All she wants is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air!


You'll never guess who I get to see this Saturday. No really, you'll never guess.

Marni Nixon!

You might not have ever seen her, but I bet at some point in your life (perhaps in your wicked childhood...get it?) you've heard her!

No wait, you've definitely seen her if you've seen the greatest cinematic achievement ever created:

Marni played Sister Sophia, one of the sweeter nuns (second from the left):

But you've also heard her in these other musicals:

My Fair Lady (1964), The King and I (1956), West Side Story (1961), and Mulan (1998).

Though Audrey Hepburn has a sweet voice (See the classic "Moon River" in Breakfast at Tiffany's), her role in the film was no match for Julie Andrew's stage mastering of the Lerner and Loewe My Fair Lady score. So they brought in Marni Nixon to sing her character's songs.

I confess that I grew up listening to the record and CD that featured Julie Andrews, but it wasn't until my adult years that I realized it was a different person singing in the movie. They both had the same Henry Higgins, the amazing Rex Harrison (picture of Julie with Rex). Julie was totally snubbed for the film Eliza, a role that would have been her big screen debut. Fortunately she got hers by winning Best Actress in Disney's Mary Poppins the same year My Fair Lady won best picture.

Maybe that helped things be less awkward between Julie and Marni when they made The Sound of Music (1965) together. Apparently Julie sought her out and shook her hand and saying, “I like your work.”The My Fair Lady dubbing was hardly the first time non-singers have been cast and sung for in musical movies. I remember hearing that Rosalind Russell's recorded vocals were absolutely terrible when she was cast as Mama Rose in Gypsy (1962). Naturally someone was brought in to cover the songs, yet Ethel Merman--the original Mama Rose--was able to get her hands on the Rosalind recordings and would listen to them whenever she felt bad she didn't get the role.

Right, back to Marni. My Fair Lady was not her first dubbing job. In fact she did the Maria's vocals for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr's for The King and I, and Magaret O'Brien's in The Secret Garden (1949). 33 years after The Sound of Music she sang the voice of Grandmother Fa in Mulan.

And wonders of wonders, miracles of miracles she's playing a mother again! This time in Camerson Mackintosh's production of My Fair Lady that is currently playing at the Paramount. She plays Henry Higgins' mother, and while it has no singing bits its still a meaty role. As she said in the New York Times: “I’d love to have a song in the show,” Ms. Nixon said during an interview in her West End Avenue apartment in New York. “I’d love to be able to call up Alan Jay Lerner and Fritz Loewe and say, ‘Please, can you add something called ‘Mrs. Higgins’s Lament?’ But it isn’t going to happen, of course.” Seeing her will be the worth the whole ticket!

Marni even played Eliza herself in a 1960s revival:

And I get to learn even more about her when my latest amazon order has arrived:


MLight said...

How interesting! I knew about the other movies, but I didn't know she voiced the Grandmother in Mulan. I'll have to check out her autobiography.

Maryann said...

You might be the only person who reads my blog who finds this post interesting, and I thank you for it. :)

Yeah! I'm hoping that the book is full of good musicals trivia!

Janelle said...

my fair lady is great! megan and i saw it last tuesday, and i had no idea marni nixon was in it until we looked at the program. enjoy!

Maryann said...

Oh yay, Janelle! I'm glad you two liked it. I'm nervous that it 'won't compare' to the movie. I remember I couldn't stand the stage version of 'Sound of Music,' so here's hoping I can love this one!