Two for Tuesday: Marni Nixon

Birgit suggested I discuss Marni Nixon, and I can’t think of a better way to end the series than with her.

There’s a good chance you’ve heard Marni Nixon and didn’t realize you were listening to her. Besides having her own career as a singer and actress, she was one of the better “playback singers,” a singer who does the vocals for the soundtrack of the movie, to which the actor lip-syncs. When you thought you were listening to Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood and Rita Moreno in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, you were actually listening to Marni. Time magazine called her “The Ghostess with the Mostest,” as she didn’t receive on-screen credit for any of the work on those movies.

First, here is Marni dubbing Deborah Kerr in 1956’s The King and I, in “Shall We Dance?” with Yul Brynner.

And second, here she dubs the voice of Audrey Hepburn in 1964’s My Fair Lady, with “I Could Have Danced All Night.” For comparison, here is Audrey Hepburn doing her own vocal.

Here is an interview she did with Charles Osgood on CBS Sunday Morning, date unknown.

Marni beat breast cancer in 1985 and again in 2000, but succumbed to the disease last July. May she rest in peace.

Marni Nixon, your Two for Tuesday, January 31, 2017.

8 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Marni Nixon

  1. Well, I have to say thank you for choosing the great Marni Nixon who I always felt deserved screen credit. I loved the singing in the ones you showcase here and she could really change it up to meet the style of the actress. Thank you for having her here for your last Two for Tuesday


  2. Since I learned about Marni Nixon’s work a number of years ago, I’ve found it fascinating that she could study actresses’ voices and vary her own singing so it sounded as if the actress did her own singing. I found a YouTube video with Natalie Wood’s real singing voice. She wasn’t terrible, but she was pretty flat. I also once watched a documentary about the making of My Fair Lady that said Audrey Hepburn came to the set prepared to sing and was very disappointed that her voice would be dubbed.



  3. I always wondered – does the screen actor( actress ) match, or sync, the singer’s words or does the singer match, or sync, the actor’s lip movements? As an aside, I believe Polly Bergen was the singing voice of several movie stars before she became well known on her own.


    1. I get the impression that it’s both. Marni redubbed Natalie Wood’s vocals after “West Side Story” was filmed, while she and Deborah Kerr worked together on “The King And I.” I would think it’s a lot like adding the voices after a cartoon is filmed.


  4. I’m ok with the lip-syncing for actors/actresses who don’t sing well, but I think she should have gotten credit. Hmmm, maybe I’ll watch “Singin’ In The Rain”


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