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Dubbing Voices

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I'm enjoying this course, but I must say I'm confused by Dr. Ament's ongoing comments about actors/actresses whose voices were dubbed.  She made comments about how Eleanor Powell must have had a terrible voice since she had to be dubbed for "Born to Dance."  This is not true.  Eleanor actually recorded with Tommy Dorsey and those recordings are on YouTube and her singing voice is perfectly fine.  Likewise, this week she stated that Ava Gardner had to be "revoiced" for "Show Boat" which infers she could not sing.  Again, not true.  In many cases, directors (or perhaps studio execs) made the decision to dub actresses who had perfectly fine voices.  Here is Ava Garner's original vocal for Show Boat.  You be the judge.  

 

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Not only did she have a very good voice, but her interpretation was as good as I've heard recordings of Helen Morgan who performed the role on Broadway.  Plus, her entire portrayal of the role was memorable, not the least of which was her final, teary-eyed scene as the showboat steams out of the harbor. Memorable indeed. 

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I agree. Being a southerner, her accent in the song is much more believable than the dubbed version by Annette Warren (who BTW, is still with us at the age of 96),

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I don't know how prevalent dubbing has been over the years, but for decades I played the sound track of the movie 'The King and I', thinking I was listening to the beautiful voice of Deborah Kerr.  It was only recently that I found out it was really Marni Nixon's voice.  She also dubbed for Kerr in 'An Affair to Remember', for Audrey Hepburn in 'My Fair Lady', and for Natalie Wood in 'West Side Story'.  According to Wiki, Wood was never even told during production that her voice was being dubbed.  Such a shame Marni Nixon was never given credit at the time... and paid so little.  Marni, I adore you.  

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Gardner has a pleasant voice but she makes rookie mistakes. Her intonation is adequate but she drops the ends of lines, especially when she turns away. Instead of melting away, a line must be "spun" to its very end. A singer can't just peter out. Her tone color is pleasant but she does not have the drama in her voice that the dubbed performer has because of lack of depth.  With these factors, the interpretation is lack-luster and boring. Really owning the part comes from within. One way to relate this is an example from a different context. In 1972, Richard Nixon went to China, ending 25 years of non-communication with that country. On the television broadcast of the state dinner, a Chinese baritone attempted to sing Old Man River. It was technically accurate but lacked soul because the singer did not share the experience of the Black Americans. Paul Robeson (Broadway) and William Warfield (the film) immortalized the song. In films, the singer should be the whole package.

In sum, her notation is accurate but she lacks the finesse to add drama to the performance. She is an actress, not a singer but lacked the polish to "sell" the song. Compare her performance to any with Keel and Grayson and you will see why her voice was dubbed.

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There's one dubbing story I absolutely love:   When Kathy is dubbing for Lina in "Singing In The Rain", that's actually Jean Hagen herself singing.  So basically Jean is dubbing Debbie who is dubbing Jean.

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It seems that when the leads are singing, mostly it's dubbed.  Especially if they're dancers.  Unless they're already well-known singers. 

Here are some montages of dubbed performances (a few are lip synch to existing pop songs).    These are in roughly chronological order, and include some of the films we've seen.   

 

 

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