Marni Nixon, Famed 'Hollywood Ghost Singer,' Dies At 86
July 26, 2016 at 3:04 PM (PT)
MARNI NIXON, who did the singing for DEBORAH KERR in “The King and I,” NATALIE WOOD in “West Side Story” and AUDREY HEPBURN in “My Fair Lady.” died on SUNDAY in MANHATTAN at the age of 86 from breast cancer, according to THE NEW YORK TIMES.
NIXON, a CALIFORNIA native, had lived on MANHATTAN's UPPER WEST SIDE, for more than 40 years.
Classically trained, NIXON was the usually uncredited singing voice for the stars in a series of musical adaptations throughout the '50s and ’60s.
Before her film dubbing days and afterward, NIXON was an acclaimed concert singer who appeared as a soloist with the NEW YORKPHILHARMONIC; at CARNEGIE HALL, ALICE TULLY HALL and TOWN HALL in NEW YORK; and as a featured singer on one of LEONARD BERNSTEIN’s televised young people’s concerts.
Even with her indivifdual accomplishments, as late as 1990, long after she had given up her HOLLYWOOD gig to perform on her own, the LOS ANGELES TIMES referred to her as “the best known of the ghost singers.”
When DEBORAH KERR was nominated for an ACADEMY AWARD in 1956 for her role as Anna in “The King and I,: the film’s soundtrack album sold hundreds of thousands of copies. For singing Anna’s part on that album, NIXON recalled, she received a total of $420.
“You always had to sign a contract that nothing would be revealed,” NIXON told the ABC NEWS program “Nightline” in 2007. “Twentieth Century Fox threatened, if anybody ever knows that you did any part of the dubbing for DEBORAH KERR, we’ll see to it that you don’t work in town again.”
NIXON eventually became something of a cult figure, appearing as a guest on “To Tell the Truth” and as an answer to clues featured by “Jeopardy!,” TRIVIAL PURSUIT and at least one NEW YORK TIMES crossword puzzle.
Although the studios seldom accorded NIXON the screen credit and royalties that she began to demand, both became customary for ghost singers. Over time, she came to regard her gift as more curse than blessing.
“It got so I’d lent my voice to so many others that I felt it no longer belonged to me,” she told THE NEW YORK TIMES in 1981. “It was eerie; I had lost part of myself.”
NIXON’s first marriage, to ERNEST GOLD, a film composer who won an OSCAR for the 1960 film “Exodus,” ended in divorce, as did her second, to LAJOS FREDERICK FENSTER. A third husband, ALBERT BLOCK, died in 2015.
Survivors include her daughters from her first marriage, MARTHA CARR and MELANI GOLD FRIEDMAN; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son from her first marriage, ANDREW GOLD, a popular songwriter whose hit “Thank You for Being a Friend” became the theme of the NBC sitcom “The Golden Girls,” died in 2011 at 59.
NIXON continued singing until she was in her 80s, eventually coming to regard her ghost-singing life with affection, performing a one-woman show, “MARNI NIXON: The Voice of HOLLYWOOD,” with which she toured the country for years.
She also wrote a memoir, “I Could Have Sung All Night,” published in 2006, with, ironically, a ghost writer, STEPHEN COLE, whom she credited on the cover and title page.