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‘Ghosts’ from Hollywood’s past bring ‘Voices’ to Peninsula Symphony benefit.

One of the memorable moments in the movie version of “Show Boat” is a sultry Ava Gardner lamenting that she “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man” of hers.

And in “Pal Joey,” a haughty Rita Hayworth reveals how a lovable heel has left her “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.”

If you’ve thought all these years that those two glamorous stars were singing their own songs, think again.

Ava was moving her lips all right, but the words were coming from one Annette Warren Smith singing anonymously in an MGM recording studio.

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And Hayworth’s voice? It belongs to Jo Ann Greer, who sang for Hayworth in the last three films she made for Columbia Pictures.

After more than three decades, the two singers--along with India Adams, the movie voice of Joan Crawford and Cyd Charisse--are putting some flesh around their “ghost voices” as stars of the cabaret revue, “Voices.”

“They wouldn’t allow you to tell anyone because it would spoil the story, so I’m happy I’m now getting the recognition,” said Greer, who has made a career of singing with Les Brown and His Band of Renown for 33 years.

Originally presented for two weeks at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Cinegrill, “Voices” brings its Hollywood nostalgia to the Norris Theatre for the Performing Arts tonight at 8:30 p.m. as a benefit for the Peninsula Symphony.

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There will be clips of songs as performed in the original films, including “Fancy Pants” with Lucille Ball, Cyd Charisse in “The Bandwagon,” “Torch Song” with Joan Crawford, Hayworth’s “Miss Sadie Thompson,” and films with Esther Williams, June Allyson, Kim Novak and Gloria Grahame.

Backed by a piano, bass and drum trio, the three women will re-create their movie tunes, then join together for “We Made the Movies Sing,” which was written for the show.

The singers hadn’t seen some of the film clips in so long that it was like rediscovering work they had done in the 1950s. In Greer’s case, a June Allyson song in “The Opposite Sex” was brand new. “I’d never seen the film,” she said.

“To this day,” said Smith, “there are songs that I would like to have made better.”

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Despite being overshadowed for years by some of Hollywood’s legends, the “ghosts” bear no grudges, looking back on their movie work as jobs they were hired to do.

Said Smith: “I loved doing it when I did it and when it was over, it was over. I’ve never had the big star thing or big ego thing connected with anything I did musically.”

Greer remembers her extensive film work as “a lot of fun” and cherishes memories of her friendship with Hayworth. “I worked and rehearsed with Rita for weeks because she also danced and I had to get the feel of what she was doing. You can’t hold a note if you’re jumping or doing something like that,” she said, recalling Hayworth as a very shy, but very warm person.

Adams did get a little credit eventually--on a CD release of “The Bandwagon” album, which bears her name, not Charisse’s. And in “Voices,” she has two film clips of the same song, “Two-Faced Woman.” It was used for Charisse in “The Bandwagon,” although cut from the original release, and for Crawford in “Torch Song.”

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After “Torch Song” was released, Adams said, a columnist wrote that Crawford had done her own singing. “That upset me,” she said. “I didn’t mind not getting credit, but I didn’t like somebody else getting it.”

Despite the public anonymity, word sometimes got around about who was really who and that could boost careers. Smith recalls that when she went to London for a club date, an English newspaper headlined, “The Voice of Ava Gardner Arrives.” So did a letter from Gardner’s attorney objecting to the publicity.

These days, Smith, Adams and Greer are thrilled at being who they really are and after a few more Southern California performances, they may take “Voices” to New York City.

“Everybody gets a kick out of this, even at this late date,” Adams said. “It’s fun seeing a print of an actress singing, and then seeing a real live person with that same voice.”

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Said Smith: “We were ghosts long before Patrick Swayze.”

What: Voices.

When: Tonight, 8:30 p.m.

Where: Norris Theatre for the Performing Arts, Crossfield Drive and Indian Peak Road, Rolling Hills Estates.

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Admission: $35; $50, including 6:30 p.m. dinner.

Information: 544-0403; 544-0320.


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