Bill (an Ordinary Guy)

Here again is Ava Gardner, in her own voice, singing about loving an ordinary guy named Bill. From Show Boat (1951).

I used to dream that I would discover
The perfect lover someday
I knew I’d recognize him if ever
He came ’round my way

I always used to fancy then
He’d be one of the god-like kind of men
With a giant brain and a noble head
Like the heroes bold in the books I’ve read

But along came Bill
Who’s not the type at all
You’d meet him on the street
And never notice him

His form and face
His manly grace
Are not the kind that you
Would find in a statue

And I can’t explain
It’s surely not his brain
That makes me thrill
I love him because he’s wonderful
Because he’s just my Bill

He can’t play golf or tennis or polo
Or sing a solo or row
He isn’t half as handsome
As dozens of men that I know

He isn’t tall or straight or slim
And he dresses far worse than Ted or Jim
And I can’t explain why he should be
Just the one, one man in the world for me

He’s just my Bill an ordinary man
He hasn’t got a thing that I can brag about
And yet to be upon his knee
So comfy and roomy seems natural to me

Oh, I can’t explain
It’s surely not his brain
That makes me thrill
I love him because he’s, I don’t know
Because he’s just my Bill

Although we might prefer Ava Gardner’s own voice on these tracks, audiences at the time apparently preferred Annette Warren’s voice.

Here’s Annette Warren’s voice, in the released movie.

From Hugh Fordin’s book “The World Of Entertainment!”:

Ava had made up her mind to sing her two numbers herself: no dubbing. Both songs, Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” and “Bill,” not only require a voice but vocal skill of a high degree. Coaching her, Fdens knew from the very start that his efforts were in vain. Accompanying her at the piano, he recorded a test which turned out to be pale, thin and tentative. He decided to audition voice doubles: Marni Nixon, Anita Ellis, Carole Richards and Annette Warren. He found Warren’s singing voice best suited as a match for Gardner’s speaking voice.

When it came to the prerecordings Gardner still insisted on singing the songs herself. As a precaution a set of tracks was also made by Warren.

After a couple of weeks of screening the two scenes for a number of in- and outsiders, Annette Warren was called back to rerecord the songs, now to Gardner’s lip-synch. What ensued until after the production had closed was a kind of a parlor game. Warren’s tracks were in; Warren’s tracks were out. Gardner’s tracks were in, and then they were out; and so on and so forth, depending on the comment of whoever had seen the sequences last.

Before starting the dubbing of the picture, vocal director Lela Simone asked music director Roger Edens “And who is singing?” The answer was a not very enthusiasic: “Ava.”

The picture was previewed on March 22, 1951. The one change that was made afterward was that Gardner’s voice was out and Warren’s voice was in. At the second preview on April 3, the change had a very noticeable and positive effect on the audience.

When Simone asked and Jesse Kaye discussed the forthcoming soundtrack album he felt that for reasons of exploitation and sale Ava Gardner’s name on the cover would be an added plus. Simone took great pains in the dubbing of Gardner’s tracks, backing up her voice with the accompmaniments to make her sound more palatable.

Published by proprietor

Happily married, with children.

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