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Entries in Marni Nixon (4)


Marni Nixon (1930-2016)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that Marni Nixon, beloved voice of Hollywood's supersized musicals of the 50s and 60s has died of breast cancer at 86. It was a long and good and musical life, if never celebrated enough by the culture she gave so much to. It had been our long held dream to see her given an Honorary Oscar which must now be a dream unfulfilled. Because I don't have the words today, I thought I'd share a piece I wrote ten years ago on how special Marni Nixon was to me, a baby cinephile growing up with musicals as my favorite form of cinematic bliss.

Marni Nixon is my Kathy Selden
by Nathaniel R 

Toward the end of Singin' in the Rain (1952), which chronicles Hollywood's seismic shift from silent films to sound production, a hilariously dim and screechy movie star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) gets her comeuppance. She has cruelly locked the sweet voiced Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) into a contract to provide her a suitable movie voice. Lamont is after self-preservation: she can't make sound movies with her own unappealing voice, but she also cruelly takes pleasure in preventing Kathy from pursuing stardom. At a live performance Kathy stands behind a curtain, her dreams in tatters, as she sings for Lina. But Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) pulls the curtain on the act in progress, rescuing his new girl from obscurity and dooming his former co-star to a fast fade.

Singin' in the Rain is many things: a true musical masterpiece, a stellar romantic comedy, and the best movie Hollywood ever made about Hollywood (give or take Sunset Blvd). It's a completely absorbing viewing experience but for this: Every time I see it my mind drifts away to Marni Nixon during this particular scene. Kathy's story isn't exactly Marni's. Marni wasn't forced into submission as the silents were dying. But she was the songbird woman behind the curtain for beloved movie musicals and she was born in 1930 as the silents were emitting their death rattle (Hollywood studios had halted silent film production by 1929. Only a few emerged in movie houses of 30s). Marni Nixon was to be a famous voice but not a famous face ...just like the almost-fate of the fictional Kathy Selden.

Click to read more ...


Team Top Ten: Women Who Deserve An Honorary Oscar

Amir here, to bring you this month’s Team Top Ten on a topic that remains one of our biggest collective pet peeves here at The Film Experience.

Every year when the Academy announces the list of recipients of the Honorary Oscar, we can expect only one thing: they will all be men. Sure, the odd woman wins the award here and there, but consider this: between 1993, when the honor was bestowed upon Deborah Kerr, until 2009, when Lauren Bacall shared the award with two men, not a single woman was deemed worthy of the biggest honor AMPAS has to offer. Apologists can point to the fact that men have run the industry at large since its inception. They would be right; the industry as a whole is equally at fault, if not more, but take a look at the list of women still awaiting their first statue – or *gasp* first nomination – and tell me they don’t deserve better than one golden man every sixteen years. If the drought is as depressingly long this time as it was between Kerr and Bacall, it can be 2025 before we see another lady take home an honorary Oscar!

Deborah Kerr in 1993 and Lauren Bacall in 2009 and a great chasm between them

We know all too well that complaining about the Academy’s decision doesn’t get us anywhere, but since we found recently that they do have a listening ear, we’ve decided to do our part and help them correct this injustice. Let’s give voters the benefit of the doubt and assume that all they really needed all these years was a list of suggestions. So, here is ours: the top ten women who most deserve an honorary Oscar, under the following three criteria: they need to be alive, above the age of 55 and Oscar-less.


[tie] 10. Marni Nixon
You may not know what Marni Nixon looks like, but I guarantee you know what she sounds like. If you've seen Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Secret Garden (1949), The King and I, An Affair to Remember, West Side Story, or My Fair Lady, you have heard Nixon's golden voice coming from the mouths of some of Hollywood's most legendary actresses. As if it isn't hard enough work to try to make your voice sound just like someone else's, in some instances Nixon had to do so in secret, the studios wanting to hide the dubbing from their big stars. Nixon's onscreen credits may number only in the single digits (her role as Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music being the most famous by far), but had she actually performed the roles she dubbed onscreen, she would have had at least two Oscar nominations by now. She's an indelible part of film history, and she never received any onscreen credit for her most famous work. If that isn't cause to give someone an Honorary Oscar, then I don't know what is.
-Daniel Bayer

10 more legends to honor after the jump!  

Click to read more ...


