Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man

Here’s legendary superbabe Ava Gardner (even today people call her the Most Beautiful Woman in the History of Hollywood) singing about loving one man for the rest of her days, from Show Boat (1951).

Ava Gardner was an actress, not a singer, which is why she was dubbed by Annette Warren. But, here is Gardner’s own singing, which is pretty good. Maybe, to our ears today, better.

From “Ava: My Story”

“Now, I can sing. I do not expect to be taken for Maria Callas, Ella Fitzgerald, or Lena Home, but I can carry a tune well enough for the likes of Artie Shaw to feel safe offering to put me in front of his orchestra. But since Julie’s two songs, “Bill” and “Can’t Help Loving That Man,” are so beloved by everyone, I decided to work as hard as I could to fit the bill. I even found this marvelous teacher, who’d worked with both Lena and Dorothy Dandridge, and we slaved away for several weeks and produced a test record of those two songs.

Then, rather nervously, I took my life into my hands and gave the record to Arthur Freed himself, God Almighty of musical productions. I don’t think the son of a bitch ever even listened to it He just put it on a shelf and delivered the usual studio ultimatum: “Now, listen, Ava, you can’t sing and you’re among professional singers.” So that settled that one.

Or did it? Because the singer they’d chosen to dub my singing had a high, rather tiny voice, totally inappropriate when it was paired with my own speaking voice. The studio spent thousands and thousands of dollars and used the full MGM orchestra trying to get this poor girl right. I mean, there was nothing wrong with her in the first place, except for the obvious fact that she wasn’t me.

Finally, they got Annette Warren, this gal who used to do a lot of my singing off-screen, and they substituted her voice for mine. So my Southern twang suddenly stops talking and her soprano starts singing – hell, what a mess.

When it came to the album version of the movie, things got even worse. Being a great fan of Lena’s, I had copied her phrasing, note for note, on my test record. So they took my record imitating Lena and put earphones on her so she could sing the songs copying me copying her.

But Metro soon found out that they couldn’t legally release the album with my name and image, as they called it, without my voice being part of the package. So then I used earphones to try to record my voice over her voice, which had been recorded over my voice imitating her. I did it note for note, they wiped Lena’s voice off the album, and the record was a success. That’s the way they worked in those days. And I still get goddamn royalties on the thing!”

Published by proprietor

Happily married, with children.

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