As I read a recent Seattle Times review of the traveling production, My Fair Lady, the name Marni Nixon “jumped out” at me. The former Seattlite was playing the non-singing role of Higgins’ mother. What a surprise, she’s still active, I thought. A long time admirer of hers, I wondered what would it be like to dub the singing for famous actresses and never be acknowledged? I then turned to Google and learned that she had been in Seattle in 2006 for signings and a concert related to her book, I Could Have Sung All Night. How did I miss that!
As co-author with Stephen Cole, she has written an engaging account of her childhood, her working relationships with composers and conductors like Bernstein and Stravinsky, her three marriages, and especially her dubbing, or what she terms “ghost singing”. Of particular interest, the chapter “Deborah and I,” recalls the process of learning to sing like Deborah Kerr. In fact the two of them observed each other’s breathing and phrasing and “shadowed” each other.
Nixon persevered in overcoming the mantle of a perfectionist mother, just to be herself. Her journey to recognition and eventually joy in performing and teaching makes for an absorbing read.
Some of her recordings at Seattle Public Library that are sure to please:
West Side Story: Original Soundtrack Recording with vocals by Marni Nixon
My Fair lady: Original Soundtrack Recording, Marni Nixon singing the film role of Audrey Hepburn