NATALIE WOOD SECRET SORROW

Published on: December 25, 2011
Photography by: MoviePix/Getty Images
NATALIE WOOD SECRET SORROW

The NATALIE WOOD “WEST SIDE STORY” heartbreaker you’ll never forget!

Natalie, who played Maria in the classic film about the modern day Romeo and Juliet, thought she would be singing her own songs but when she went to the premiere, she was in for a rude awakening.

Like most film musicals, the songs were pre-recorded and the actors lip synced while filming so they could concentrate on their performances.

And since Natalie was the only big name star in the film her contract stated her singing voice would be in the final film AND director Robert Wise never told her until the opening world premiere in 1961.

When Natalie struggled with the challenging soprano sections role her voice was blended with Marni Nixon's on the pre-recorded track.  Natalie sang the lower portions and Marni provided the higher vocals, and filming was lensed with Wood acting and mouthing the mixed vocal recordings.

And Natalie wasn’t alone in having her own singing track removed  or mixed – Nixon redubbed the singing for Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady” and her vocals were mixed with Marilyn Monroe’s on “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” .

But unlike Natalie, Audrey Hepburn knew from the start of production her voice was going to be completely re-dubbed.

“Natalie was clueless that not one single note of her singing was to remain in the finished film,” a film historian recalled. “Just moments before the curtain rose, the director took her aside and told her.

“Natalie was initially crushed and could have sued the production for breach of contract but didn’t.  Natalie thought it would be best for the sake of the film’s success to keep mum.”

 Despite Natalie’s personal disappointment, “West Side Story” won 10 Academy Awards in its eleven nominated categories, including Best Picture and has remained an enduring film classic.