Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Ghost Story

This is not a pre-surgery Joan Rivers...

Joan Rivers and Ed Sullivan, ca. 1968

...nor is it Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona (a.k.a. Vikki Carr).

Vikki Carr, ca. 1965

No, this lovely lady is our latest Mystery Guest: the deliciously throaty thrush, Miss India Adams!

Miss Adams is, of course, best known as the "ghost voice" employed by MGM for Cyd Charisse and Joan Crawford in the 1953 pictures, The Band Wagon and Torch Song, respectively. In the former, Adams dubbed Charisse for "New Sun in a New Sky," as well as the ensemble finale, "That's Entertainment."

Oscar Levant, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Fred Astaire and Nanette Fabray perform "That's Entertainment!" in The Band Wagon (1953, MGM)

Charisse actually filmed another solo spot, dubbed by Adams, for The Band Wagon, entitled "Two Faced Woman." It was ultimately cut from the film, but when Adams was assigned to supply the singing voice for Joan Crawford in Torch Song, the number was resurrected -- only to be staged, inexplicably, in a "tropical" setting, with Crawford and her chorines made up like refugees from a minstrel show.

Joan Crawford is a "Two Faced Woman" in Torch Song (1953, MGM)

The other numbers recorded by Adams-as-Crawford included the already well-known pop hit, "Tenderly"; "You Won't Forget Me," which was apparently considered memorable enough for popular jazz starlet Helen Merrill to include on her With Strings album two years later; and "Follow Me," which Crawford herself recorded (in hopes of providing the vocals for her entire characterization).

Re-edited video of "Follow Me" from Torch Song with Joan Crawford's own vocal

Interestingly, Adams would later recall her experience with Crawford quite fondly, while remembering Cyd Charisse as cold and unfriendly. Unfortunately, Adams' friendship with Crawford -- which lasted beyond filming -- came to an abrupt end when MGM released a recording of the numbers from Torch Song, giving Adams full credit for the vocals -- something which was rarely done at that time, with the studios (and the stars themselves) preferring to let the fans believe that the actors were doing the actual chirping. MGM had expressly told Adams not to let Crawford know about the record until its release, and the perceived deception hurt Crawford deeply. Still, to this day, Adams has nothing but praise for Queen Joan.

Following her brief run as a celebrity ghost at MGM, Adams relocated to New York, where she performed in theatre (including Can-Can and The Most Happy Fella); toured nightclubs, such as the famed Latin Quarter; and recorded a highly sought after album for RCA, Comfort Me with Apples (1959), which is a masterpiece of the "sex kitten chanteuse" genre popularized by the likes of Eartha Kitt, Abbe Lane and Lola Albright.

The next stop for India Adams was England, which she made her home base from 1965 until 1981. In 1969, she was the stand by for Ginger Rogers when the latter starred as Mame at the Drury Lane Theater; in true old trouper fashion, Rogers never missed a performance, even when ill, so Adams never had the chance to make her West End bow.

Ginger Rogers and India Adams

Newsreel footage of Ginger Rogers as Mame

She may have made a career out of singing, subbing or standing by for superstars, without ever becoming one herself; but among the discerning few, India Adams is a fondly remembered talent -- and she's still going strong, having performed most recently in Hollywood this past January. We think she's just sensational!

We're sorry we've been so ghost-like ourselves of late, but we hope to be back to our normal pace very soon. As always, thanks for playing, darlings!

Official website HERE.


  1. Great post, loved hearing Joan sing and it's good that Miss Adams has a career still going strong x

  2. Very neat! I'd heard her name many times. Thanks a lot!

  3. like i said, i loved being stumped by this one.

    great looking dame, a very cleaned up olympia dukakis.

  4. I'd never heard of India Adams! How awesome is that cover photo for Comfort Me with Apples?!

  5. I swear, just a picture of Joan Crawford frightens me. I never understood how someone who looked like her made it in the movies. Scary.

  6. I still say she's Susan Hampshire!

  7. Wow! That was a tough one. I like her most recent photo. She appears to have quite a spark in her eyes. Have you ever met her? And as normadesmond observed, I think she looks like Olympia Dukakis in the photo with Ginger Rogers. Oh, and thank you for the "Torch Song" clip, complete with the commentary from Joan in the recording studio. She sounded like a little girl when she first started speaking, until she got foul-mouthed. However, I must disagree with Barbara. I thought Joan was very beautiful.

  8. Cool! now I can truly say I've learned something today.

  9. I always found torch song a bit heavy to take. Although without we'd never have the Carol Burnett Spoof: http://youtu.be/jz3G5rTFlVI

  10. I always wondered who was responsible for Joan's singing in that masterpiece.

    And you know I loves me some Helen Merrill!!

  11. Todd, forgove me for putting this HERE, but I didn't know where else to put it. I came upon this video and immediately thought of you and thought you would love it. A 1965 game show that features nine stars answering mildly suggestive questions. Lemme know if you found it enjoyable!


  12. THANK YOU for this! I think the reason it didn't last longer was because it was almost too chatty for audiences. The contestants gave explanations for why they predicted each celebrity would answer in a certain way; and then the celebrities would give their lengthy, and witty, answers. But what great fun to watch it from today's vantage point!

    By the way, who knew that Lee Marvin was kinda sexy? And I sorta liked that policeman contestant!

  13. I'm glad you liked it. Gyspy Rose Lee was great, I thought! I haven't seen a lot of her. And that hat on the hairstylist contestant..... Wow.

  14. I may be wrong about this, but I am pretty sure the title of the hit play, "Boys in the Band," comes from the movie Torch Song when Joan invites all the cute male players back to her flat for a drink. GREAT post Todd.