My Fair Lady is a 1964 American musical film adapted from the Lerner and Loewe eponymous stage musical based on the 1913 stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. With a screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner and directed by George Cukor, the film depicts a poor Cockney flower seller named Eliza Doolittle who overhears an arrogant phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, as he casually wagers that he could teach her to speak “proper” English, thereby making her presentable in the high society of Edwardian London.
The film stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison as Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins respectively, with Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper and Wilfrid Hyde-White in supporting roles. A critical and commercial success, it won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director. In 1998, the American Film Institute named it the 91st greatest American film of all time.
In Edwardian London, Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a scholar of phonetics, believes that the accent and tone of one’s voice determines a person’s prospects in society. In Covent Garden one evening, he boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), himself an expert in phonetics, that he could teach any person to speak in a way that he could pass them off as a duke or duchess at an embassy ball. Higgins selects as an example a young flower seller, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who has a strong Cockney accent. Eliza’s ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick accent makes her unsuitable. Having come from India to meet Higgins, Pickering is invited to stay with the professor. The following morning, Eliza shows up at Higgins’ home, seeking lessons. Pickering is intrigued and offers to cover all expenses if the experiment should be successful.
Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), a dustman, shows up three days later, ostensibly to protect his daughter’s virtue, but in reality simply to extract some money from Higgins, and is bought off with £5. Higgins is impressed by the man’s honesty, his natural gift for language, and especially his brazen lack of morals. Higgins recommends Alfred to a wealthy American who is interested in morality. Eliza goes through many forms of speech training, such as speaking with marbles in her mouth, enduring Higgins’ harsh approach to teaching and his treatment of her personally. She makes little progress, but just as she, Higgins, and Pickering are about to give up, Eliza finally “gets it”; she instantly begins to speak with an impeccable upper class accent.
As a test, Higgins takes her to Ascot Racecourse, where she makes a good impression initially, only to shock everyone by a sudden lapse into vulgar Cockney while cheering on a horse. Higgins, who dislikes the pretentiousness of the upper class, partly conceals a grin behind his hand. Eliza poses as a mysterious lady at an embassy ball and even dances with a foreign prince. At the ball is Zoltan Karpathy (Theodore Bikel), a Hungarian phonetics expert trained by Higgins. After a brief conversation with Eliza, he certifies that she is not only Hungarian, but of royal blood, declaring her to be a Princess.
After all the effort she has put in, however, Eliza’s actions aren’t even acknowledged; all the praise going to Higgins. This, and his callous treatment towards her afterwards, especially his indifference to her future, causes her to throw Higgins’ slippers at him, and to walk out on him, leaving him mystified by her ingratitude. Accompanied by Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Jeremy Brett), a young man she met at Ascot and who is charmed by her, Eliza returns to her old life, but finds that she no longer fits in. She meets her father, who has been left a large fortune by the wealthy American to whom Higgins had recommended him, and is resigned to marrying Eliza’s stepmother. Alfred feels that Higgins has ruined him, since he is now bound by morals and responsibility. Eventually, Eliza ends up visiting Higgins’ mother (Gladys Cooper), who is enraged at her son’s behaviour.
The next day, Higgins finds Eliza gone and searches for her, eventually finding her at his mother’s house. Higgins attempts to talk Eliza into coming back to him. He becomes angered when Eliza announces that she is going to marry Freddy and become Karpathy’s assistant. He makes his way home, stubbornly predicting that she will come crawling back. However, he comes to the realization that he has “grown accustomed to her face.” Henry returns to his study to lament his loneliness. As he listens to Eliza’s recorded voice, she reappears in the doorway behind him, turning off the recording and saying in her old Cockney accent, “I washed my hands and face before I come I did.” Higgins looks surprised then pleased before asking for his slippers once more as Eliza smiles on behind him, leaving the audience to decide what happens next. (by wikipedia)
My Fair Lady is–deservedly–one of the most famous musicals of all time. Its popular 1964 film version, directed by George Cukor, has ensured that for most people Audrey Hepburn is Eliza Doolittle, while Broadway-heads swear by Julie Andrews’s stage performance, immortalized on the 1956 cast album. Of course, for the purposes of a CD review it’s more accurate to compare the performances of Andrews and Marni Nixon, who sang the songs lip-synched by Hepburn in the movie. While Andrews usually comes out on top (especially on “I Could Have Danced All Night”), Nixon is no slouch (after all, she also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Deborah Kerr in The King & I). Rex Harrison, of course, does his own vocals, but then he doesn’t so much sing his songs as talk them. While Nixon and Harrison are tops, the truth is that Lerner and Loewe’s songs are so good as to endure almost anybody’s interpretation: “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “With a Little Bit of Luck,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “Get Me to the Church on Time,” and so on–not many shows can boast as many classics. The movie version’s real bonus is Andre Previn’s swellegant orchestration. (by Elisabeth Vincentell)
And I add a large collection of lobby cards from this classic movie. Thanks to legendsofsfandfantasyart.blogspot
Rex Harrison ( Professor Henry Higgins)
Audrey Hepburn (Eliza Doolittle)
Stanley Holloway (Alfred P. Doolittle)
Marni Nixon )as Eliza’s singing voice)
Bill Shirley (for Jeremy Brett) (Freddy Eynsford-Hill )
Wilfrid Hyde-White (Colonel Hugh Pickering)
The Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra conducted by André Previn
01. Overture 3.27
02. Why Can’t The English Learn To Speak? (Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Wilfrid Hyde-White)
03. Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? (Marni Nixon (for Hepburn))
04. I’m An Ordinary Man (Harrison)
05. With A Little Bit Of Luck (Stanley Holloway)
06. Just You Wait (Hepburn, Nixon)
07. The Rain In Spain (Harrison, Hepburn, Nixon, Wilfrid Hyde-White)
08. I Could Have Danced All Night (Nixon)
09. Ascot Gavotte
10. On The Street Where You Live (Bill Shirley (for Jeremy Brett))
11. You Did It (Harrison, Hyde-White) (without the choir “Congratulations”)
12. Show Me (Nixon, Shirley)
13. Get Me To The Church On Time (Holloway)
14. A Hymn To Him (Why Can’t A Woman Be More Like A Man?) (Harrison, Hyde-White)
15. Without You (Nixon, Harrison)
16. I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face (Harrison) 4.53
Music and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner & Frederick Loewe