Marni Nixon, Hollywood’s ‘invisible voice’, has died at 86

Tributes have been paid to the soprano who dubbed the voices of Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe, who has died aged 86. Marni Nixon’s voice could be heard in some of the biggest movie musicals of the Golden Age, as she dubbed Natalie in West Side Story, Audrey in My Fair Lady and Deborah Kerr in The King And I. She also performed the high notes on Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend for Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The American singer was referred to as “The ghostess with the mostest” and in 2012 won the George Peabody Award for outstanding contributions to American music.

The anonymity didn’t bother me until I sang Natalie Wood’s songs in West Side Story. Then I saw how important my singing was to the picture. I was giving my talent, and somebody else was taking the credit.

Marni Nixon, speaking in 1967

Her agent told the Press Association: “She passed away peacefully, with her family by her side, of breast cancer.” Before her death she worked as a singing teacher in New York, offering master classes and private lessons. In 1981, she told the New York Times: “It got so I’d lent my voice to so many others that I felt it no longer belonged to me. It was eerie; I had lost part of myself.” She won four Emmys for best actress for her children’s TV show Boomerang.