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.
Deborah Kerr in The King and I worked hand in hand with Nixon, dovetailing spoken intros with song, and annoyed 20th Century Fox by spilling the beans soon after the film’s release. Mitzi Gaynor in South Pacific was the only principal character singing all her own songs: everyone else was dubbed, including Rossano Brazzi, ghosted by opera singer Giorgio Tozzi (known as “Hotzi Totzi”) and the character of Stew Pot, whose deep-down bass notes made Ken Clark famous on screen but were sung by Thurl Ravenscroft, the basso profundo behind Tony the Tiger in the Frosties ads.
In other words, the musicals that ran off with the big prizes were effectively double cast: and for the most part, the real singers had a grand time and a puny income. “We were paid weekly. Very weakly,” recalls India Adams, one of the musicians who finally broke cover and went on the road with an act that included some of the great numbers covered and colourful reminiscences. The King and I cost $4.5m to make and took $23m at the box office. Marni Nixon was paid $420. On West Side Story, she struck a deal with composer Leonard Bernstein, who gave her 0.25 per cent of his income from the film, a precedent that changed conditions for the other ghosts for ever.
Natalie Wood turned up at the premiere of 'West Side Story' to find every number of hers ghosted!!!!!
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