The Vox Project

Presenting, a new and exciting, if somewhat mythical, Shadowplay Project.

For a while I was fascinated by Marina Vlady in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. Well, actually I still am. But when I saw La Vlady in Godard’s TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER, something seemed different. The voice, of course. Welles was happy to use Jeanne Moreau’s own hoarse, sexy tones for her characterisation of Doll Tearsheet (with the logic that, since the British were always fighting the French, and armies have camp followers, there would be a lot of French tottie knocking around Merrie England) but Vlady plays the lady wife of Henry Hotspur, and had to sound plummily English.

So, somebody else provided the voice, and for once Welles couldn’t do it himself (I imagine he’s responsible for Fernando Rey’s and possibly Walter Chiari’s dubbing in this film). The question that vexes me is, who?

The throaty vibrato has a slight air of Fenella Fielding about it, and this is lent weight by the fact that we know Fielding has done a spot of revoicing in her time: she dubbed Anita Pallenberg as the Black Queen in BARBARELLA. But this voice isn’t quite AS extreme. I’m thinking Joan Greenwood, who perhaps is more Shakespearian.

But I don’t know! And it frustrates me.

Nor do I know for sure if that’s the voice of TV comedy legend Richard Briers issuing from beneath the mustache of Jean-Pierre Cassel in Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS. It sure sounds like him (and Briers had worked with Raquel Welch in FATHOM) but it could conceivably be Ian Carmichael. But neither one has any certain connection with Lester. (NB — the IMDb confirms Briers as the voice artist responsible.) Nonetheless, I am morally certain that’s Michael Hordern providing vocals for the captain of the musketeers, played externally by Georges Wilson.

Lester’s films are full of overdubs — the Greek chorus narrating THE KNACK… AND HOW TO GET IT certainly seems to include Dandy Nichols, who appears briefly, and Arthur Lowe, who doesn’t. Both would later perform in THE BED SITTING ROOM.

Fellini’s English language movies contain similar mysteries: in CASANOVA that’s certainly Robert Stephen’s uniquely fluctuating fruitiness emanating from the aristo who hosts a shagging contest in his court. Which makes me suspect that at least one of the crystal-sharp lady’s voices in the film stems from his significant other, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW’s Patricia Quinn. Several of them sound like her.

Film history is full of anonymous voices whispering slyly from the lips of faces famous and infamous and unfamous. And the few people who know the truth aren’t getting any younger. So, without any resources or any free time to devote to the problem, I’m nevertheless launching the Vox Project. All I want is for anyone who knows anything about famous dubs to let me know so I can put it on the record. It would be particularly interesting to hear from people in the industry with direct knowledge of this. Let’s not let this important and sexy information disappear from history.

Spread the word!


52 Responses to “The Vox Project”

  1. Not a Famous dub this, but I’m currently working with an actor who claims very bashfullly to have provided the growl for Penelope Cruz in Nine (although he swore me to secrecy about this so shush, internet).

  2. On the subject of dubbing, and while it’s not really a famous dub, I’m surprised there isn’t a little more written about Robert Rietty. His voice turned up everywhere when I was a kid.

    “I’ll buy you a delicatessen…!!!”

  3. Fuller’s ”Run of the Arrow” – Angie Dickinson dubs Sarita Montiel.

    Welles is notorious or infamous for the fact that he would overdub people personally by impersonating their voices. In The Trial he overdubbed Michel Lonsdale’s priest and other people and some of Tony Perkins’ dialogues. When Perkins was told about it he said he couldn’t tell the difference. For Touch of Evil one of thugs was having trouble with his lines, Welles told him to mouth numbers, he’d do the rest.

  4. It doesn’t sould like Fenella Fielding dubbing Marina Vlady. Fenella’s voice is deeper and more sultry. Edith Evans, perhaps?

    By the way, does anyone have a copy of Film Comment for January/February? They did an end-of-decade critics’ poll of best films of the decade. I don’t have a copy, but would be interested to hear what Mark Cousins picked as his films of the decade.

  5. They put Mulholland Dr. at number one. I like that film but it’s not number one for me…I’d put Yi Yi and among American films, Gangs of New York or Elephant.

  6. Most interesting ananymous voice in recent days: John Hamm in A Single Man. He’s the voice on the other end of the line who tells Colin Firth not only that his (Firht’s) lover Mattthew Goode has been killed in a car accident, but that he’s not invited to the funeral.

