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MY FAIR LADY (1964)
On a bet, a language obsessed phonetics professor takes in a poor, cockney-speaking flower girl, and teaches her how to speak properly and to be a lady, hoping to introduce her into high society as an upper class lady, who would accept her as one of their own.
My Fair Lady won 8 academy awards, including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Musical score, Best Cinematography, Best Set Direction, and Best Costumes.
Screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner - based on George Bernard Shaw's stage play "Pygmalion".
Directed by George Cukor.
Promotional Line: "The most loverly motion picture event of all!
Best Picture Oscar Winner / Best Picture Index
This fine musical begins, by showing the audience a London scene from a Victorian England in the 1800's, a meeting place of the very rich and the very poor. The well-to-do of English society were coming out of a theatre where poor women, known as flower girls were selling bouquets of flowers to these theatre patrons. Among these patrons were two distinguished gentleman, a well-known, top notch Professor of Phonetics, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), and his good friend, Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White).
Fascinated with the cockney language spoken by one young flower girl, Eliza Dolittle (Audrey Hepburn), he stops behind a pillar and writes down her language pattern, which upsets her when she finds out. He talks to Pickering, claiming that if this young woman could be taught proper English, she could get a job in a dress shop. The next day, Eliza goes to the professor's house and wants him to teach her to speak. And so the tortuous battle of the vowels begins, with the goal being a transformation of a poor flower girl into a proper lady, that can be taken to an Ambassador's ball without being found out.
After several entertaining song sequences later, Eliza and Professor Higgins have conquered Eliza's pronunciation problems, and celebrate with a dance to "The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the Plain" song sequence. Eliza is then tutored on how a lady speaks, moves and handles social situations. To try out her new self, Professor Higgins takes her to the Ascot Races, to mingle with the elite and upper class friends of his mother, Mrs. Higgins (Gladys Cooper), from whom he has elicited co-operation in this matter. Eliza's rough spots come out once or twice, much to the amusement of the film's audience. A young gentleman, Freddie Eynsford-Hill (Jeremy Brett) falls head over heels in love with her, but Eliza finds herself falling in love with someone else.
However, after some more fine tuning, Eliza is ready for The Ambassador's Ball, hosted by the Queen of Transylvania. Everything goes extremely well. However, a potential fly in the ointment is the presence of Zoltan Karpathy (Theodore Bikel), a former Hungarian student of Professor Higgins, who has learned his craft so well that the well-to-do hire him to sniff out impostors trying to pass themselves off as members of the elite class. Uh oh! Will Eliza be found out? It is a good thing that Professor Higgins was such a demanding teacher. Because Eliza's English was so perfect, Zoltan comes to the conclusion that Eliza is really a Hungarian Duchess in disguise!
However, Eliza's amazing transformation isn't the only major change. On a personal level, Eliza and Professor Higgins have developed strong feelings toward each other. Professor Higgins, a self-avowed bachelor, refuses to acknowledge his feelings for Eliza. What is Eliza going to do? After going back to her old neighborhood, she discovers that she is a permanently changed person, and can't go back. "I sold flowers; I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me, I'm not fit to sell anything else." Will she marry Freddie, or will she wait for Professor Higgins to come to his senses?
This film is a classic because of the combination of many elements that all came together under the marvelous direction of George Cukor, and Jack Warner, who produced this masterpiece, firmly believing in high production values. The feeling of the film felt like one was watching a stage play on Broadway, with top notch sets, great choreography, wonderful costumes, a superb cast and a well -paced and directed musical storyline.
The cinematography, by Harry Stradling Sr., is well-done, capturing the fun of the musical numbers, the touching moments, and the majesty of the grand ball scenes. Stradling also did the cinemaphotography for "Funny Girl", "Hello Dolly", "On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever," and "Guys and Dolls."
The magic of the musical numbers have held up well and are wonderfully entertaining. The songs are unforgettable, enhancing the moments on the screen, as the songs are brilliantly written around the storyline. The combination of Frederick Loewe's music and Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics make these songs all time favorites of musical -loving fans. This award-winning music writing team also collaborated to create the musical songs for such films as Brigadoon, Gigi, and Camelot.
There are many favorite, well -directed, well choreographed musical sequences, including The Ascot Race musical numbers, Jeremy Brett (dubbed with Bill Shirley's voice) singing "On the Street Where You Live," Stanley Holloway's "Just a Little Bit of Luck," and his "Get Me to the Church on Time." More favorite sequences are listed below.
The cast was full of both outstanding character actors and talented lead performers, who all came together to create a marvelously entertaining, romantic enjoyable musical story.
Rex Harrison made the role of Professor Henry Higgins his own creation which he is still well known for. His musical numbers were done in a unique style of talking prose with background music, with a little singing around the edges. Song: "Why Can't a Woman be more like a Man?" "Women are irrational, that's all there is to that! Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags. They're nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!"
Audrey Hepburn - is most convincing as an unsophisticated, uneducated flower girl, who slowly transforms into a lady of society, because of her own determination and her expert hard-driving teacher, Professor Higgins. Though her songs were dubbed by Marni Nixon, she did a superb job singing/acting her part. I enjoyed her "Wouldn't it Be Loverly?" and "Just you Wait Henry Higgins."
Wilfrid Hyde -White excels in his performance as Colonel Pickering, a role that he is best known for, doing what he does best; being a talented supporting actor.
Stanley Holloway, a talented actor who was at home in comedy or drama, who played everything from a detective in the murder mystery, "Ten Little Indians," to a Butler on a popular English TV show, gave an outstanding performance as Alfred P Doolittle. It was obvious that he was having a lot of fun during his musical numbers, and his portrayal of Eliza's father was delightful. Like Eliza, his life is changed forever because of Professor Higgins, who refers his name to a well-known modern moralist in the United States, who contacts him for input, paying him for his thoughts. When the man dies, he leaves his entire fortune to Alfred, further thrusting him into the respectable middle class and permanently out of his care-free state as a freeloader.
Original Music / musical score by: Frederick Loewe, words to music: by Alan Jay Lerner.
The wonderful family film is rated G.
Henry Higgins: "What could possibly matter more? Taking a human being and changing her into another human being by creating a new speech for her. It fills up the deepest gap that separates class from class, and soul from soul. She matters immensely."