My Fair Lady (1964)
Sunday, February 3rd
Set in London, the film centers around the poor flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn. Eliza’s dreams of becoming a lady in a flower shop, become closer to reality when she encounters the professor of phonetics, Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison. Higgins detecting the great challenge of Eliza’s case, Higgins agrees to a wager between himself and his friend Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White). To win the bet, Higgins must pass Eliza off as an aristocrat at the embassy ball. From then on, Eliza lives in the professor’s home, leaving behind her past as a flower girl and her father who is looking for his next “pay-day.” Day after day, Higgins practices various phonetic lessons with Eliza; sometimes these lessons appear daunting, torturous, and humorous to watch. Despite the laborious work there is no improvement to her speech and manners. At last, “The Rain in Spain” finally does the trick, and Henry decides to test Eliza’s new skills at the races. Eliza’s day begins well, till she yells out at the horse she bet on, “Come, on, Dover, mover yer bloomin’ arse!” This comes much to the mortification of Higgins, and his mother and her society friends. At the end of the day, everyone is wondering, if they will be able to pull of this deceit. During Eliza’s transformation, her and Higgins relationship transforms from mutual dislike to something more.
Hepburn’s musical numbers were dubbed by Marni Nixon. Nixon sang all the songs for Hepburn except for “Just You Wait,” where there is a mixture of the two singing. Some of Hepburn’s original vocals performances for the film still exist and where released in 1990. Dubbing and pre-recording where common practice for movie musicals, and in most films in general. It was said the even Rin-Tin-Tin’s bark was dubbed. Rex Harrison, however, refused to pre-record his performance, explaining that he never talked his way through performances the same way twice. Therefore, he would not be able to convincingly lip synch to a playback.
The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screen Play, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Holloway) and Best Supporting Actress (Gladys Cooper). The film won for Best Picture (Jack Warner), Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Director (George Cukor), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Recording. It’s hard to believe that with the films exquisite costumes Cecil Beaton was not at least nominated for his designs. From the often disheveled layered look of the lower class to the trimmed and polished look of the upper class, his costumes furthered the movies theme of differences in social classes. Check out the following Pinterest link to see pictures of the costume designs from the film, and behind the scenes shots.
Pinterest Board : Classic Movie Night Recommendation
My Fair Lady will be shown as part of TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar celebration, which this year is focused on the Hollywood Studios who created the great films that have contented for Hollywood’s biggest prize. Beginning in the late 1950’s Warner Brothers began to profit from film adaptations of Broadways plays and musicals. These adaptations included two of Warner’s biggest hits, Gypsy (1962) and My Fair Lady. My Fair Lady signifies the beginning of the end of the great and lavish Hollywood musicals; it was also the highest grossing film at that time for Warner Brothers. Studio head Jack Warner in 1956 had fallen in love with the Broadways musical which is based on the stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. At the time, the rights where held by CBS who would not entertain any negotiations to sell for five years. After which Jack Warner paid CBS $5.5 million, along with 50% of the films gross. Warner also had to hold the film’s release till the stage version had closed. The film would end up costing Warner $17 million to produce.
Jack Warner originally wanted Julie Andrews who originally played the role of Eliza Doolittle in the stage musical; however, her lack of film experience and unsure of her box office appeal led him to cast Audrey Hepburn for the role. Andrews went on to star in Mary Poppins that same year, and was nominated and won the Oscar for that role over Hepburn. Warner also wanted the recently retired James Cagney to return to the studio to play the part of Alfred Higgins. Though Cagney would reportedly perform several of the characters numbers for friends and families, he had no desire to return to the studio and work again for his former boss. Warner settled for Stanley Holloway, who would reprise the role he had originated on the stage. For the role of Henry Higgins, Warner wanted Cary Grant, who was also preparing for his own retirement. Grant declined the role, and insisted that Rex Harrison be chosen for the role. Harrison had too part of the original Broadway cast. Warner then set his sights on Peter O’Toole who was coming off of his great success in Lawrence of Arabia to play the role; however, negotiations fell apart with O’Toole’s high salary demands.
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