Buy a Flower Off a Poor Girl

Another edition of May Flowers is blooming...

abstew here with a look at a film that's so enamored with flowers that beautiful blossoms show up on screen even before the title of the film:

But, the flowers aren't merely decorative... although they are loverly. They line the streets of Covent Garden where the rich come to take in the refined, artistic pleasures of the Opera. And the poor, including our film's heroine, Eliza Doolittle (played by Audrey Hepburn), try to make a decent day's wages by selling the flowers to the visiting elite. The whole series of events that changes Eliza's fate all happens because she tries to sell her violets to one Colonel Pickering (Stanley Holloway). Little does she know that her conversation with the gentleman is being phonetically transcribed by a linguist professor named Henry Higgins (or as Eliza would say, 'Enry 'Iggins and played by Rex Harrison in his Oscar winning performance). Higgins, wondering "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?", makes the case that it is Eliza's Cockney accent that keeps her in the gutter selling flowers. If he taught her how to speak properly he could pass her off as a Duchess at a ball. The next day she takes him up on the offer, wanting to get a job in a flower shop if he can teach her to speak more "genteel".

And thus begins the transformation of this Eliza:

To this Eliza: 

Instead of selling rain-soaked, trodden bunches of violets, she is now bedecked in rosettes made of pink chiffon and surrounded by lilies in a hot house. What a difference some voice lessons can make!

Unfortunately, Audrey's own voice (singing voice, that is) was more flower seller than Duchess. Though she was cast thinking she would do Eliza's singing herself, producer Jack Warner was secretly having Marni Nixon record Eliza's songs. (Nixon was, of course, the singing voice to the stars. She also did Deborah Kerr's in The King and I and Natalie Wood's in West Side Story. Too bad they didn't ask her to step in for Helena Bonham Carter...). The film went on to receive 12 Oscar nominations (and 8 wins, including Best Picture), but no nomination for Audrey.

Who did win Best Actress that year? Oh, just a British actress making her film debut. She just happened to be the original Eliza Doolittle from Broadway. She took the part in Mary Poppins after Jack Warner determined she wasn't a big enough star for his film. For Julie Andrews, I'm sure success never smelled so sweet.


I Could've Linked All Night

Boy Culture shares photos of 25 stars first and last appearances onscreen. Fun randomness. Greta Garbo & Marlene Dietrich transformations are big whoas.
FilmDrunxx has a funny piece on declining Rotten Tomatoes scores (in this case: The Last Stand with Schwarzenegger). Be warned sensitive Steven Spielberg fans: there's a jab at him at the tail end.
Guardian is asking for mocked up movie posters with title casting and soundtrack suggestions for JJ Abrams proposed Lance Armstrong biopic. My guess is their inbox is already full.

Pajiba looks at 20 interesting facts about Joss Whedon and The Avengers -- I'm not sure what brought this on, now, in January but I enjoyed reading it. 
The Sun Benedict Cumberbatch teases his legion of crazed fans by joking about how tight his Star Trek Into Darkness costume is

You can almost see what religion I am." 

CHUD famed poster artist Drew Struzan has been asked about doing posters for the next three Star Wars films. I approve. Weirdly the article refers to Strusan as "the director"... um... the director of his airbrush and cintiq?
Vogue UK has Miucci Prada sketches for The Great Gatsby costumes 

Small Screen
Pajiba b*tch rankings with Downton Abbey
Advocate recommends FBI vs serial killer show The Following which is supposedly slightly gay-ish horror. Doesn't American Horror Story already cover anyone jonezing for that? 

Devil's Advocate
David Edelstein 'why i hate the Oscars'... the piece, though anti-awards, is much richer than the dumb headline
Telegraph 'why I walked out of Les Misérables' it's another attack piece but I'm linking up because there is stuff of note: like voice goddess Marni Nixon's (Sound of Music, West Side Story, My Fair Lady) feelings on live-singing. This piece has further convinced me that people, in general, whether they love musicals or not, have a really hard time dealing with musicals of any kind, being satisfied by them, knowing even what they expect of the form. I'm still not sure why the genre has such difficulties with audiences given the absolute suspension of disbelief afforded every other genre in modern times. The silver lining for the ongoing Les Miz debate for me though is that more and more people seem to be saying 'why can't they just cast great singers and let them sing great songs' which is reductive but correct and also what I've been bitching about for my entire lifetime since I wasn't alive in that mythical time (post-silent cinema - pre Cabaret) when people loved musicals without shame and without so many hard-to-navigate hangups, caveats and ever-mutating conditions.