February 11, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

That thing called singing isn’t as easy as it seems. Perhaps River Phoenix should have given a listen to how earlier stars fared at vocalizing on screen.

Bette Davis in Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) That Davis enunciation carries the romantic complaint ”They’re Either Too Young or Too Old.”

Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls (1955) Brando is pure charm in his duets with costar Jean Simmons.

Jack Lemmon in My Sister Eileen (1955) He croons like a pro. Not surprising, since he’s a lifelong musician.

Grace Kelly in High Society (1956) The single of ”True Love,” her duet with silvery-throated Bing Crosby, sold more than a million copies.

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face (1957) Her lovely duetting with costar Fred Astaire is ” ‘S Wonderful” and she manages a hauntingly plaintive ”How Long Has This Been Going On?”

Katharine Hepburn in Desk Set (1957) She performs a rambunctious ”Night and Day,” accompanied by costar Spencer Tracy on the bongos.

Laurence Olivier in The Entertainer (1960) As oily vaudevillian Archie Rice, he’s supposed to be that bad.

Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon (1969) His talk ‘n’ growl approach to Lerner and Loewe’s bouncy score is comically right.

Burt Reynolds in At Long Last Love (1975) Ouch! Reynolds and costar Cybill Shepherd (who warbles too) stir the bubbles right out of a top-notch Cole Porter score.

James Caan in Funny Lady (1975) As songwriter Billy Rose, Caan sings a melancholy ”Me and My Shadow.”

Elizabeth Taylor in A Little Night Music (1978) Liz does ”Send in the Clowns.” Send in Marni Nixon.

Sylvester Stallone in Rhinestone (1984) Sounds like Sly took lessons from his brother Frank.

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