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Ghost singer for the stars

Ghost singer for the stars

Feb. 13, 1962: Marni Nixon is a singing ghost whose voice is used for stars in movies.

This smoke-filled portrait by staff photographer Frank Q. Brown was published in the Feb. 25, 1962 Los Angeles Times. Writer Charles E. Davis Jr.’s accompanying story reported:

Hollywood’s ghosts are rattling in their closets.

They’ve been heard – now they want to be known.

You’ve heard them in many film musicals. the latest of which are “West Side Story” and “Flower Drum Song.”

Which brings up the case of Marni Nixon.

A disc jockey was interviewing an actress on his program recently and he thought Marni Nixon had done the singing for Natalie Wood in “West Side Story.”

“My, God, a man!” exclaimed the actress.

The jockey was right. Marni Nixon was the singing voice for Natalie Wood in “West Side Story.”

But the actress was wrong. Marni Nixon is not a man. She is a lovely, gracious woman and she has a soprano voice that delights even the most demanding of music critics.

In “West Side Story,” Miss Nixon’s voice was also used for that of Rita Moreno. In the same scene she sang for Miss Wood. Sound track juggling made it possible for Miss Nixon to sing a duet all by herself. …

Miss Nixon, who in private life is the wife of composer Ernest Gold, believes that if the role is important, the ghost singer should get a screen credit.

“The hairdressers get credit, so why not the voices?” she wonders. …

At the age of 10 she won first prize for singing at the Pomona Fair and was heard over a nationwide radio network. She was working as a messenger girl at MGM when somebody at the studio discovered she had a voice.

Her first ghost job was at MGM in 1949 when her singing was dubbed for Margaret O’Brien in “The Secret Garden.”

In 1950, Miss Nixon sang for Jeanne Crain in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” made at Paramount, and in 1953 she was Ida Lupino’s singing voice in “Jennifer,” an Allied Artists picture.

She has been a singing ghost twice for Deborah Kerr in 20th Century-Fox pictures in “The King and I,” in 1956 and in “An Affair to Remember” in 1957. …

Miss Nixon is such an accomplished operatic and concert stage performer that she could leave the ghost world behind her if she wanted to. …

Marni Nixon did just that. She went on to numerous acting and singing roles in film, television, and plays off and on Broadway.

Photo at right, Sept. 9, 1965: Singer Marni Nixon, after a long career as a dubbing artist in the film industry, is trying it on her own in Broadway productions and personal appearances. This photo was published in the Sept. 13, 1965 Los Angeles Times. Credit: Larry Sharkey/Los Angeles Times.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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