Marni Nixon, following a performance at the Metropolitan Room, New York City, 2009
February 22, 1930 |
|Spouse(s)||Ernest Gold (m. 1950–69)
Lajos Frederick Fenster (m. 1971–75)
Albert Block (m. 1983)
Marni Nixon (born February 22, 1930) is an American soprano and playback singer for featured actresses in movie musicals. She is most famous for dubbing the singing voices of the leading actresses in films, including The King and I, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady.
Nixon's varied career has included, besides her voice work in films, some film roles of her own, television, opera, concerts with major symphony orchestras around the world, musicals on stage throughout the United States and recordings.
Born Margaret Nixon McEathron in Altadena, California, to Charles Nixon and Margaret Elsa (née Wittke) McEathron, Nixon was a child actress and also began singing at an early age in choruses, including performing solos with the Roger Wagner Chorale.
Early films and musicals
Nixon's career on film started in 1948 when she sang the voices of the angels heard by Ingrid Bergman in Joan of Arc (1948). The same year, she did her first dubbing work when she provided Margaret O'Brien's singing voice in 1948's Big City and then 1949's The Secret Garden. She also dubbed Marilyn Monroe's high notes in Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). She appeared on Broadway in 1954 in The Girl in Pink Tights.
In 1956, she worked closely with Deborah Kerr to supply the star's singing voice for the film version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The King and I, and the next year she again worked with Kerr to dub her voice in An Affair to Remember. That year, she also sang for Sophia Loren in Boy on a Dolphin. In 1960, she had an on-screen chorus role in Can-Can. In 1961's West Side Story, the studio kept her work on the film (as the singing voice of Natalie Wood's Maria) a secret from the actress, and Nixon also dubbed Rita Moreno's singing in the film's "Tonight" quintet. She asked the film's producers for, but did not receive, any direct royalties from her work on the film, but Leonard Bernstein contractually gave her 1/4 of one percent of his personal royalties from it. In 1962, she also sang Wood's high notes in Gypsy. For My Fair Lady in 1964, she again worked with the female lead of the film, Audrey Hepburn, to perform the songs of Hepburn's character Eliza. Because of her uncredited dubbing work in these films, Time magazine called her "The Ghostess with the Mostest".
Nixon made a special guest appearance on Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts broadcast that aired April 9, 1961, entitled "Folk Music in the Concert Hall". She sang three "Songs of the Auvergne" by Canteloube. Before My Fair Lady was released in theatres in 1964, Nixon played Eliza in a production at New York City Center. Nixon's first onscreen appearance was as Sister Sophia in the 1965 film The Sound of Music. In the DVD commentary to the film, director Robert Wise comments that audiences were finally able to see the woman whose voice they knew so well. In 1967, she was the singing voice of Princess Serena in a live action and animated version of Jack and the Beanstalk on NBC. Also in the 1960s, Nixon made concert appearances.
Nixon taught at the California Institute of Arts from 1969 to 1971 and joined the faculty of the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, in 1980, where she taught for many years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, she hosted a children's television show in Seattle on KOMO-TV channel 4 called Boomerang, winning four Emmy Awards as best actress, and made numerous other television appearances on variety shows and as a guest star in prime time series. Nixon's opera repertory included Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, both Blonde and Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Violetta in La traviata, the title role in La Périchole and Philine in Mignon. Her opera credits include performances at Los Angeles Opera, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera and the Tanglewood Festival among others. In addition to giving recitals, she appeared as an oratorio and concert soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra among others.
Nixon also toured with Liberace and Victor Borge and in her own cabaret shows. On stage, in 1984, she originated the role of Edna Off-Broadway in Taking My Turn, composed by Gary William Friedman, receiving a nomination for a Drama Desk Award. She also originated the role of Sadie McKibben in Opal (1992), and she had a 1997 film role as Aunt Alice in I Think I Do. Under her own name, beginning in the 1980s, Nixon recorded songs by Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Arnold Schönberg, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland and Anton Webern. She was nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Classical Performance, Vocal Soloist, one for her Schönberg album and one for her Copland album.
