Great singing in the clip above, huh? Well, that’s probably why Audrey Hepburndidn’t get a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for My Fair Lady. (See previous “Biggest Oscar Snubs”: Steven Spielberg shocked when bypassed for Jaws.)
Audrey Hepburn’s landing the role of Eliza Doolittle in Warner Bros.’ 1964 film version of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady sparked a major outcry because many were adamant that Eliza belonged to Julie Andrews, who had played it onstage. Jack Warner, however, felt that Andrews’ stage-star wattage wouldn’t necessarily translate into movie-star box office drawing power.
Understandably, Warner believed his $17-million (approx. $120 million today) megaproject needed a top Hollywood star to attract lots of butts to fill lots of movie-theater seats, especially considering that Rex Harrison (instead of Warner’s first choice, Cary Grant), who had played the role of Prof. Henry Higgins onstage, was hardly a major box office draw.
“The criticism heaped upon Jack Warner for bypassing Julie,” wrote columnist Sheilah Graham, “has been like nothing I can remember in my years of reporting.” Time magazine, for one, remarked, “There is an evil and rampantly lunatic force at loose in the world and it must be destroyed.” Andrews, for her part, told reporters, “I can’t wait to see it. I know I’ll cry so hard I’ll blot my eyes out.”
Audrey Hepburn was reportedly hurt by the naysayers. Adding insult to injury, her voice – much to Hepburn’s dismay – was deemed below par. Enter Marni Nixon to provide Eliza’s singing. And that’s the voice you hear in the clip above.
Rubbing salt on the insulted injury, at the time of the Oscar 1964 announcements Hepburn was left nominationless despite the fact that My Fair Lady – which turned out to be a major box office hit – received 12 nods, including Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor), Best Actor (Harrison), Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Holloway), and Best Supporting Actress (Gladys Cooper).
Yet, despite much carping about the dubbing, Hepburn’s reviews had been generally positive. “The happiest thing about [My Fair Lady],” wrote Bosley Crowther in the New York Times, “is that Audrey Hepburn superbly justifies the decision of Jack Warner to get her to play the title role.”
Julie Andrews, nominated for Disney’s blockbuster Mary Poppins (photo) – the year’s box office champ – concurred: “I think Audrey should have been nominated. I’m very sorry she wasn’t.”
It gets worse: Squeezing liquid hot pepper on Hepburn’s salted, insulted injury, the Academy gave My Fair Lady eight Oscars and chose none other than Julie Andrews as the Best Actress of the year.
Years later, Audrey Hepburn said she had initially refused the role of Eliza, telling Warner Bros. that it should go to Andrews. Hepburn eventually relented when she was told that the role would then go to another movie star. Other sources, however, claim that Hepburn wanted Eliza even before it was offered her.
Audrey Hepburn received a total of five Oscar nominations: William Wyler’s Roman Holiday (1953), Billy Wilder’s Sabrina (1954), Fred Zinnemann’s The Nun’s Story (1959), Blake Edwards’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), and Terence Young’s Wait Until Dark (1967). She won for Roman Holiday. Julie Andrews, for her part, would receive two other Oscar nods: for Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965), an even bigger hit than Mary Poppins, and for another Blake Edwards effort, the gender-bending comedy musical Victor Victoria (1982).
And here are five performers who didn’t have any trouble getting Oscar nominations despite having had their singing voices dubbed: Deborah Kerr (courtesy of Marni Nixon) for The King and I (1956), Peggy Wood for The Sound of Music (1965), Jessica Lange for Sweet Dreams (1985), Penélope Cruz for Volver (2006), and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose.
Julie Andrews quotes: Inside Oscar by Mason Wiley and Damien Bona.