Friday, April 06, 2007

Dubbing, Book 2: Martin and Lewis in German

What else is there to say?

As in most musicals, the dubbing stops when the characters start to sing. They would sometimes dub songs by supporting characters (if there was a separate accompaniment-only track for the song), but the audience would feel cheated if you overdubbed Dean Martin or some equally well-known singer with a separate singing voice.

Also, the fact that the singing wasn't usually dubbed in these films is a data point against the theory that Jerry Lewis was popular in France because of the guy who dubbed his voice. (It sounds weird, but I've heard several people say this in one form or another.) The French, like everyone else in the world, knew what Jerry Lewis sounded like because the dubbed versions used his voice when he sang.

Of course, the whole idea that Jerry Lewis was unusually or freakishly popular in France is a myth that goes all the way back to the early '60s. Given that Lewis was a huge star in American movies until the mid-'60s, it never made much sense to see his French popularity as out of the ordinary; his movies were popular in France, but they were equally if not more popular in America.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

As far as I can tell, one of the few exceptions to the rule you cite is often for more "book" musicals as opposed to star vehicles which happen to have singing. In other words, Martin and Lewis wouldn't be dubbed singing, or Bob Hope or what have you. But for "Mary Poppins" or "My Fair Lady," where the songs aren't just set pieces but part of the story, and where there's a greater emphasis on characters as opposed to merely transposing star persona, all singing was dubbed.

Trivia note: Horst Gentzen dubbed Jerry Lewis here and in nearly all his films (and clearly, he seemed to be trying to approzimate Jerry Lewis speaking German); he was also the German voice of Kermit the Frog on "The Muppet Show" and in a couple of movies (though confusingly, they had a completely different actor dub Kermit for "Sesame Street," some specials, and finally taking over when Gentzen died). Klaus Miedel dubbed Dean Martin, here and elsewhere, and also dubbed several Disney characters (Uncle Scrooge, the magic mirror in "Snow White," and Sir Hiss in "Robin Hood.")

As for the French Lewis thing, I think it's become a stock joke because it somehow fit into some conception of Jacques Tati and thus all French comedy being slapsticky or somesuch. Never made sense to me either. (And re Jerry's French dubbing voice, as far as I can tell, it's not clear if it was even a consistent pairing, as in Germany).