Until recently ‘ghost singing’ in movies was the best kept secret in Hollywood. It might have been that the actor or actress simply couldn’t sing in tune, or that their voice just didn’t have the strength or range required, but one thing is for sure: dubbing was a widespread phenomenon. Actresses like Cyd Charisse, Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth were all regularly dubbed in their movies. Here are 5 major songs from classic movies that you might be surprised to discover were ghost-sung.
What’s particularly interesting is Audrey Hpeburn‘s orignal recording of ‘I could have danced all night’ which shows that she could sing perfectly well, but just didn’t have a strong enough voice.
Marilyn Monroe: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend
In the movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which was perhaps Marilyn‘s most famous on-screen appearance she was dubbed by Marni Nixon because she couldn’t reach some of the high notes required by the song. Marni Nixon was one of the most prolific ghost-singers from this era not only because of her beautiful voice, but because she could mimic an actresses voice allowing the singing to be all the more credible.
Getting to Know You: The King and I
Deborah Kerr spoke the opening verse of the major hit: Getting to Know You and the Marni Nixon did the rest of the singing, closely copying Kerr’s voice and tone so that it blended seamlessly.
I Feel Pretty: West Side Story
Surprisingly most of the singing voices from the movie West Side Story were dubbed, including that of Natalie Wood who played Maria. Natalie could sing, but the studio preferred Nixon’s versions of the songs.
I Could Have Danced All Night: My Fair Lady
It was quite a blow to discover that Audrey Hepburn didn’t own the beautiful singing voice heard in My Fair Lady. She coud sing (as you can see in her original version of the number below) but her voice just wasn’t strong enough.
The movie version sung by Marni Nixon:
The original by Audrey Hepburn:
Rita Hayworth in Gilda
Hayworth was dubbed by Anita Ellis for the major musical numbers in Gilda (as you can see below). Her original singing voice can be heard in the song “Put the Blame on Mame” from this movie though: