Classically trained singers like Betty Noyes, Betty Wand, and Marni Nixon made careers out of singing for some of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, including Audrey Hepburn and Leslie Caron. One of the greatest movie musicals, West Side Story, dubbed three of its leads—Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, and Rita Moreno—because their voices weren’t trained for the operatic score. The film was better for it. (Russ Tamblyn and George Chakiris, whose singing was not dubbed, had less challenging vocal parts.) Similarly, the men behind Singin’ in the Rain, a movie partly about dubbing in the movies, had no problem dubbing Debbie Reynolds for a couple of songs. The King and I, Gigi, and My Fair Lady are other prominent musicals that used dubbing without shame.Everything in those old movies was more "false," but within n comprehensive environment of falseness, it made sense. It's false that people are singing at all. There's falseness to any stage show. But in a stage show, the actors are really singing, not lip-synching. I'd rather not watch lip-synching, whether it's the actor's own voice or not.
Anyway, the new move "Les Miserables" has the actors singing, not lip-synching to their own or somebody else's vocals. Some people are annoyed by the low-quality singing, and I don't know how bad it is. I think my taste is for real actors singing, but I doubt if I'll see this movie. (I have seen the stage show.) My problem isn't the way actors sing. It's the way actors act. I don't know exactly why, but over the years, I grew less and less interested in seeing human beings pretend to be characters, and at some point, I started to find it actively annoying. I especially dislike long, tight closeups — as if every mediocre actor should be treated like Falconetti in "The Passion of Joan of Arc."
Actually, I can pinpoint the beginning of my awareness of this annoyance: a particular film that came out in 1997. Once you let yourself see that maybe you don't like something that you've assumed you love — people love movies — then all sorts of distracting perceptions disrupt your pleasure. The end stage is: You anticipate these disruptions and become so averse to them that you resist the experience altogether. The question becomes: Why should you spend time at the movies? Time is precious. The default position is: No.