  7. Another notable voice-dub: Angela Lansbury for Ingrid Thulin in Minnelli’s The Fouur Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

  8. david wingrove Says:

    A few of my favourite voxes…

    When not starring in films of his own, Giancarlo Giannini is known for dubbing the Italian voices of foreign actors – notably Helmut Berger in LUDWIG and Julian Sands in NIGHT SUN. That may explain why both Helmut and Julian enjoy a reputation in Italy that eludes them elsewhere!

    Although the gorgeous Swedish actress Ingrid Thulin spoke fluent English (with a sultry accent to boot) her role as a glamorous French seductress in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (the 1961 Minnelli version) was dubbed by – wait for it – Angela Lansbury.

    Believe it or not, many famous Italian stars have never used their own voice. Both Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigidia were dubbed in Italy throughout their careers, because their voices were considered too ‘low class’ for their image. When Sophia insisted on using her own voice in a TV commercial, it caused mass hilarity and the ad was quickly withdrawn.

    Finally, and I still don’t know if this is true or not, but some sources say that Lauren Bacall’s singing in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT was dubbed by Andy Williams. Ironically, once her movie career faded, Lauren became a star all over again in Broadway musicals.

  9. david wingrove Says:

    David E – great minds obviously think alike! You beat me to it with Ingrid and Angela.

    By the way, Marina Vlady is a simply stupendous actress (THE CONJUGAL BED, TWO OR THREE THINGS, BORDELLO) who deserves to be much better known.

  10. Arthur, I agree with you about Yi Yi, but I prefer Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s sublime “Three Times”.

  11. Three Times:

  12. Continuing the musical theme, here’s the trailer for one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in a long time:

  13. And speaking of Gerard. . .

  14. David Boxwell Says:

    Perhaps Vlady was dubbed by Miss Marni Nixon.

    Or Mel Blanc.

  15. In Germany, the guy who dubs Tom Cruise into also dubs Tom Hanks.

    I don’t know if he dubs any other famous Toms, or even if there are any other famous Toms.

    Tom Sizemore?

  16. Anita Pallenberg sounds suspiciously like Joan Greenwood here —

  17. Some sites I found…
    is an Italian-language dubbing database, which I have a hard time figuring out.
    is for German. I learned that the same guy dubbed Bowie in “Man Who Fell To Earth”, Jeff Goldblum in “California Split” and Truffaut in “Close Encounters”. This one is fun to browse.

  18. Oh wow, one guy is the German voice of Rex Harrison, David Niven, Maurice Chevalier, Vincent Price, James Mason, Max von Sydow, Fernando Rey, Henry Fonda and Peter Cushing. Imagine losing all those voices all at once.

  19. Edgar Ulmer’s daughter was the Italian voice of Elke Sommer, I know that much. I ought to ask her for info, she was also married to the guy who produced the dubbing on Warning from Space.

    Fenella Fielding is like Joan Greenwood to the power of ten, huskiness-wise. She revoiced Pallenberg.

    In the French dub of Branagh’s Henry V, Depardieu revoiced King Hal.

    That’s fascinating re Thulin-Lansbury. I’m most interested in cases where the only “authentic” soundtrack of the film contains celebrity dubbing, as with Pallenberg-Fielding.

    Somebody once told me who dubbed Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, during the scenes where he’s undercover in a kilt, but I’ve forgotten.

    I’ve heard the story about Andy Williams dubbing Lauren Bacall and I very much want it to be true.

  20. David Boxwell Says:

    I have heard that the Bacall-Williams story is legend. And untrue. Also: she was dubbed by a guy named Andy Russell. Also untrue.

    She did her own singing in THAHN. After a LOT of vocal coaching, LB dropped her natural voice a full octave.

    Rita Hayworth NEVER did her own singing, by contrast. Anita Ellis was her usual singing voice.

  21. Let’s not forget Jack Hawkins…impressively dubbed by Charles Gray in 1968’s bizarro western Shalako! You can tell it’s a dub job, but Gray did an excellent job of mimicking Hawkins.

  22. Ah, good one. I think Gray dubbed Hawkins in everything after JH lost his voice to cancer. “I just wish some bright spark would invent silent movies.”

  23. The same Italian was employed to dub both De Niro and Pacino, so I don’t know what he did for “Heat”. I thought it was whatsisface Inspector Wexford who dubbed Lazenby. Don’t they have a scene where he shows up to be “imitated”?

  24. Strange thing is I’d more believe the Andy Russell story than the Andy Williams one. I’d listened to Andy Williams a lot as a kid (it was inevitable, considering how much he was on), and when I heard Lauren’s singing, I immediately didn’t believe the story, even though I’d heard it from multiple sources.

