'Ghost' Soprano Marni Nixon, Who Voiced Blockbuster Musicals, Dies At 86

Kerr had no qualms about being dubbed and wanted Marni in on ever bit of her rehearsals, so that the "voice" would match the acting intentions, and the protagonist Mrs. Anna would be played, both spoken and singing, with one voice made by two artist. She played Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 My Fair Lady revival, and more recently was seen in James Joyce's "The Dead" (2000), Follies (2001) and Nine (2003).

Her big break came when she she filled in for Marilyn Manroe on some of the high notes in Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.

It was Kerr who revealed Nixon had dubbed her singing, in an interview with columnist Earl Wilson. In 2008, she received the Distinguished Artist Award from New York's Singer Symposium. Not only did Marni dub whole songs, she was called in to handle the tricky parts for only modestly talented singers.

She went on to what would become her best known work, the voice behind Deborah Kerr for the film version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I, and then dubbing again for Kerr in An Affair to Remember. Soon thereafter she appeared alongside original Eliza, Julie Andrews, as a nun in The Sound of Music; she's Sister Sophia who sings in "Maria" about how Maria "waltzes on her way to Mass and whistles on the stair".

Nixon, who was considered Hollywood's most famous "ghost voice", has died in NY, aged 86, after losing a battle with breast cancer.

"In the case of Audrey Hepburn, she was very smart and could say, 'I know this is not good enough, I want to keep trying myself, ' but she had to accept that it wasn't quite what it should be", Nixon told the Washington Post. Starring actress Natalie Wood believed she would be doing most of the performing herself, but Nixon's voice was dubbed in for virtually all of the singing.

Deborah Kerr might have been one of the best actresses of Hollywood's golden era, but she couldn't sing. Kerr knew this and worked hard with Nixon to make sure that her on-screen performance matched the performance Nixon gave on the recording.

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After My Fair Lady, according to NPR, Nixon did get some wider recognition via Time magazine, who found out about the voiceover work.

She was born February 22, 1930, in Altadena, Calif. By the time she was 4, her family discovered that she had the rare gift of "perfect pitch" and started her on violin lessons.

Sherlock star Amanda Abbington wrote: "This is sad, she had a joyous voice", while West End actress Rebecca Lock said: "Oh wow...god bless". A chance encounter with MGM composer Bronislau Kaper led to her first "ghost-singing" assignment, for child star Margaret O'Brien in 1949's "The Secret Garden".

A message on the National Association of Teachers of Singing (Nats) Facebook page said: "We are deeply saddened to share that Nats member and dear friend Marni Nixon died today".

In her later career, Nixon lent her voice to the Disney film Mulan, and also toured on stage in Cabaret, Romeo & Juliet and in regional stage productions of The King and I and The Sound of Music.

Her second marriage, to Lajos Frederick Fenster, ended in divorce, and her third husband, Albert Block, died a year ago.

Nixon is survived by two sisters, two daughters, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. "But she always seems to be in trouble, doesn't she?"

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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