My Fair Lady (film)

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My Fair Lady
My fair lady poster.jpg
Theatrical release 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
Starring Audrey Hepburn
Rex Harrison
Stanley Holloway
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Gladys Cooper
Jeremy Brett
Music by Music:
Frederick Loewe
Alan Jay Lerner
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Editing by William H. Ziegler
Distributed by Original release:
Warner Bros.
1990s home video releases:
CBS/Fox Video
1994 re-release:
20th Century Fox
Current rights holder:
Current home media rights:
Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • October 21, 1964 (1964-10-21)
Running time 170 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million
Box office $72,000,000[1]

My Fair Lady is a 1964 American musical film adaptation of the Lerner and Loewe stage musical of the same name based on the 1938 film adaptation of the original stage play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Directed by George Cukor, the film depicts arrogant phonetics professor Henry Higgins as he wagers that he can take flower girl Eliza Doolittle and turn her Cockney accent into a proper English one, thereby making her presentable in high society of Edwardian London.

The film won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.[2]


In Edwardian London, Professor Henry Higgins, an arrogant, irascible teacher of elocution, believes that the accent and tone of one's voice determines a person's prospects in society. He boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Hugh Pickering, himself an expert in phonetics, that he could teach any woman to speak so "properly" that he could pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball. Higgins selects as an example a young flower seller from the slums, Eliza Doolittle, who has a strong Cockney accent. Eliza's ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick accent makes her unsuitable. Pickering offers to pay for her elocution lessons.

Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, 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 Doolittle 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 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. 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, 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.

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, 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 as she is a polite lady now. She meets her father, who has been left a large fortune by the wealthy American Higgins had sent him to 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, who is incensed at her son's behavior.

Higgins finds Eliza the next day and attempts to talk her into coming back to him. During a testy exchange, Higgins is angered when Eliza announces that she is going to marry Freddy and become Karpathy's assistant. Higgins explodes and Eliza is satisfied that she has had her "own back." Higgins has to admit that rather than being "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 - in which he asserts that he does not need Eliza or anyone else - Higgins makes his way home, stubbornly predicting that Eliza will come crawling back. However, he comes to the realization that he has "grown accustomed to her face." Then, to his surprise, Eliza reappears in Higgins' study: she knows now that he deeply cares for her after all.


Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Overture"
  2. "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?" – Higgins
  3. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" – Eliza, Workers
  4. "An Ordinary Man" – Higgins
  5. "With a Little Bit of Luck" – Alfred Doolittle, Harry & Jamie, Ensemble
  6. "Just You Wait" – Eliza
  7. "Servants Chorus" – Mrs. Pearce, Servants
  8. "The Rain in Spain" – Eliza, Higgins, Pickering
  9. "I Could Have Danced All Night" – Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, Maids
  10. "Ascot Gavotte" – Ensemble
  11. "Ascot Gavotte (Reprise)" – Ensemble
  12. "On the Street Where You Live" – Freddy
  13. "Intermission"
  14. "Transylvanian March" – Band
  15. "Embassy Waltz" – Band
  16. "You Did It" – Higgins, Pickering, Mrs. Pearce, Servants
  17. "Just You Wait (Reprise)" – Eliza
  18. "On the Street Where You Live" (reprise) – Freddy
  19. "Show Me" – Eliza & Freddy
  20. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (reprise) – Eliza, Workers
  21. "Get Me to the Church on Time" – Alfred Doolittle w/ Harry, Jamie & Ensemble
  22. "A Hymn to Him (Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?)" – Higgins, Pickering
  23. "Without You" – Eliza, Higgins
  24. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" – Higgins
  25. "Finale" – Ensemble


Film rights[edit]

The head of CBS, William S. Paley, 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 following release.[3]

Order of musical numbers[edit]

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". However, the song does have a dialogue scene (Doolittle's conversation with Eliza's landlady) between verses.

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. However, there are several measures from this piece that can be heard as we see Eliza in the rain, making her way through the cars and carriages in Covent Garden.

All of the songs in the film were performed near complete; however, there were some verse omissions, as there sometimes are in film versions of Broadway musicals. For example, in the song "With a Little Bit of Luck", the verse "He does not have a Tuppence in his pocket", which was sung with a chorus, was omitted, due to space and its length. The original verse in "Show Me" was used instead.

The stanzas of "You Did It" that came after Higgins says "she is a Princess" were originally written for the Broadway version, but Harrison hated the lyrics and refused to perform them, unless and until those lyrics were omitted, which they were in most Broadway versions. However, Cukor insisted that the omitted lyrics be restored for the film version or he would not direct at all, causing Harrison to oblige. The omitted lyrics end with the words "Hungarian Rhapsody" followed by the servants shouting "BRAVO" three times, to the strains of Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody" before the servants sing "Congratulations, Professor Higgins". (Source: "On the Street where I Live" by Alan Jay Lerner, published in 1978.)


Hepburn's singing was judged inadequate, and she was dubbed by Marni Nixon,[4] 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.[5]

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 could not convincingly lip-sync to a playback during filming (as musical stars had, according to Jack Warner, been doing for years. "We even dubbed Rin-Tin-Tin"[6]). The sound department earned an Academy Award for its efforts.


