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Dubbed Actors that Needed No Dubbing


LonesomePolecat
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It's one thing to dub someone who has a terrible voice (which I wish they still did these days), but it's irritating and yet hilarious when fantastic singers have been dubbed in movies.

 

For example, Angela Lansbury in THE HARVEY GIRLS. Angela Lansbury of all people! Why are we dubbing a Tony Award winner for, oh let me think, musicals? True she wasn't a winner at the time, but hilarious.

 

Another one that puzzles me is Danny Elfman dubbing Chris Sarandon in NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Sorry, Danny, but those of us who saw LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA on PBS can tell you Chris is a way better singer than you. Now, in that case, Danny is the composer, so it's possibly Chris was hired to match Danny who might have insisted on doing all the singing. But either way, weird.

 

Any dubbing instances confuse you?

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Well a famous one was the dubbing of Dennis Morgan in The Zigfield Follies. But there was a sound reason (at least from the studio's POV). The actual singer had released the song as a single but he wasn't much of an actor.

 

So it wasn't that Morgan didn't have the chops to sing the song (that would of been folly of course).

 

With Lansbury and The Harvey Girls I assume there was some reason. Sometimes studio bosses didn't make actors too 'big' because then they would demand more money. So dubbing an actor that can sing could be a way showing who was boss?

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When *A&E* did a biography of Ava Gardner they included a clip of her from *Showboat* singing Can't help Loving That Man of Mine in her own voice rather than the dubbed one used in the film. She was shafted as her voice was pleasant and convincing. Sometimes less than perfect but with sincerity beats perfectly phrased lyrics and nailed notes without it.

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I was going to mention Ava in "Show Boat" too. Rather sad - she recorded all the songs, and was lead to believe they were using her vocals, but Hollywood being Hollywood, the decision was made to dub. She got some revenge however. Her recordings were released as singles at the time and became hit records, which must have confused moviegoers at the time who were hearing her version on the radio and a completely different sound at the movies. Since Ava's versions must be out there I wish some enterprising soul would get MGM ( or whomever owns Show Boat nowadays) to put Ava's voice back. I, for one, would buy a new DVD of the movie for that realization. I think Wouldbestar's assessment of Ava's singing is spot on.

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I seem to recall hearing Ava's tracks for SHOW BOAT and, yeah, what was wrong with them?

 

Also, I remembered that Russ Tamblyn was dubbed for WEST SIDE STORY-- weird. What was wrong with his voice? Or so special about the other guy's voice? And why dub Rita Moreno for "A Boy Like That"? Someone was a little dub-happy back then!

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They dubbed RITA MORENO? THAT makes NO sense!

 

I've mentioned here before that one of the dumbest dubbing jobs was done in a movie called "Bugsy Malone". Paul Williams, the movie's song composer, provided the singing voices for many of the kids, along with a couple of other adult singers. Williams, to his credit, thought it was sorta dumb, too. But he admits he may have been partly responsible by telling director Allen Parker that he didn't want squeaky kids voices flubbing up the songs. Williams really meant that as a way to get kid actors that could sing halfways decent to be cast, and Parker took it the wrong way.

 

At any rate, it was dumb dubbing all the same.

 

Sepiatone

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Well generally kids are not very good actors (i.e. the pool of available good child actors is small), so it might have been difficult to find good child actors with even halfway decent singing voices.

 

For all we know IF the director had decided to do what Williams wanted we might be saying something to the effect of 'those kids sing well but they can't act'!

 

What I find interesting about the story here is that at least we understand the basic reason for dubbing (even if one disagrees with the reason).

 

That is mainly what I would like to understand on a per film basis; why did the studio (producer, director, studio bosses), decide that singing should be dubbed? What did they feel was gained by doing so?

 

Take the My Fair Lady example with Audrey Hepburn. IF she really could have done the singing 'good enough', what was gained by having Nixon sing in her place?

 

I assume Hepburn would have been paid the same amount regardless of if she sang or NOT. They had to pay Nixon something, therefore it cost the studio more to have Nixon sing UNLESS the director felt that with Hepburn singing it would increase the number of takes (this can be the case with non-professional singers) and therefore increase the total production cost.

 

I only point out the above as a possible reason for making a decision that one its surface might appear to be illogical.

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The strangest thing, James, in your MY FAIR LADY example is that some suit would think it either fiscally or artistically sound to dub Hepburn's voice, yet leave alone Rex Harrison's non-singing. I imagine there WAS a musical melody to the songs Harrison does, and even though I might not like it, I'd still like to hear what they would have sounded like had a singer done them.

 

Sepiatone

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I think Dennis Morgan's voice was replaced by Allan Jones' in THE GREAT ZIEGFELD because of a key change in the song "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" when the final medley was being assembled. Morgan was a high tenor and they needed a baritone tenor to re-record the vocal track.

 

Another notable too-bad-they-dubbed him was Jack Haley in WAKE UP AND LIVE. Now, true, Haley was no dream-crooner as the "phantom troubadour" was supposed to be, but he was a fine singer as his other Fox musicals of the period clearly demonstrated. Buddy Clark replaced Haley at the mike.

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Jeez! Was anyone in West Side Story NOT dubbed? I had no idea about Moreno and Tamblyn. Personally I think Beymer almost ruins that movie - hard to believe an APPROPRIATE actor who could actually sing could not be found..Squeaky clean Tony seems to have stepped out of a church choir or an episode of "Ozzie and Harriet" - he could be one of Ricky's buddies!) Tough ex gang member indeed! I wonder who made the Beymer decision and who the rejected finalists were. (Anyone know?) Also while i'm on a rant, I usually like Natalie Wood, but her accent seems over the top - but I could be wrong on that. Anyone more informed know? Chakiris is great and deserved his recognition, but I thought Tamblyn was underrecognized - one of the best performances in the movie.

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How about actors who are dubbed in non-singing parts?

 

Memory tells me that Alexander Knox's voice was dubbed in You Only Live Twice when he played the U.S. President. What, he didn't sound "American" enough?

 

That hadn't stopped them from allowing him to use his own voice years before when he had played Woodrow Wilson.

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I understand that Dana Andrews's singing was dubbed in State Fair even though he was alleged to have a beautiful singing voice. Supposedly he kept quiet about this when the film was in production because he didn't want the guy (whoever he was) who was doing the singing to lose the job. Now THAT'S a nice actor!

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>In "My Fair Lady", Audrey Hepburn's singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon. I heard the original cut and there was nothing wrong with her voice.<

 

I saw a documentary on this. Audrey thought her voice was to be used in the film. And they showed a scene with her singing. It wasn't very good at all. Even off key at times.

 

And you have to remember, there were those already upset that Julie Andrews ,who made that part famous on stage, didn't get the role. So Audrey was in effect competing with Julie and in singing, there was no contest. Why do you think they kept the fact that Marnie Nixon was singing so secret. That was very important in those days.

 

Rex Harrison simply refused to lip synch. So they hid a microphone in his clothing and he sang the songs as he walked around the set in the scenes.

 

There actually was a time when whether an actor could sing really mattered lol

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