The Secret Dubbing of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady

Audrey Hepburn is a justly beloved star, but when the producers of My Fair Lady passed over Julie Andrews for the role of Eliza Doolittle, they created a problem for themselves: Hepburn just wasn’t in Andrews’ league as a singer. Their solution was to turn to Marni Nixon, the magnificent soprano who had previously provided uncredited singing help to other big Hollywood stars.

The difference is night and day. Here’s Audrey in her own voice:

Here she is dubbed by Nixon:

“Audrey as wonderful singer” became part of her legend (not that she was a bad singer, but certainly no Nixon), but only for viewers who did not know of the dubbing. Multiple readers of this post report that they DID know of the dubbing of the time and some diligent angels dug up this 1964 Time Magazine article revealing to the general public that Nixon was the singer.

Nixon got no credit in the film. Not incidentally, only late in his life did Jeremy Brett, who played Freddy, acknowledge that he didn’t do his own singing either.

Was the studio’s deception ethical? Does the fact that it failed to fool many filmgoers make it better or worse, or does it not matter? Hollywood has always dealt in myth-making about stars, though today it’s more often done with uncredited stand-ins during nude scenes than through dubbed singing. I am not aware of Nixon ever publicly expressing any resentment about the arrangement, though what she feels in private moments only she knows. In any event, she certainly hit it out of the park as a singer in this and a number of other films for which she received no on screen credit.

UPDATE: Thanks very much to readers who responded to this post with information of which I was ignorant. I have rewritten it to reflect your contributions, and my agent will be in touch with you to arrange for your share of the royalties!