  25. And yes, I’d heard Andy Russell sing, too. Too recently to make a good comparison to the singing voice in THAHN, which I haven’t seen in five years or so. He’s a crooner like Williams. Still believe it was LB.

  26. There’s a fellow named Ray Hagen whose specialty is collecting information about dubbers (mostly musical). Here’s s link to a page of his listing information:

    Here’s what he has said, at a Yahoo club I belong to, about the Bacall/Williams rumor:

    “For the umpteenth time, that was Bacall’s own voice. Williams, then an unknown singer doing dubbing work in Hollywood, was hired by director Howard Hawks to record the songs because he couldn’t find a female singer with a low enough voice, but when Bacall began singing along with the playback he found that he liked her voice better, so he scrapped Williams’ recordings and she did the songs herself. She also sang for herself in ‘The Big Sleep.’ This has been stated and confirmed by (1) Howard Hawks, (2) head of the WB Music Department Ray Heindorf, and (3) Bacall. Williams recorded the song but it was never used, whatever he thinks. Will this story never die?”


    On a completely different subject: I’m certain that the same voice was used for both Claudia Cardinale in “Once Upon A Time In The West” and Giovanni Ralli in Sergio Corbucci’s “The Mercenary.” Not that I know who it is, alas, but I’ve spent a *lot* of time with the Leone and one television viewing of the Corbucci had me absolutely certain, no doubts whatsoever, that it was the same voice.

    If you’ll listen to Cardinale’s U.S. films of the ’60s — “Blindfold,” say — you’ll notice that her voice is a lot raspier than what we hear in the Leone. The Leone voice, which I like, sound like she’s spent a lot of time with Phoebe Dinsmore:

  27. Worst example of post-dubbing I’d heard in a film was in Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses. They stuck the dubbed version on VHS, which I had. It’s like I was in another world, listening to Leaud, Lonsdale, Jade all have voices that were so different, they were alienating. There was even a bit of unintended hilarity, in that they changed Delphine Seyrig’s nationality, which made his little Berlitz course scene even stranger as they showed the album cover, which was for learning English, exactly what he was speaking through the film.

  28. Randy Cook Says:

    Well, Paul Frees’ voice seemed to be everywhere in the 50’s thru the 80’s…his most covert job (for awhile) being the Tony Curtis “Jopsephine” in “Some Like it Hot”. That one was finally ‘fessed-up to 10 or 15 years ago, but Frees’ distinctive timbre gave it away, to me, anyhow, long before that.

    I’d swear that he dubbed the old Arab who Jackson Bentley accosts after the intermission in LAWRENCE, but if it’s indeed he, nobody’s admitted it

    So ubiquitous was Frees’ voice, propping-up mute bit players, that he occasionally played several characters in the same scene, conversing with himself (“Rodan”, maybe?). Ubiquitous and OBVIOUS: when I went to see a revival of “The Thing” in the ’70’s, Frees had a role in it, and after the screening my companion asked “Why was that one character DUBBED the whole time?”

    Peter Sellers famously dubbed Alfonso Bedoya in “The Black Rose”, because the desired effect was an oriental Alfonso Bedoya, which Bedoya couldn’t achieve himself. Dubbed a line or two of Bogart in “Beat the Devil”, supposedly…Bogart DOES sound a little unlike Bogart for a moment, on a beach as I recall.

    These are all pretty well documented, of course; I will see if I can come up with something more obscure…

  29. Randy Cook Says:

    Oh, David E…How about “Good Morning”? I recently read that Gene dubbed Debbie’s TAPS in that one.

  30. David, thanks for Gérard and Barbara (Monique Cerf) I’m very fond of them both. My favourite Barbara:

  31. Kathleen Freeman the diction coach in Singin’ in the rain looks like Peggy Mount.

    I watched Clint Eastwood’s Blood Work last night. Very enjoyable and relaxing. It’s a nice change from all the worthy stuff. Let go and let Clint, so to say.

  32. Peter Sellers also did the parrots’ voices in The Ladykillers.

    Raquel Welch’s cavewoman sounds were judged too American in One Million Years BC, so somebody dubbed them. No idea who.

    Britt Ekland’s Scottish accent is dubbed in The Wicker Man, I’ve heard by Annie Ross.

