Manny P. here…
Hollywood voice-double Marni Nixon singing was heard in place of the leading actresses in such classic movie musicals as West Side Story, The King and I, and My Fair Lady. No vocal talent was more familiar, yet her face was unknown to screen audiences for decades. One of her closest friends was the actress she worked along side in An Affair to Remember and The King and I… Deborah Kerr. Rita Moreno was also a pal. Arguably, she is part of Hollywood royalty. MARNI NIXON –>
In the heyday of the Hollywood musical, studios often paid big money for film rights to hit Broadway shows, then cast them with popular non-singing actors and actresses. Nixon went uncredited in the films and on their soundtrack albums, and was warned by the filmmakers that if she ever let it be known that she was doing the singing, she would be banned in the film industry. Marni initially resented the dubbing work, but later came to terms with it. Kerr blew Nixon’s cover when she praised her work on The King and I.
After receiving zero royalties for her work in the 1950s, she negotiated with Leonard Bernstein to part with a sliver of his royalty share for work on West Side Story. It amounted to a major payday for her, given the album’s huge sales. Meanwhile, Natalie Wood was distraught that recordings of her tunes from the soundtrack were discarded.
Audrey Hepburn, who had memorably sung Moon River in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, had campaigned to do her own singing as Eliza Doolittle in the screen version of My Fair Lady. She was able to handle the film’s early cockney-accented songs like Wouldn’t It be Loverly, but Nixon — carefully matching Hepburn’s vocal style — was called in for such soaring melodies as I Could have Danced All Night. The uproar of replacing Julie Andrews, who was the popular actress in the stage production, cost Hepburn a Oscar nomination.
Other work included a dubbing job for Margaret O’Brien in 1949 for The Secret Garden; she offered a few notes to Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; and she sang the high notes for Natalie Wood in Gypsy. Rarely, Nixon received screen credit for roles in The Sound of Music and the animated Mulan.
As the era of big, traditional movie musicals dried up, though, so did Nixon’s film career. But she kept busy with other work, including starring in her own children’s television show, singing opera, soloing with symphony orchestras, appearing in a road tour of Cabaret, and teaching at the California Institute of the Arts.
Nixon was married to film composer-conductor Ernest Gold, Oscar-winner for Exodus, from 1950 to 1969. Her son, Andrew Gold, arranged music for Linda Ronstadt, and had a hit in 1977 with Lonely Boy. He also penned Thank You for Being a Friend, which became the theme song for The Golden Girls.
Marni Nixon was 86.
Until next time> “never forget”