SECRET VOICES OF HOLLYWOOD BBC FILM DOCUMENTARY
In many of Hollywood's greatest movie musicals the stars did not sing their own songs. This documentary pulls back the curtain to reveal the secret world of the 'ghost singers' who provided the vocals, the screen legends who were dubbed and the classic movies in which the songs were ghosted.
West Side Story, Oliver!, The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Singing in the Rain, My Fair Lady, some of the most famous musicals of the 20th century, but all of them shared the same secret…
They all secretly used ghost singers to replace the voices of some of their stars on many of the best known songs. Playback singers were used to dub actors’ voices since the talkies began as studios didn’t want audiences to know their stars weren’t flawless. These ‘Hollywood Ghosts’ have often gone unaccredited, quickly forgotten and paid only a tiny fraction of the money made by the stars they dubbed for their incredible, iconic performances. This documentary will draw back the curtain and unveil the secret singers the studios and stars of the silver screen have tried to hide for decades.
Playback singers, their families and industry experts give fist hand accounts of ghosting in the greatest ever musicals. Marni Nixon, one of the most prolific playback singers in history, describes how she was threatened that if she revealed she had dubbed Deborah Kerr in The King and I she “would never work in this town again”. Most ironic of all, when Singin’ in the Rain was released in 1952 (supposedly celebrating ghost singers) the studio brought in a ghost called Betty Noyes to sing for Debbie Reynolds on one song.
Screen goddess Rita Hayworth’s vocals were provided by a number of vocalists in all of her different films, whilst Marylin Monroe was dubbed for the top notes in her performance of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend. Natalie Wood was kept in the dark about the dubbing on all her songs in West Side Story, apparently only realising it wasn’t her voice at the premiere. The show also reveals how the dubbing of Audrey Hepburn’s voice in My Fair Lady caused controversy at the time and the extraordinary story of the real voice behind Oliver Twist in Oliver!
Finally we see how the expectations we have of our stars have changed. Recent movie musicals such as Moulin Rouge!, Chicago and Mama Mia! have celebrated the imperfect singing voices of the stars. The narrative comes full circle with Tom Hooper’s movie of Les Miserables. Hooper not only rejected ghost singing, but refused to use playback at all. All the singing was done live on set, for the first time since 1929.
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