SHE COULD HAVE SUNG ALL NIGHT
She was the voice of Deborah, Natalie and Audrey. Her lilting soprano delivering “Somewhere,” “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” and “Hello Young Lovers” in the film versions of West Side Story, My Fair Lady and The King and I, respectively.
For her work on The King and I, Nixon was paid $420. She was uncredited.
Famously, but unceremoniously, Marni Nixon was, as TIME called her in 1964, “The Ghostess with the Mostest.”
Nixon dubbed – on mostly uncredited performances – Margaret O’Brien’s singing voice in Big Sky and The Secret Garden, sang for Jeanne Crain in Cheaper by the Dozen, for Ida Lupino in Jennifer, for Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin and dubbed Marilyn Monroe’s high notes on “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.” She even dubbed Rita Moreno’s singing in the “Tonight” quintet from West Side Story (where is this lady’s Oscar®?).
In 1967, Nixon told The New York Times, “The anonymity didn’t bother me until I sang Natalie Wood’s songs in West Side Story. Then I saw how important my singing was to the picture. I was giving my talent, and somebody else was taking the credit.”
Beyond the dubbing booth, Nixon had plenty of impressive credits to name. Born in 1930 in Altadena, Calif., she began playing violin and singing at an early age. She won first prize on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and regularly appeared on his radio and television shows. Nixon made her Broadway debut in 1954 singing in the chorus of The Girl in Pink Tights and made her onscreen film debut as Sister Sophia in the 1965 film The Sound of Music.
Throughout her career, Nixon made concert appearances, specializing in contemporary music as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, and gave recitals at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Town Hall in New York City. Perhaps most impressively, Nixon sang with leading American opera companies performing a repertoire that included Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, both Blonde and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Violetta in La traviata, among others.
Nixon returned to Broadway in 2000 as Aunt Kate in James Joyce’s The Dead and appeared as Heidi Schiller in the 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.
Nixon died in July of 2016. She was 86.