One of the few differences in structure between the stage version and the film is the placement of the intermission. In the stage play, the intermission comes after the scene at the Embassy Ball where Eliza is seen dancing with Karpathy. In the film, the intermission comes before the ball, as Eliza, Higgins and Pickering are seen departing for the embassy.

Art direction[edit]

The art direction was by Cecil Beaton, who won an Oscar. Beaton's inspiration for the library in Higgins' home, where much of the action takes place, was a room at the Château de Groussay, Montfort-l'Amaury, in France, which had been decorated opulently by its owner Carlos de Beistegui.


Original LP

All tracks played by The Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra conducted by André Previn. Between brackets the singers.

  1. "Overture"
  2. "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?" (Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Wilfrid Hyde-White)
  3. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" (Marni Nixon (for Hepburn))
  4. "I'm Just an Ordinary Man" (Harrison)
  5. "With a Little Bit of Luck" (Stanley Holloway)
  6. "Just You Wait" (Hepburn, Nixon)
  7. "The Rain in Spain" (Harrison, Hepburn, Nixon, Wilfrid Hyde-White)
  8. "I Could Have Danced All Night" (Nixon)
  9. "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)
Previously unreleased on LP, included on the CD
  1. "The Flower Market"
  2. "Servants' Chorus"
  3. "Ascot Gavotte (Reprise)"
  4. "Intermission"
  5. "The Transylvanian March"
  6. "The Embassy Waltz"
  7. "You Did It" (Harrison, Hyde-White) (with the servant's final choir "Congratulations")
  8. "Just You Wait (Reprise)" (Hepburn and/or Nixon (for Audrey Hepburn))
  9. "On the Street Where You Live (Reprise)" (Shirley)
  10. "The Flowermarket" (containing the reprise of "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?") (Nixon)
  11. "End Titles"
  12. "Exit Music"


The film was re-released in 1971 and earned North American rentals of $2 million. It was re-released again in 1994 after a thorough restoration.[7] My Fair Lady currently holds a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes; the general consensus states: "Fans of the play may miss Julie Andrews in the starring role -- particularly when Marni Nixon's singing comes out of Audrey Hepburn's mouth -- but the film's charm is undeniable."[8] Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four, and, in 2006, he put it on his "Great Movies" list, praising Hepburn's performance, and calling the film "the best and most unlikely of musicals."[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

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, André 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

Academy Awards: 1964[edit]

My Fair Lady won eight Oscars:[2][10]

Four nominations

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

My Fair Lady won three Golden Globes:

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Other accolades[edit]

American Film Institute recognition


The film was restored in 1994 by James C. Katz and Robert A. Harris, who had restored Spartacus three years earlier. The restoration was commissioned and financed by CBS, who purchased the film from Warner Bros. in 1971.[11]

Possible remake[edit]

In 1995, 20th Century 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 remake 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.[12]

In June 2008, it was reported that a remake was being planned, starring Colin Firth and Keira Knightley[13] as Eliza Doolittle, for release in 2010.[14] It will be produced by Duncan Kenworthy (Love Actually) and Cameron Mackintosh, and co-developed by Columbia Pictures and CBS Films. Emma Thompson was reported to be set to write the script.[15]

Others who had tried to get the part of Higgins had included George Clooney and Brad Pitt whose close friendship is reported to have hit a low point as a result.[16] As of March 2010, it was reported that Carey Mulligan has replaced Knightley as the role of Eliza.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b "NY Times: My Fair Lady". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  3. ^ Metz, Robert (July 21, 1975). "The Biggest Man in Broadcasting" (pages 48-50) New York Magazine, Vol. 8, #29.
  4. ^ Lawson, Kyle. "Marni Nixon in My Fair Lady", The Arizona Republic, June 10, 2008
  5. ^ Bill Shirley at the Internet Movie Database
  6. ^ Stirling, Richard; Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography; 2007, Portrait; ISBN 978-0-7499-5135-1, p.127
  7. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  8. ^ "My Fair Lady". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 7, 2014. 
  9. ^ Editors, The (2006-01-01). "Roger Ebert "Great Movies" review". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  10. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  11. ^ Grimes, William (August 15, 1994). "In 'My Fair Lady,' Audrey Hepburn Is Singing at Last". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  12. ^ "1997 DOMESTIC GROSSES". Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  13. ^ Simon Reynolds, "Knightley in talks for 'My Fair Lady'," Digital Spy (June 6, 2008).
  14. ^ "Keira Knightley is My Fair Lady". 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  15. ^ Simon Reynolds, "Emma Thompson to write 'My Fair Lady'," Digital Spy (July 17, 2008).
  16. ^ "Clooney, Pitt at daggers drawn over role in My Fair Lady remake". Thadian News, September 25th 2008
  • Lees, Gene (2005). The Musical Worlds of Lerner and Loewe. Publisher: Bison Books ISBN 080328040
  • Green, Benny, Editor (1987). A Hymn to Him : The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 0-87910-109-1
  • Lerner, Alan Jay (1985). The Street Where I Live. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80602-9

External links[edit]