Sunday, 27 January 2008

Secret voices

In a more gracious age, for which I was sadly born too late, persons of distinction visiting a restaurant, hotel or place of entertainment would expect to be greeted and generally looked after by the proprietor or other big cheese in person. I realised how gratifying this must have been—though no doubt it was taken for granted by knights of the realm and above—when it happened to me at a cinema the other day.

I had never been to this one before; it had three screens and popcorn but was other ways a little different from the usual. The General Manager's name was up on a board by the ticket office but somehow the place gave the impression that it was privately owned. Anyway, my wife and grand-daughter had stopped off for some clothes-browsing while I went ahead, and after I had to bought the tickets I was accosted courteously by a man who asked me which film I was going to see and engaged me in conversation; I had the feeling that I was being officially welcomed by the owner, and when the others arrived I somehow felt the occasion called for formal introductions: "Anne, this is Mr Galloway...", I said, and we all shook hands and had an agreeable chat. All very civilised, not the sort of thing you expect at a multiplex.

One of the things we discussed was the way in which those who supply voices are no longer anonymous; who remembers who sang and spoke for Snow White, or the name of the elderly gent whose high tenor wished upon a star? But the poster for Bee Movie announced that Jerry Seinfeld and and Renée Zellweger were "starring" in it, and the Shrek movies promote the names of all the celebrities who provided the voices.

This doesn't extend to all the highly talented singers who warble on behalf of real actors, perhaps because the stars demand discretion about the the names of those who sang while the actors moved their lips. So let us raise a glass to a few of the invisible singers of the past, of whom I had never heard until I looked them up:

Marni Nixon sang for Deborah Kerr in The King and I
LaVerne Hutcherson sang for Harry Belafonte in Carmen Jones
Danielle Licari sang for Catherine Deneuve in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg
Musical Director Johnny Green's daughter Kathy sang for Mark Lester in Oliver! Twenty years later Green amusingly revealed the story of how this came about.

...but Laurence Olivier sang (rather nicely) as well as acted the part of Captain MacHeath in The Beggar's Opera.

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