Marni Nixon (born February 22, 1930) is an American soprano renowned for being a playback singer for featured actresses in well known movie musicals. This has earned her the sobriquet “The Ghostess with the Mostess”, and also “The Voice of Hollywood”. She has also spent much of her career performing in concerts with major symphony orchestras around the world and in operas and musicals throughout the United States.
Marni Nixon behind the voice of Natalie Wood in “West Side Story.”
From “Mary Poppins”
Born Margaret McEathron in Altadena, California, Nixon began singing at an early age in choruses. At the age of 14, she became part of the newly formed Los Angeles Concert Youth Chorus – whose other members included a 13-year-old Marilyn Horne and a 19-year-old Paul Salamunovich, among many others – under famed conductor Roger Wagner; this choir evolved into the Roger Wagner Chorale in 1948, and later into the Los Angeles Master Chorale in 1964.
She went on to study singing and opera with Carl Ebert, Jan Popper, Boris Goldovsky and Sarah Caldwell. She embarked on a varied career, involving film and musical comedy as well as opera and concerts. She appeared extensively on American television, dubbed the singing voices of film actresses in The King and I, West Side Story and My Fair Lady, and acted in several commercial stage ventures. Her light, flexible, wide-ranging soprano and uncanny accuracy and musicianship have made her valuable in more classical ventures, and have contributed to her success in works by Anton Webern, Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, Paul Hindemith and Alexander Goehr, many of which she has recorded.
Marni Nixon Interview
Singing for Margaret O’Brien in 1949
both Blonde and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Violetta in La traviata, the title role in La Périchole and Philine in Mignon. Her opera credits include performances at Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Tanglewood Festival among others. In addition to giving recitals, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra among others. She taught at the California Institute of Arts from 1969–1971 and joined the faculty of the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, in 1980 where she taught for many years.
On “To Tell The Truth”
“Hello Young Lovers” from “The King and I”
“Show Me” from “My Fair Lady”
Nixon’s dubbing career includes:
- The voices of the angels heard by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc (1948)
- The singing voice for Margaret O’Brien in The Secret Garden (1949)
- Providing Marilyn Monroe with a few top notes in her performance of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
- An eerie vocalise (wordless vocal) as part of George Antheil‘s score for Dementia (1955)
- The singing voice for Deborah Kerr in the film of Rodgers & Hammerstein‘s The King and I (1956) (in one song — “Shall I tell you what I think of you?” — Kerr’s and Nixon’s voices were skillfully intertwined; this was deleted from the film before its release, but it was retained on the soundtrack cast recording; Deborah Kerr also provides the spoken words at the beginning of “Getting to know you”).
- Dubbing Deborah Kerr’s singing voice again in An Affair to Remember, one year after dubbing her in The King and I
- The singing voice for Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story (1961). Nixon also sang some parts of the score of Anita played by Rita Moreno, sharing the load with co-dubber Betty Wand and Moreno herself. In parts of the quintet setting of the song “Tonight”, she sings both Maria and Anita’s lines, according to her autobiography.
- The singing voice for Audrey Hepburn as Eliza in My Fair Lady (1964). In the finished film, the only remaining singing vocals by Audrey Hepburn herself is a section of the song Just You Wait, one line in the song I Could Have Danced All Night, “Sleep, sleep, I couldn’t sleep tonight”, and Just You Wait (reprise).
Except for Dementia, in which she received on-screen credit as “Featured Voice”, the credits for her many dubbing roles did not appear on the titles of any of the films, and Nixon did not begin to be fully credited or widely acknowledged until the movies’ subsequent release on VHS decades later.
The Sound of Music
Nixon appeared on screen singing for herself as Sister Sophia in the film The Sound of Music, cast in the role by director Robert Wise. In the DVD commentary to the film, he comments that audiences were finally able to see the woman whose voice they knew so well.
When Hollywood musicals gave her less work, she started to perform on stage, as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady and as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she hosted a children’s television show in Seattle on KOMO-TV channel 4 called Boomerang. In 2001, she replaced Joan Roberts as Heidi Schiller in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. In 2003, she returned to Broadway as a replacement in role of Guido’s mother in the revival of Nine.
In March 2007 she was involved in a concert version of My Fair Lady, in which she performed the non-singing role of Mrs. Higgins, Professor Higgins’s mother.
One of her three husbands, Ernest Gold, composed the theme song to the movie Exodus. They had three children together, one of whom is the singer and songwriter Andrew Gold (“Lonely Boy” and “Thank You For Being a Friend”).
On October 27, 2008, Marni Nixon was presented with the Singer Symposium’s Distinguished Artist Award in New York City.
Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com
Quick Bio Facts:
AKA Margaret Nixon McEathron
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Voice of Hollywood
Husband: Ernest Gold (film composer, m. 1950, div. 1969, one son, two daughters)
Son: Andrew Gold (singer/songwriter, b. 2-Aug-1951)
Daughter: Martha Carr (b. 1954)
Daughter: Melanie Gold (b. 1962)
Husband: Lajos Frederick Fenster (m. 23-Jul-1971, div. 31-Jul-1975)
Husband: Albert Block (m. 1983)