|My Fair Lady (film)|
movie poster by Bill Gold original illustration by Bob Peak
|Directed by||George Cukor|
|Produced by||Jack Warner|
|Written by||Alan Jay Lerner
George Bernard Shaw
|Music by||Frederick Loewe (music)
Alan Jay Lerner (lyrics)
|Cinematography||Harry Stradling Sr.|
|Editing by||William H. Ziegler|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. (1964 release)
20th Century Fox (re-release)
|Release date(s)||25 December 1964|
|Running time||171 minutes|
My Fair Lady is a 1964 musical film adaptation of the Lerner and Loewe stage musical, My Fair Lady, based on the film adaptation of the stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The ending and the ballroom scene are from the 1938 film Pygmalion rather than Shaw's original stage play. The film was directed by George Cukor and stars Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison.
In Edwardian London, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), an arrogant, irascible, misogynistic professor of phonetics, believes that it is the accent and tone of one's voice that determines a person's prospects in society. He boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), himself an expert in phonetics, that he can teach any woman to speak so "properly" that he could pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball, citing, as an example, a young flower seller from the slums, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who has a strong Cockney ("Lisson grove lingo" as it is called) accent.
Eliza goes to Higgins seeking speech lessons. Her great ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick working-class accent makes her unsuitable for such a position. All she can afford to pay is a shilling per lesson, whereas Higgins is used to training wealthier members of society. Pickering, who is staying with Higgins, is intrigued by the idea of passing a common flower girl off as a duchess and persuades Higgins to do so in the form of a bet, offering to pay for the lessons himself. Inspired by the challenge, Higgins accepts.
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 Â£5. Higgins is impressed by the man's honesty, his natural gift for language, and especially his brazen lack of morals â€” "Can't afford 'em!" claims Doolittle. Higgins sends Doolittle to make a speech for a wealthy American who is interested in morality.
Eliza goes through many forms of speech training, such as speaking with marbles in her mouth, but Higgins' harsh approach to teaching and his treatment of her personally does not help â€” he even offends her by giving the last of the tea cakes to his pet bird rather than to her. As a result she makes little progress, but just as she, Higgins, and Pickering are about to give up, Higgins actually gives her some kind encouragement: "think what you're trying to accomplish. Just think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language. It's the greatest possession we have... that's what you've set yourself out to conquer, Eliza. And conquer it you will." Eliza tries one more time and 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 with her stilted, but genteel manners, only to shock everyone by a sudden and vulgar lapse into Cockney while encouraging a horse to win a race: "C'mon Dover, move your bloomin' arse!" Higgins, who dislikes the pretentiousness of the upper class, partly conceals a grin behind his hand.
The bet is won when Eliza successfully passes as a mysterious lady of patently noble rank at an embassy ball and even dances with a foreign prince. Also at the ball is Zoltan Karpathy (Theodore Bikel), a Hungarian phonetics expert also trained by Higgins. After a brief conversation with Eliza, he certifies that she is of royal blood. This makes Higgins' evening, since he has always looked upon Karpathy as a bounder and a crook.
After all the effort she has put in however, Eliza is given hardly any credit, all the praise going to Higgins. This, and his callous treatment towards her afterwards, especially his indifference to her future, causes her 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 has become enamoured of her, Eliza returns to her old stomping ground at Covent Garden, but finds that with her genteel manners, upper-class accent and lovely clothes, she no longer fits in. She even meets her father who was left a large fortune by the wealthy American Higgins had sent him to and is set to marry Eliza's stepmother. Alfred feels that Higgins has ruined him, since he is now bound to morals and responsibility. Eventually, Eliza ends up visiting Higgins' mother, who is incensed at her son's behaviour.
Higgins finds Eliza the next day and attempts to talk her into coming back to him. During a testy exchange, Higgins's ego gets the better of him and he is incensed when Eliza announces that she is going to marry Freddy ("who couldn't get a job as an errand boy even if he had the guts to try") and become assistant to Karpathy â€” whom Higgins loathes. At this point Higgins explodes and Eliza is satisfied that she has had her "own back" and rejects him. Higgins has to admit that rather than being a "a millstone around my neck... now you're a tower of strength, a consort battleship. I like you this way." Eliza leaves, saying they will never meet again.
After an argument with his mother â€” in which he concludes that he does not need Eliza or anyone else in life â€” Higgins makes his way home, stubbornly predicting that Eliza will come crawling back. However, he comes to the horrified realization that he has "grown accustomed to her face" and charm and is now reduced to playing an old phonograph recording of her voice lessons. Then, to his great delight, Eliza suddenly returns to him, though he covers this by simply stating "Where the devil are my slippers?"
In the ending of the original play Eliza makes it clear that she will marry Freddy. Shaw later wrote an essay in which he explained precisely why it was impossible for the story to end with Higgins and Eliza getting married, though they would continue to be close throughout their lives. Higgins himself does not appear to want to marry Eliza. Towards the end of the original play, he sees the future as "You and I and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead of only two men and a silly girl."
Julie Andrews had been Harrison's stage partner, playing the part of Eliza on Broadway, but, despite lobbying from screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner, Jack Warner, president of Warner Brothers and the film's producer, insisted on having Audrey Hepburn for the film version since she was a box office star while Andrews was an untested screen presence. Elizabeth Taylor reportedly fought long and hard for the role as well.
Andrews' subsequent Academy Award for Mary Poppins â€” and the lack of a nomination for Hepburn (due to her being dubbed by Marni Nixon) â€” was seen by many as vindication for Julie Andrews, though both actresses denied that there was ever any animosity between them.
