Six Film Musicals Featuring
 Actors Who Can’t Sing

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 19, 2012

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Peter Bogdanovich's 1975 film, "At Long Last Love."

Paint Your Wagon (1969): Commanding vocalists have never been a prerequisite for movie musicals; neither Fred Astaire nor Gene Kelly had a powerful voice, but the light songs they crooned didn’t require one. The sprawling, mega-budgeted musicals of the ‘60s often had the same problem as the ones of today: Marquee value trumps vocal prowess. Natalie Wood (West Side Story) and Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady) were dubbed. Rex Harrison (ditto) and Richard Harris (Camelot) spoke-sung. Walter Matthau kept stum in Hello Dolly! And then there’s Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon. You can hear Eastwood’s masculinity disappearing as he weakly warbles “I Talk to the Trees,” while Marvin’s “Wandrin’ Star” sounds like a 45 played at 33. 

At Long Last Love (1975): I’ve previously defended Peter Bogdanovich’s notorious career-killer: a light, unpretentious ‘30s-style musical whose numbers are performed “live.” But some charges are correct: Burt Reynolds really oughtn’t be doing what he does to Cole Porter.

Everyone Says I Love You (1996): The gimmick of Woody Allen’s musical is that everyday people try to sing old standards. Which is to say some of them can’t, most glaringly Woody himself. (Drew Barrymore is the only one not game. She’s dubbed by an awkwardly good singer.) Edward Norton’s got some pipes, though.

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008): At 64 numbers in 98 minutes, this horror-rock opera holds the record for most songs in a musical. Alas, among those singing them are Paris Hilton, Paul Sorvino and Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects). Plus Sarah Brightman, whose presence I guess is a joke.

Mamma Mia (2008): Amanda Seyfried can sing (as in the below entry). Christine Baranski can sing. Meryl Streep is OK for a non-singer. Colin Firth can’t sing. Stellan Skarsgård can’t sing. Pierce Brosnan sounds like a dying walrus as he massacres ABBA’s “S.O.S.”

Les Misérables (2012): Can you hear the people sing? Yes, and they can’t. Or rather some of them can: Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks kill “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own,” respectively. But Russell Crowe is a disastrous Javert, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s fuck-up of “Master of the House” robs the movie of one of the show’s few non-tragic numbers.

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