    Stephane Audran is outrageously dubbed in the only version I’ve seen of Chabrol’s Canadian-set Blood Relatives. A really cheap-sounding American accent, despite the fact that Donald Pleasence appears in the film doing a French accent, and that was considered acceptable. WHY?

    As stated earlier, David Jason dubs Ronnie Barker (or most of him — the voice seems to vary) in Robin and Marian.

    I like Claudia’s raspy voice, but the American one in OUATITW is very pleasing too.

  33. david wingrove Says:

    On the subject of Claudia Cardinale and dubbing…like so many stars, she did not use her own voice in Italian films. Or not initially, at any rate.

    This was not for the same reason as Loren and Lollobrigida – whose voices were considered too ‘low class’. Claudia was an educated young lady, and even trained as a school teacher.

    But although she is of Italian origin, Claudia Cardinale grew up in Tunisia and her first language is actually French. So in order to play an Italian girl for an Italian audience, she had to be dubbed. That was the only way to mask her ‘foreign’ accent!

  34. That makes sense, in a screwy kind of way. So naturally Blake Edwards cast her as an Indian princess…

  35. david wingrove Says:

    I’d forgotten that Claudia was supposed to be Indian in THE PINK PANTHER. Blake Edwards has a fetish for embarrassing racial impersonations – Mickey Rooney as a Japanese in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, Peter Sellers as a Bollywood actor in THE PARTY.

    Of course, when I saw PINK PANTHER I was an impressionable 12-year-old with eyes only for Capucine. That lovely lady never tried to impersonate anyone or anything – except, on very occasions, an actress.

  36. Well Claudia doesn’t remotely try to sound Indian, which is a relief. Rooney’s turn is one of the very few bits of acting I actually find offensive in itself.

  37. jason hyde Says:

    About Lazenby’s voice while in the kilt in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. He was dubbed by George Baker, who played the character that Bond was masquerading as. It really doesn’t make sense either, because, if I recall correctly, he’s only corresponded with Blofeld and therefore Blofeld wouldn’t know what he sounds like anyway. And everything I’ve read said that Lazenby pretty much nailed Baker’s voice, but they dubbed it anyway. They should’ve flown Orson Welles in to do the job, for the heck of it.

  38. It seems like an obvious one, but how about the “dubbing” of Anny Ondra by Joan Barry in the sound version of Hitchcock’s Blackmail? Ondra was already cast when they decided to produce a sound version of the film, but her Czech accent for too strong for the Cockerney Sparra she was meant to be playing, so Barry stood off camera and read the lines while Ondra mimed along.

  39. One for the nerds – when Princess Leia visits Jabba the Hutt’s palace disguised as a bounty hunter in Return of the Jedi, her voice is dubbed by Pat Welsh, who was probably best known as one of the main voices for E.T.

    Ben Burtt created E.T.’s voice from a composite of people and animals: “I created the voice for E.T. out of many different things, about 18 different people and animals and sound effects. There are racoons in there, there are sea otters, there are some horses, there’s a burp from my old cinema professor from USC (University of Southern California). There’s my wife’s laboured breathing asleep at night with a cold.”

  40. …and Debra Winger, right?

    Just learned from Mike Hodges the name of the actor who dubbed some of Sam Jones’ lines in Flash Gordon, but I’ve forgotten it. And Rich Little did David Niven in Trail of the Pink Panther, after Niven had lost his voice to cancer.

  41. Yes, Debra Winger. And Glenn Close dubbed Andie MacDowell in Greystoke.

    Crikey – even the Internet doesn’t know the know of the Flash Gordon voice actor. You should try hard to remember it. Then tell us all. We’ll remember it for you…

  42. “Know the know”? Sounds a bit Dr. Seuss. I meant “know the name”, of course…

  43. Peter Marinker:
    The voice of Flash Gordon, some of the time.

  44. What a fascinating c.v. he has! And IMDB has a nice bit of trivia about him:

    “(1981) Narrated “Flash Gordon: The Lion Men of Mongo” by Alex Raymond for Pickwick Talking Books’ audio range.”

    That’s a giveaway!

  45. Didn’t Jeanne Moreau substitute for Mercedes McCambridge in performing the demonic voice for the French dub of The Exorcist?

  46. She should’ve! but I’m not sure. McCambridge in that movie and James Earl Jones in Star Wars are probably the most celebrated cases of dubbing.

    Just quizzed Mike Hodges about the English-language version of And the Ship Sails On, which he supervised for Fellini. The British actors like Freddie Jones did their own voices, but alas he couldn’t remember who dubbed Pina Bausch’s few lines.

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