Q is for a quality voice: Marni Nixon

Marni Nixon was taken aback by Andrew Gold’s ‘Lonely Boy’ .

marni_nixonMovie buffs may have seen Deborah Kerr as Anna in The King and I (1956), Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story (1961), and/or Audrey Hepburn as Eliza in My Fair Lady (1964).

But when they sang on screen, their voices were all dubbed by the amazing Marni Nixon. Yet, her name appears nowhere in the films’ credits.

“Marni made her Broadway musical debut in 1954 in a show that lasted two months but nothing came from it. In 1955, the singer contracted to dub Deborah Kerr in The King and I (1956) was killed in a car accident in Europe and a replacement was needed. Marni was hired…and the rest is history…

The studios brought her in to ‘ghost’ Ms. Kerr’s voice once again in the classic tearjerker An Affair to Remember (1957),” and other classic roles.

Listen to:
Marni Nixon – Movie and TV Clips (2006)
Marni Nixon on Dubbing for Marilyn Monroe and Deborah Kerr
Marni Nixon on the game show “To Tell the Truth” (December 7, 1964)

“She finally appeared on screen in a musical in The Sound of Music (1965) starring Julie Andrews… [but] she is only given a couple of solo lines in ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?’ as a singing nun.” Still, “she continued on with concerts and in symphony halls while billing herself as ‘The Voice of Hollywood’ in one-woman cabaret shows… Her last filmed singing voice was as the grandmother in the animated feature Mulan (1998).

“Married three times, twice to musicians; one of her husbands, Ernest Gold, by whom she had three children, was a film composer and is best known for his Academy Award-winning epic Exodus (1960).”

One of her children with Ernest Gold was the late Andrew Gold, who had a single Thank You For Being A Friend, which hit #25 on the Billboard charts in 1978. The song was later re-recorded by Cynthia Fee to serve as the theme song for the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls.

In the early 1990s, I saw him perform with group Bryndle, which included Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman, and Karla Bonoff.

But I know him best for a song called Lonely Boy, (#7 Billboard, 1977), which “was included in a number of film soundtracks, including Boogie Nights in 1997 and Adam Sandler’s 1998 movie The Waterboy, among others.” Although the lyrics included some facts of his life – “He was born on a summer day 1951” and “In the summer of ’53 his mother brought him a sister” – Gold insisted he had a happy childhood.

From Andrew Gold’s 2011 New York Times obit:

“His mother was taken aback [by ‘Lonely Boy’] She said, ‘Andy, oh, my God, the pain you must have felt.’ But he said he hadn’t even thought of it that way. He thought he was making it up.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 16

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

23 thoughts on “Q is for a quality voice: Marni Nixon”

  1. The first one is the Netherlands! You can find the others by scrolling back or by trying to find the countries in the archives and clicking on them.
    Good luck!
    Wil, ABCW Team

  2. Nice Roger !
    I knew she was the (invisable) singer for Natalie Wood..

    We get fooled more often by thinking the person we see is also the person we hear 😉

  3. What a shame she didn’t find fame in her own name, I really thought Deborah Kerr actually did sing in The King and I…. Now there’s a myth shattered.
    All interesting Roger, I rather enjoyed reading all that…Thank you for being my friend, and sharing.

    best wishes,

    ABCW team.

  4. Hate to admit it, but I’ve never known much about her. Thanks for filling in the gaps.

  5. Me again!Thanks for your visit. I have made the quiz a bit easier, and hope that now people will make an attempt to solve the quiz.
    Wil, ABCW

  6. Great post. I forget the name of the movie – “Twenty Feet From Stardom” – I think about backup singers. Sounds like similar issues of being used but receiving very little credit. Great links – thanks!

  7. Weirdest Andrew Gold story I know: he was asked to join Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman in a post-Godley and Creme version of 10cc. Gold begged off — prior commitments — but he does appear on (and did cowrite) three tracks off their Ten Out Of 10 album. Gouldman and Gold did later team up under the name Wax.

  8. My goodness, Roger! You know SO much about movies –although I have to say I recognized the name Marnie Nixon

  9. These are details that unknown and an injustice to the great voice of Marni Nixon to not mentarla in these films!

  10. Roger, Marni Nixon is an icon to me and my best friend, John. Can’t tell you how many nights we spent crooning show tunes and talking about Marni, the unsung heroine of Hollywood musicals. The suburban kids, gay boy and fruit fly, passed the time that way for years.

    Funny story: When John was at our house, we were sitting with my mom watching “My Fair Lady” on TV. Mom: “Who the hell is singing? I know it’s not Audrey Hepburn, but I can’t place the voice.”
    John: “I don’t know, but she sounds like a Puerto Rican nun.”
    God, I still chuckle at that one. Amy

  11. I never even ever heard of her…too bad she didn’t get all of the credit for her voice.

  12. I’ll look out for her the next time I watch The Sound of Music. I didn’t know the Andrew Gold connection.

  13. May be they should make a musical and have her appear as main character. I recently Facebook connected with two main characters of a musical when I was young.

  14. I love all those 3 classic movies, but didn’t realize that the singing voices of the lead actresses were dubbed by Marni Nixon. It’s especially sad that she was not given any credit, which makes Milli Vanilli lip sinking scandal not look as serious. Anyway, I guess if you have the “right look” you can get away with anything, which is very sad in my mind.

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