Remembering Marni Nixon

Ghost singer Marni Nixon looking at sheet music

Marni Nixon reading sheet music

Marni Nixon recently passed away due to breast cancer. Marni Nixon is the vocalist that can be heard in My Fair Lady filling in for Audrey Hepburn. She also filled in for Deborah Kerr in The King And I.

Nixon, whose full name was Margaret Nixon McEathron, was conceived in 1930 in California. As a kid, she sang in a professional chorus before concentrating on becoming a classical soprano. However, MGM offered her a job sharpening the vocals of built up stars after discovering her skill of dubbing other people’s songs.

She provided the singing voice of child actress Margaret O’Brien in the late 1940s.  This was most notable in the 1949 release of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

In 1953, Nixon played out the high notes that Marilyn Monroe was not able to hit in Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend, a song in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Then came a major assignment in 1956.  She sang with Deborah Kerr on the musical The King and I. Kerr went on to receive an Oscar for best performer.

Nixon went on to provide the singing voices of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady in 1964, and Natalie Wood in West Side Story in 1961. Both movies won Oscars for best picture.

Although Nixon didn’t receive credit for her work, it was not as big of a secret as you might think. A 1964 article in Time magazine depicted her as “the ghostess with the mostest.”

Nixon acknowledged Hepburn for understanding that she needed to accept that her singing wasn’t exactly what it ought to be, yet that “Wood’s ego couldn’t take that.”

During this time, Nixon secured small parts on screen, such as covering for one of the nuns in The Sound of Music.

Nixon began teaching singing at the California Institute of Arts, then later at the Music Academy of the West. She taught while performing intermittent film work, including a vocal credit as Grandmother Fa in Disney’s Mulan in 1998.

In the 2000’s, Nixon took roles on Broadway in remakes of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and Maury Yeston’s Nine. She published an autobiography in 2006 called I Could Have Sung All Night.

Marni Nixon married three times, the most recent being with musician Albert Block, who passed away in 2015. She leaves behind three kids she had with her first husband, soundtrack writer Ernest Gold.

Marni Nixon