Where have the ‘singing actors’ gone?
Where have all the “singing actors” gone? Dick Haymes was among the very best, because of his romantic, velvety voice. He sang “Speak Low,” the theme song of the Ava Gardner starrer, “One Touch of Venus.”
Dick was a top singer in the late ’30s and took over the reign of musical stars like Dick Powell, who stopped singing when he decided to pursue a career in directing. “Trying-hard” actors attempted to sing when screen musicals were in vogue—among them Clark Gable and James Stewart, whose tenor singing voice was acceptable. Robert Montgomery also sang, albeit self-consciously.
Peter Lawford later revealed that his friend, Elizabeth Taylor, was dubbed by a professional singer in a musical role, because the actress had no time for voice lessons! Taylor, Gardner, Hayworth and Cyd Charisse didn’t have the vocal chops of Jane Powell, Kathryn Grayson and Debbie Reynolds.
Gardner wanted to sing for the remake of “Show Boat,” but her vocals were replaced by a professional singer after she recorded for the film score, despite the fact that Lena Horne felt that she passed muster.
Jean Harlow was dubbed, but her co-star, Cary Grant, fared very well at singing. At the time, the kings of musicals were Al Jolson, Danny Thomas and Jimmy Durante. Dennis Morgan appeared in several musicals (“A Pretty Girl Is Like A Memory”) before he decided to dabble in action flicks.
At the height of the popularity of musicals, almost every actor in Tinseltown sang. Opera stars like Rise Stevens and Lily Pons were imported to satisfy the musical requirements of “Going My Way.”
The musical genre became more popular when Shirley Jones and Gordon McRae turned “Oklahoma” and “Carousel” into box-office hits!
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