In 1967 I finally achieved something I had been trying to get for many years, singing (or "dubbing", or "ghosting") for an actor in a major movie musical. I had missed out for "South Pacific" in 1958, "West Side Story" in '61, and "Sound of Music" in '65. It was almost always Bill Lee, our baritone in the Mellomen, who was getting them! He certainly deserved most of them, for he had a marvelous rich bass-baritone voice, and great reputation. And it didn't hurt Bill to have been in the industry since the early 50's, several years before me.

 

I didn't mind losing out to Jimmy Bryant for "West Side". We were the last two singers considered for the part of Tony. He got it, and he deserved it. The voice matchup was perfect, and the music was written a little too high for me, anyway. In "The sound of Music", Bill got to sing for Christopher Plummer, and here again, he was as perfect match for the part. The one I wanted, and I believe I should have received, was singing for John Kerr in "South Pacific". The year before, in 1956, I had "dubbed" for John in "Tea and Sympathy" -- just a few bars of "The Joys of Love" -- so I thought I had a pretty good shot at singing for him in "South Pacific". But as usual Bill got the role, and I had lost the first of a string of three major movies.

 

But I FINALLY got the "big one" when I sang for Franco Nero (as Lancelot) in "Camelot". I won out over many voices, including Bill Lee(!), and was thrilled when Ken Darby (vocal coach on the movie), chose me for the role. Our voice matchup was perfect, and I got a chance to sing one of my favorite songs, "If Ever I Would Leave You". As a bonus, I had the great pleasure of working closely with Ken and Alfred Newman, my all-time favorite film composer. It doesn't get much better than that!!


The year 1973 is worth mentioning....it started out with great promise for me.....Burt Bachrach had decided I would be the right voice to dub for Peter Finch, who was portraying Robert Conway, in a film remake of the old classic, Lost Horizon, starring Ronald Colman....it was destined to be another monster hit for Burt and Hal David---but turned out to be anything but!!....the filming had been completed, and dubbing voices were being chosen for the stars who needed them---- and Peter certainly needed one.....Burt had written a very moving soliloquy for Peter, "If I Could Go Back", and Burt thought I was right for the part.....but, unfortunately, the director, Charles Jarrot (who, like Peter was English) didn't think I had the correct accent down, and convinced Burt to use another singer....so, again as had happened to me several times in the past,  I lost out on a great role....naturally I was  again very disappointed with the decision----but, as sometimes happens, the loss of the part ultimately turned out in my favor.....first off the movie was a "bomb"....most of the critics hated it for many reasons:(1).....they didn't like the music --- personally I thought they were wrong; (2).....making a bad musical out of a classic movie---a bad idea!;  (3)...bad casting, other than maybe Peter......and whatever else they could come up with.....and on top of this, Burt and Hal got into some serious disagreements during the making of the film, which effectively broke up a partnership that had been so successful for so many years....I did have a chance to sing in the chorus that was used for the film, but this was not what I had hoped for....I was not too happy at this point----until Burt asked me to go on an extended concert road trip singing the very solo I didn't get a chance to sing in the movie!.....so for the next year or so, I traveled with Burt along with a full orchestra and chorus to several states including Hawaii, enjoying the trip immensely, receiving great receptions along the way----and as an added bonus, making a great deal more money than I would have made had I done the solo for the movie!....strange, the way things work out!....

  

So, here I am in 2007...hey, I've skipped ahead over 30 years!!... But it's not that there hasn't been much happening during this period...just nothing that can top  the "Anita Kerr Singers", "Camelot", “The Oscar’s” and “The Mellos”....but, wait a minute... I've forgotten to mention our Grammy Award nominated group, "The LA Voices (with Supersax)”, "The Sonny and Cher Show", "The Osmond’s Show"," The Judy Garland Show", “The Julie Andrews Show”, working with Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Perry Como, Nat Cole, Mel Torme, Jack Jones, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Liza Minelli, Bill Conti, John Williams, Steve Martin, Eddie Fisher, Jimmy Durante, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Merv Griffin, Andy Williams, George Goebel, Natalie Cole, Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, Buddy Rich, Harry James, Michael Jackson---hey, you name ‘em---most likely,  I’ve worked with them!!!


       


            -Mario Gino Merlino

 

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