Audrey Hepburn: celebrated beauty, celebrated humanitarian, celebrated fashion icon— the list could go on and on.
One of the few things Audrey Hepburn was not celebrated for was her singing.
Though she was clearly not a great vocalist, producers didn’t seem to mind.
Look! There she is– singing away in Funny Face, My Fair Lady, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s as if she was the obvious choice for these plum singing roles.
Okay. So she wasn’t always allowed to use her own, slightly warbling singing voice in every movie. She pulled it off in Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but was dubbed by Marni Nixon for the more demanding score presented by Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. (Take a look at the post I wrote about this film’s Academy Award-winning costume designer Cecil Beaton)!
So here’s a question I’ve honestly pondered: if our celebrated Audrey couldn’t really sing, why did she keep showing up in musicals?
For one thing, our girl Audrey could dance! Classically trained, Hepburn was proficient in a myriad of styles and moved with effortless grace. She was also game, trying different experimental moves that won at least my heart because of her bravery!
Audrey was also so charming, and such a good actress, and so very likable on camera, I think people forgave her vocal imperfection. In fact, they seemed to rally behind her vulnerability. When someone is as unspeakably perfect as Audrey, it’s nice to also see a few endearing flaws that give us proof she’s human!
Let’s keep in mind, movie musicals were super popular in the 1950s, when Hepburn was in her heyday. People were fawning over gems like Singin’ in the Rain, A Star is Born, High Society and Gigi. If you were a big star during that era, you wanted to be on screen singing.
Did it really matter whether Audrey could sing as well as Judy Garland? Or Katherine Grayson? Or Jane Powell? Or Ann Miller? When someone is as stunningly gorgeous as Audrey Hepburn was, people are thrilled to see her in ANYTHING. As my grandfather would have said –while squeezing her cheeks, no doubt, “Who wouldn’t lay in the road for that punim?”
It has always given me hope, knowing that Audrey Hepburn, one of our most treasured Hollywood icons, couldn’t sing all that well, and yet got hired again and again for plum roles involving her singing voice. It isn’t schadenfreude. Quite the opposite. It’s given me hope!
You see, I’ve always known there are millions, if not billions of singers who are better, technically than me. Don’t get me wrong — I know I have a good enough voice; a voice that’s gotten me work and garnered me a few fans — but no one has ever wept from my high C.
I’ve learned from people like Hepburn. I’ve always known that my singing voice is only one piece of my performance package. There’s also style and joy … and let’s never ever discount the power of a good dress!!
On what would’ve been Ms. Hepburn’s 85th birthday, I have a question: what qualities do you think make for a true super star singer? Is it just their voice? Who are your favorites? Why? Please please share your thoughts below!