In the 1998 Disney film Mulan, Nixon was the singing voice of "Grandmother Fa". She then returned to the stage, touring the US as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret in 1997–1998. In 1999, she originated the role of Mrs. Wilson in the premiere of Ballymore, an opera by Richard Wargo at Skylight Opera Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which was taped for PBS. In regional theatre and Off-Broadway, she played Nurse in Romeo & Juliet and appeared in productions of The King and I and The Sound of Music. She also continued to teach voice and judge vocal competitions.
In 2000, after nearly a half century away, she returned to Broadway as Aunt Kate in James Joyce's The Dead. In 2001, Nixon replaced Joan Roberts as Heidi Schiller in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. She played Eunice Miller in 70, Girls, 70 in a 2002 production in Los Angeles. In 2003, she was again on Broadway as a replacement in role of Guido's mother in the revival of Nine. Her autobiography, I Could Have Sung All Night, was published in 2006. She performed in the 2008 North American Tour of Cameron Mackintosh's U.K. revival of My Fair Lady in the role of Mrs. Higgins.
Family and honors
She married the first of her three husbands, Ernest Gold, who composed the theme song to the movie Exodus, in 1950. They had three children, including singer/songwriter Andrew Gold. They divorced in 1969. She was married to Dr. Lajos "Fritz" Fenster from 1971 to 1975, and then married Albert Block in 1983. On October 27, 2008, Nixon was presented with the Singer Symposium's Distinguished Artist Award in New York City. She is also an Honorary Member of Sigma Alpha Iota International Women's Music Fraternity.
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- Prial, Frank J. (March 6, 2007). "Voice of the Many, but Rarely Herself". New York Times. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- Bargreen, Melonda (November 3, 2006). "From shadows to spotlight: Acclaimed soprano Marni Nixon, 76, writes her memoir". SeattleTimes.NWSource.Com. The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- Miller, Frank. Gypsy, TCM.com, accessed November 24, 2014
- "Hollywood: Instant Voice", Time magazine, February 7, 1964
- Biography of Marni Nixon at curtainup.com
- Bernstein, Leonard. Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. Amadeus Press (1962), pp. 349–350 ISBN 1-57467-102-2
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- "The Singer Symposium 2008 Distinguished Artist Award", Singer Symposium, October 25, 2008, accessed February 20, 2013
- Taking My Turn, Lortel Archives, accessed January 28, 20143
- Jones, Kenneth. "Marni Nixon Warms Up in Milwaukee for Friel-Based Opera Ballymore, Jan. 29–Feb 14", Playbill, January 29, 1999, accessed February 20, 2013
- Hernandez, Ernio (September 15, 2003). "Voice of "My Fair Lady" and " West Side Story" Joins Nine on Broadway, Oct. 7". Playbill. Playbill.Com. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- Zekas, Rita (May 24, 2008). "Eliza Doolittle and love of hats bring actors together". TheStar.Com. Toronto Star. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- "My Fair Lady (Cast Biographies)". Center Theatre Group. 2008. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- Leigh, Spencer (June 8, 2011). "Andrew Gold: Musician and songwriter whose collaborators included Ronstadt, Garfunkel and Cher". The Independent. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
- "Honorary Members". Retrieved 14 February 2013.
- Nixon, Marni, with Cole, Stephen. I Could Have Sung All Night: My Story. New York, Billboard Books. 2006. ISBN 0-8230-8365-9.
- Martin Bernheimer: "Marni Nixon", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed September 22, 2008), (subscription access)
- Official website
- Marni Nixon at the Internet Movie Database
- Marni Nixon at the Internet Broadway Database
- Marni Nixon at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
- Extensive Nixon biography and photos
- Interview with Marni Nixon by Bruce Duffie, June 10, 1987