A chat with Hollywood secret singer India Adams

Courtesy PhotoIndia Adams

The spring of 1952 saw the release of “Singin’ in the Rain,” the Hollywood classic about a big movie star who can’t sing and is struggling to make a musical. According to India Adams, who makes her Rrazz Room debut this week, she never really thought about the “life imitates art” connection of the job she had at that time.

Not unlike the character played by Debbie Reynolds in “Singin’ in the Rain,” Adams was hired by MGM to provide the singing voice for Cyd Charisse in 1953’s “The Band Wagon.” Her contract included a gag order, which she honored for decades.

“Every movie star who was dubbed had wanted to do her own singing,” Adams says. “Maybe not Rita Hayworth. I think she knew that she couldn’t sing, but I think all of the others thought they could.”

Raised in Hollywood, Adams never had a strong desire for a film career.

“I always wanted to be in musical theater. I did ‘Can-Can’ in San Francisco about a hundred years ago,” she jokes. “I think it was at the Geary.”

She spent 10 years in New York and 17 in London before returning to Los Angeles with her husband, interior designer Quentin Rance.

Soon after settling back in, the couple encountered Charisse and Tony Martin at a charity event. “I went up to her — I didn’t want to say, ‘Remember me? I sang for you,’ so I just said, ‘Hi. I’m India Adams. We haven’t met since ‘The Band Wagon.’ She said, ‘Oh. Hello.’ That was it.”

Adams allows for the possibility that Charisse was shy, but adds that the MGM star even seemed uninterested in Adams relating that Martin, Charisse’s husband, was her favorite singer at the time. “It was just, ‘Oh.’ A monosyllabic, noncommittal nothing.”

She fared better with Joan Crawford, for whom she supplied a tune in “Torch Song,” and Ginger Rogers, whom she understudied for the 1969 premiere of “Mame” in London.

“Ginger Rogers may have been the most charming woman I have ever met. She really had a very special quality.”

While in London, Adams was a frequent guest on the BBC. She also performed in nightclubs there and in New York.

Back in the U.S., Adams teamed up with other “secret” singers such as Betty Wand (part of Rita Moreno’s “West Side Story” vocals) and Annette Warren (who sang for Ava Gardner in “Show Boat”) for a series of concerts, including one at the Castro Theatre.

Recently, Adams has been performing in Los Angeles clubs. “I feel my voice is still really strong and clear. I think you should be able to sing forever.”

artsCyd CharisseentertainmentIndia AdamsPop Music & Jazz

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