Who was Marni Nixon?
Is the name unfamiliar to you? The chances are that you don’t recognise the face either. But it’s very likely that you know her voice.
Marni was responsible for some of the most famous singing voices heard on the silver screen..
Have you heard the soundtrack from My Fair Lady for example? Or seen the film? That’s not Audrey Hepburn that you’re listening to – it’s the voice of Marni, who was often uncredited for supplying her voice.
Sometimes, Marni’s voice was expertly dubbed in along with the voice of the actress. For example, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes during the Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend sequence, some of the time you’re hearing Marilyn Monroe – at others, especially the high notes, it’s Marni whose voice you hear.
Once you know this, it’s easy to spot – see the video below.
The studios weren’t always exactly honest about where their stars’ voices had been substituted. In West Side Story, even the actress Natalie Wood didn’t know that the voice used on the final film for her singing scenes wouldn’t be her own – it was Marni.
On December 7th, 1963, Marni appeared on To Tell the Truth on television. She was one of three women who claimed to be the ‘ghost singer’ – the panel had to guess which of the three women was the real Marni.
If you’ve ever thought how wonderful it must have been for all those beautiful actresses of the Golden Days of Hollywood could also be such fine singers, then here’s Marni singing for Deborah Kerr in The King and I.
Of course, the studios didn’t want the general public to know that it wasn’t Marilyn, Deborah or Natalie singing in their movies. So Marni went unrecognised. She even had to sign documents promising that she wouldn’t reveal that the singing voices were dubbed.
She also explained that when a vocalist was known within the industry to be a ‘ghost singer’ then the chances of them getting work on stage or in front of the cameras was more difficult. Casting directors assumed that because the singer was working behind the scenes, they were too fat or ugly to appear on screen.
Marni had her first on-screen role in 1965. In this film, the singing star didn’t need anyone else to sing for her as she was the amazing Julie Andrews. Yes, Marni was first seen on the silver screen in The Sound of Music, playing the part of Sister Sophia. She is the second nun on from the left in the video below.
Watch an interview with Marni.
Marni Nixon died on July 25th, 2016.
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August 10, 2015
I knew the name was familiar when I saw it! Such an interesting story. I suppose Marni Nixon is the most famous ghost singer of all time. She certainly “sang in” for some amazing actresses!
August 10, 2015
I think that the most amazing thing Susan is that when you watch the videos, you really think it was Marilyn Monroe, Deborah Kerr or Natalie Wood singing. Marni adapted her voice to the actresses. Very clever stuff!