knowing what I know (thanks to you!).

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  44. Why thank you Willow! I learned something new today. I also wanted to say what a wonderful experience the ball was the other night. I had *such* a lovely time. Several people stopped by my blog and they have been a wonderful treat to meet.

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  45. PS. My film/tv director hubby just set me straight about the dubbing thang. The on camera actors would have sung to the tracks and then Marni or whoever, would have listened to those and would have sung her version to match the breathing and phrasing of the bankable box office star! Now it would be fun to know about some of the body doubles who stood in for famous movie naked scenes .... And then there's all the new fabulous digital work that's being done, putting real actors out of work -- except for their voices! It's all magic to me!

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  46. I had heard of Ghost Writers (Done some of that myself, in fact), but not ghost singers. Fascinating!

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  47. Hey, thanks, FireLight, I'll go find it!

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  48. The body doubles! Now that WOULD be interesting!!

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  49. I LOVE the new header! :) Is that a room at the manor?

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  50. Thank you, Debbie. Yes, it is!

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  51. Thank you Willow for answering a question I've long thought about - you are a whizz!
    Millie ^_^
    P.S. You know those hand models the Ad. Agenices use in nail polish ads. Would you happen to know where I could get one? These hands of mine are resembling my Grannies's more each day & I'd like to call for the substitute!

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  52. That is something I have never thought about before. I'm just a sucker for believing everything I see on screen in true! Nixon is incredibly beautiful! She has aged really well. Thanks for a great post, Willow. Enjoy your weekend. xx

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  53. Anton Webern - there's a name to conjure with. Apparently she sang on much of Robert Craft's famous (well, famous among 20th century classical music fans) complete Webern LP box set.

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  54. I feel so enlightened after reading your post, Willow! What interesting information. Nice that those who deserve it finally get their credit via your blog!

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  55. Willow,
    During my workout this morning I played and listened to my LP: of "South Pacific."
    Next to Deano's Everybody loves somebody, Some enchanted Evening by Tozzi is my most favoritist song followed closely by; This nearly was mine!
    rel

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  56. Singing for other people is really a thankless job! It is nice to see you give her some credit!

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  57. So much to remark on here, if only I can remember it all!
    I think Mr. Tozzi looks a tad like Richard Burton and I agree, infinitely more handsome and distinguished.
    I love, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and did not know that Nixon was dubbed in for the high notes. I did know about the other roles, but was unaware that Marni is still singing. Brava!
    Really! She sang some of Moreno's role too? How surprising! (I love, "America!")

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  58. Ouch! I had no idea Rossano Brazzi had been dubbed.And by someone more than capable of handling the role. Guess that shows what Hollywood thought of opera at the time. Had heard of Ms. Nixon, though. Am glad her contributions were finally acknowledged.

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  59. I always marvel at the talented people who go unrecognized--lovely photos!

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  60. Lord!Some Enchanted Evening is playing in my head as I type this!

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  61. I always loved Marni Nixon's voice, but I've never seen a picture of her. She is still beautiful! Thanks for this, Willow.

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  62. Marni actually sang a LOT of "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" according to an interview I saw a long time ago. She was being sweet and giving a lot of credit to Marilyn because she had obvious affection for her.

    If you listen carefully to the song, you can hear the few places where they actually use Marilyn's voice. She was a good actress, but her singing voice was lacking.

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)