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Show Boat - Ava Gardner 's own voice -- Bill

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Published on Mar 2, 2013

Here's Ava's own vocal track - she was dubbed by Annette Warren in the released film.

From "Ava: My Story"

"Now, I can sing. I do not expect to be taken for Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald, or Lena Home, but I can carry a tune well enough for the likes of Artie Shaw to feel safe offering to put me in front of his orchestra. But since Julie's two songs, "Bill" and "Can't Help Loving That Man," are so beloved by everyone, I decided to work as hard as I could to fit the bill. I even found this marvelous teacher, who'd worked with both Lena and Dorothy Dandridge, and we slaved away for several weeks and produced a test record of those two songs.

Then, rather nervously, I took my life into my hands and gave the record to Arthur Freed himself, God Almighty of musical productions. I don't think the son of a bitch ever even listened to it He just put it on a shelf and delivered the usual studio ultimatum: "Now, listen, Ava, you can't sing and you're among professional singers." So that settled that one.

Or did it? Because the singer they'd chosen to dub my singing had a high, rather tiny voice, totally inappropriate when it was paired with my own speaking voice. The studio spent thousands and thousands of dollars and used the full MGM orchestra trying to get this poor girl right. I mean, there was nothing wrong with her in the first place, except for the obvious fact that she wasn't me.

Finally, they got Annette Warren, this gal who used to do a lot of my singing off-screen, and they substituted her voice for mine. So my Southern twang suddenly stops talking and her soprano starts singing - hell, what a mess.

When it came to the album version of the movie, things got even worse. Being a great fan of Lena's, I had copied her phrasing, note for note, on my test record. So they took my record imitating Lena and put earphones on her so she could sing the songs copying me copying her.

But Metro soon found out that they couldn't legally release the album with my name and image, as they called it, without my voice being part of the package. So then I used earphones to try to record my voice over her voice, which had been recorded over my voice imitating her. I did it note for note, they wiped Lena's voice off the album, and the record was a success. That's the way they worked in those days. And I still get goddamn royalties on the thing!"

From Hugh Fordin's book "The World Of Entertainment!":

Ava had made up her mind to sing her two numbers herself: no dubbing. Both songs, Can't Help Lovin' That Man" and "Bill," not only require a voice but vocal skill of a high degree. Coaching her, Fdens knew from the very start that his efforts were in vain. Accompanying her at the piano, he recorded a test which turned out to be pale, thin and tentative. He decided to audition voice doubles: Marni Nixon, Anita Ellis, Carole Richards and Annette Warren. He found Warren's singing voice best suited as a match for Gardner's speaking voice.

When it came to the prerecordings Gardner still insisted on singing the songs herself. As a precaution a set of tracks was also made by Warren.

After a couple of weeks of screening the two scenes for a number of in- and outsiders, Annette Warren was called back to rerecord the songs, now to Gardner's lip-synch. What ensued until after the production had closed was a kind of a parlor game. Warren's tracks were in; Warren's tracks were out. Gardner's tracks were in, and then they were out; and so on and so forth, depending on the comment of whoever had seen the sequences last.

Before starting the dubbing of the picture, vocal director Lela Simone asked music director Roger Edens "And who is singing?" The answer was a not very enthusiasic: "Ava."

The picture was previewed on March 22, 1951. The one change that was made afterward was that Gardner's voice was out and Warren's voice was in. At the second preview on April 3, the change had a very noticeable and positive effect on the audience.

When Simone asked and Jesse Kaye discussed the forthcoming soundtrack album he felt that for reasons of exploitation and sale Ava Gardner's name on the cover would be an added plus. Simone took great pains in the dubbing of Gardner's tracks, backing up her voice with the accompmaniments to make her sound more palatable.

Show Boat cost $2,295,429 and grossed in excess of $8,650,000.
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  • Category

  • Movie

  • Song

  • Artist

    • Ava Gardner
  • Album

    • Show Boat-O.S.T.
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • WMG (on behalf of Rhino); Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing, PEDL, UBEM, ASCAP, and 2 Music Rights Societies

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