The Unsung Overdub Star In 'Sound Of Music'

In last week's interview with actor Christopher Plummer, host Scott Simon jokingly asked if he still sings "Edelweiss" once in a while. Several listeners wrote to point out that Plummer's singing was over-dubbed by Bill Lee. In an outtake from the interview edited for time, Plummer explains why the moviemakers decided to insert the voice of another singer.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We spoke with Christopher Plummer last week, and couldn't resist asking the famed stage and screen actor if he ever still sings "Edelweiss."

CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: Of course not.

SIMON: (Laughter)

PLUMMER: Are you mad?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: I had to ask.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE SOUND OF MUSIC")

BILL LEE: (as Plummer's Captain Von Trapp) (Singing) Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me...

SIMON: Of course, we couldn't resist playing "Edelweiss," either. A number of listeners wrote in to point out that Christopher Plummer doesn't really sing in "The Sound of Music" - although, of course, he'd played Captain Von Trapp. And in a portion of the interview we didn't have time to air, Christopher Plummer told us the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

SIMON: Did they dub your voice...

PLUMMER: They did for the long passages. It was very well done. The entrances and exits from the songs were my voice, and then they filled in - in those days, they were very fussy about matching voices in musicals. And Julie, of course, had been - you know, trained since day one as a - I mean, she was ...

SIMON: Yeah.

PLUMMER: ...tone perfect since she was in her cradle, which is an exasperating thing to admit. And it was awfully hard to match her and her sustained, long notes. So yeah, I was - they did it very well 'cause it sounded very much like me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE SOUND OF MUSIC")

LEE: (as Plummer's Captain Von Trapp) (Singing) Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever. Edelweiss, edelweiss, bless my homeland forever.

SIMON: The man who sounded so much like Christopher Plummer - if Christopher Plummer could sing - was the late Bill Lee, who was the singing voice of a lot of characters, including a pirate, in "Peter Pan"; and a dog, in "Lady and the Tramp." He also sang for John Kerr, playing Lt. Cable in the movie version of "South Pacific."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SOUTH PACIFIC")

LEE: (as John Kerr's Lt. Cable) (Singing) My girl back home, I'd almost forgot; a blue-eyed kid, I liked her a lot. We got engaged...

SIMON: And was the voice of Yogi Bear, in "Ash Can Parade."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HEY THERE, IT'S YOGI BEAR")

LEE: (as Yogi Bear) (Singing) ... be a day like today for a big parade, the type of parade that we can call our own...

SIMON: And it was Bill Lee's baritone singing this famous phrase as Shere Khan, in "Jungle Book."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "JUNGLE BOOK")

LEE: (as George Sanders' Shere Khan) (Singing) That's what friends are for...

SIMON: The great - and often unsung - overdub star Bill Lee. This is NPR News.

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