Three years later, true vindication for Andrews occurred when Jack Warner offered her the role of Guinevere in the film adaptation of the Lerner and Loewe musical Camelot (which she also originated to great acclaim on Broadway). Andrews, remembering how Jack Warner had initially rejected her while casting My Fair Lady, refused to appear in the film, as did Richard Burton, who played King Arthur, and Robert Goulet, who played Sir Lancelot. The three actors' absences caused the film to flop so badly at the box office that it led to Jack Warner being ousted from power.
The order of the songs in the show was followed faithfully, except for With A Little Bit of Luck. The song is listed as being the third musical number in the play; in the film it is the fourth. Onstage, the song is split into two parts sung in two different scenes. Part of the song is sung by Doolittle and his cronies just after Eliza gives him part of her earnings, immediately before she makes the decision to go to Higgins's house to ask for speech lessons. The second half of the song is sung by Doolittle just after he discovers that Eliza is now living with Higgins. In the film, the entire song is sung in one scene that takes place just after Higgins has sung I'm An Ordinary Man. Also, the final verse,"He does not have a Tuppence in his pockets", which is sung in the stage version by other men and women as chorus, was omitted in the film version, since according to Cukor, dragged the song too long, as well as having no room for the crowds to fit into the limited space of the scenery.
The instrumental "Busker Sequence", which opens the play immediately after the Overture, is the only musical number from the play omitted in the film version.
Also, the song "Show Me", used the original lyrics as: "Don't talk of June/ Don't talk of Fall/ Don't talk at all? Show Me?", instead of the revised lyrics.
In addition, the song "Get Me to the Church on time", the line of the second stanza: "Drug me or jail me/Stamp me or mail me", was omitted because Cukor feared that the censors would not accept the lines about being drugged or jailed, in a song about getting married.
Hepburn's singing was judged inadequate, and she was dubbed by Marni Nixon who sang all songs except "Just you wait," where Hepburn's voice was left undubbed during the harsh-toned chorus of the song and Nixon sang the melodic bridge section. Some of Hepburn's original vocal performances for the film were released in the 1990s, affording audiences an opportunity to judge whether the dubbing was necessary. Less well known is the dubbing of Jeremy Brett's songs (as Freddy) by Bill Shirley.
Rex Harrison declined to pre-record his musical numbers for the film, explaining that he had never talked his way through the songs the same way twice and thus couldn't convincingly lip-sync to a playback during filming (as musical stars had been doing in Hollywood since the dawn of talking pictures). In order to permit Harrison to sing his songs live during filming, the Warner Bros. Studio Sound Department, under the direction of George Groves, implanted a wireless microphone in Harrison's neckties, marking the first time in film history that one was used to record sound during filming. AndrÃ© Previn then conducted the final version of the music to the voice recording. The sound department earned an Academy Award for its efforts.
The head of CBS put up the money for the original Broadway production in exchange for the rights to the cast album (through Columbia Records). When Warner bought the film rights in February 1962 for the then-unprecedented sum of $5 million, it was agreed that the rights to the film would revert to CBS seven years after its release.
Warner owned the film's original copyright, but it was renewed by CBS due to the 1972 rights reversion. From 1998-2008, Warner owned the DVD rights to the film (under license from CBS), while CBS Television Distribution owns the television rights. This made My Fair Lady the only theatrical film whose ancillary rights are owned by CBS that was not distributed by CBS Home Entertainment.
The art direction was by Cecil Beaton, who won an Oscar. Beaton's inspiration for the library in Henry Higgins' home, where much of the action takes place, was a room at the ChÃ¢teau de Groussay, Montfort-l'Amaury, in France, which had been decorated opulently by its owner Carlos de Beistegui.
All tracks played by The Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra conducted by AndrÃ© Previn. Between brackets the singers.
Previously unreleased on LP, included on the CD
|Academy Awards record|
|1. Best Actor, Rex Harrison|
|2. Best Art Direction, Gene Allen, Cecil Beaton, George James Hopkins|
|3. Best Cinematography, Harry Stradling Sr.|
|4. Best Costume Design, Cecil Beaton|
|5. Best Director, George Cukor|
|6. Best Original Score, AndrÃ© Previn|
|7. Best Picture, Jack Warner|
|8. Best Sound, George Groves|
|Golden Globe Awards record|
|1. Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy|
|2. Best Actor - Musical or Comedy, Rex Harrison|
|3. Best Director, George Cukor|
|BAFTA Awards record|
|1. Best Film from any Source, George Cukor|
My Fair Lady won eight Oscars:
It was nominated for four other Oscars:
My Fair Lady won three Golden Globes
American Film Institute recognition
By the 1990s, the original film elements had fallen into disrepair from heavy printing and there was fear of total deterioration. When CBS discovered this after two controversial widescreen laserdiscs that won "Worst Laserdisc of the Year" two years running, even after an attempt to improve the master, film restorers Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, in conjunction with 20th Century Fox (whose home video division previously held the rights to the CBS library including My Fair Lady), were brought in to save the film. They succeeded in preserving the film's image quality for future generations. A 30th anniversary theatrical re-issue in 1994 by Fox (with new 70mm prints struck) reinforced the film's popularity. Further work however may be needed for any future Blu-Ray release.
In 1995 Fox executives gave animation directors/producers Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, then newly appointed as the creative heads of Fox Animation Studios, the choice between creating an animated re-make of either My Fair Lady or the 1956 Fox film Anastasia. Bluth and Goldman chose to make the animated film Anastasia, which became the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film in 1997.
In early June 2008 it was reported that a remake of My Fair Lady was being planned, starring Daniel Day Lewis and Keira Knightley as Eliza Doolittle, for release in 2010. It would be produced by Duncan Kenworthy (Love Actually) and co-developed by Columbia Pictures and CBS Films. Emma Thompson was reported to be set to write the script.
|Academy Award for Best Picture
The Sound of Music
|BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source
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