“Marni Nixon, the American cinema’s most unsung singer, died on Sunday in Manhattan,” reports The New York Times. She was 86.
The story adds: “The cause was breast cancer, said Randy Banner, a student and friend. Ms. Nixon, a California native, had lived in Manhattan, on the Upper West Side, for more than 40 years.”
The Times adds, “Classically trained, Ms. Nixon was throughout the 1950s and ’60s the unseen — and usually uncredited — singing voice of the stars in a spate of celebrated Hollywood films. She dubbed Deborah Kerr in ‘The King and I,’ Natalie Wood in ‘West Side Story’ and Audrey Hepburn in ‘My Fair Lady,’ among many others.” She also did some of the singing for Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
Write The Times, Nixon’s “other covert outings included singing for Jeanne Crain in ‘Cheaper by the Dozen,’ Janet Leigh in ‘Pepe’ and Ida Lupino in ‘Jennifer.’ ‘The ghostess with the mostest,’ the newspapers called her, a description that eventually began to rankle.”
Notes Playbill: “[F]ollowing her work on ‘My Fair Lady,’ [Nixon’s] attitude changed: ‘It was only after “My Fair Lady” that I really realized the value of what I had done — that I sang the lead. I thought, I should have done this myself. I started thinking, I don’t want to do this again. This is not the right thing to do.’”
Playbill adds: “As she grew older, Nixon’s reputation as a hidden force in Hollywood musicals earned her fame enough to land her occasional roles on stage. She was in the Broadway cast of ‘James Joyce’s The Dead’ in 2000, stepped into the role of Heidi Schiller in the 2001 revival of ‘Follies,’ and was a replacement actor for Guido’s Mother in the 2003 revival of ‘Nine.’ She also concertized extensively, sometimes billing herself as ‘The Voice of Hollywood.’”
From YouTube, here is a version of “Tonight” from “West Side Story” that combines Natalie Wood’s voice and Nixon’s voice (watch the bottom of the screen to see which is which). Later, Nixon’s voice was substituted for all of Wood’s vocals in the film.