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
Lyrics:
Alan Jay Lerner
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Edited 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:
CBS
Current home media rights:
Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)
  • October 21, 1964 (1964-10-21)
[1]
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 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 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 won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director.[2]

Plot[edit]

In Edwardian London, in the wealthy Covent Garden area on a rainy night after the opera, a poor Cockney flower seller, Eliza Doolittle, overhears Professor Henry Higgins, an arrogant, irascible teacher of elocution, boast of his knowledge of the English language. He opines that the accent and tone of voice determine a person's prospects in society. He boasts to a new acquaintance, Colonel Hugh Pickering, himself an expert in phonetics, that he could teach the flower seller to speak so "properly" that he could pass her off as a duchess at an embassy ball or an assistant in a flower shop. Eliza listens carefully and the next day shows up unannounced at the professor's flat, willing to pay for elocution lessons. He has piqued in her an ambition is to work in a flower shop, but her thick accent excludes her from that social class of work. Higgins takes up the challenge, Pickering offers to pay for her elocution lessons, and the bet is on. Eliza is dragged upstairs by housekeeper Mrs. Pearce Mona Washbourne and the maids to have her first bath. She will live in the house while she learns the ways of the upper class.

Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, an alcoholic dustman, shows up three days later, ostensibly to protect his daughter's virtue in what he assumes to be a sexual situation. He actually wants to extract £5 from Higgins in exchange for Eliza. Higgins, though horrified, is impressed by the man's honesty and natural gift of rhetoric, and amused by his brazen argument for a lack of morals. Higgins suggests that Doolittle's original ideas might be of interest to to a wealthy American he knows. Eliza undergoes exhausting forms of speech training, such as speaking with marbles in her mouth, enduring Higgins' harsh approach to teaching and his dismissive treatment of her personally. She makes little progress at first. Just as she, Higgins, and Pickering are about to give up though, Eliza finally is able to pronounced vowels without her Cockney accent, the beginning of her vocal transformation. She soon begins to speak with an impeccable upper class accent.

As a test, Higgins takes her to the Ascot Racecourse, where Higgins' own mother Gladys Cooper orders him to go home, saying he will likely insult her friends, as usual. Higgins persists, however, and Eliza is introduced to the small assembled group, having been admonished to discuss only the weather and everybody's general health. She at first makes a good impression with her magnificent gown and picture hat, ramrod-straight posture, perfect elocution and exaggeratedly genteel manners. Higgins covers her lapses by suggesting that Eliza is speaking the new "small talk." Freddy Eynsford-Hill Jeremy Brett is instantly smitten, gives Eliza his betting ticket, and is further delighted when she erupts with a screaming vulgarism while encouraging that horse to win the race. Higgins, who dislikes the pretentiousness of the upper class, partly conceals a grin behind his hand, while Colonel Pickering covers his face with his hat. A woman faints.

After several more weeks of coaching, Eliza is ready for the embassy ball, descending Higgins' staircase like a queen. At the ball, she is introduced as a cousin of Colonel Pickering's and makes a great splash with her regal demeanor and the express approval of the queen of Transylvania, who allows the mysterious young woman to dance with her son, the prince. Zoltan Karpathy Theodore Bikel, a pompous Hungarian phonetics expert trained by Higgins, vows to uncover the identity of the elegant stranger.

Back home in Higgins' flat, Eliza is given hardly any credit, as Higgins and the Colonel praise each other. This, and his callous treatment towards her afterwards, especially his indifference to her future, makes her furious. To add insult to injury, he gives her instructions about his morning coffee and stalks out, returning only to ask for his slippers. She throws them at him, and angrily asks him what she may take with her when she leaves. Higgins is mystified by her behavior, thinking she ought to be grateful. As she leaves with her suitcase, she finds Freddy outside the flat. He professes his love, but she is indifferent to his meek advances. With him, Eliza returns to Covent Garden, the site of her flower-selling days. She buys flowers from a flower vendor, hoping to be recognized, but people see her only as a fine lady. She no longer fits in there either. Then she runs into her father in formal clothes, enjoying one last night of merriment before marrying Eliza's stepmother. He has been left a large fortune by the wealthy American, saying that Higgins has ruined him, since he is now bound unwillingly by middle-class morals and responsibility.

Higgins misses Eliza and goes searching for her, eventually ending up at his mother's house. There he unexpectedly finds Eliza. Mrs. Higgins has sided entirely with Eliza and against her son. After an unsuccessful attempt at persuading Eliza to return to his flat, Higgins is outraged when Eliza announces that she will marry Freddy and become Karpathy's assistant in teaching what Higgins taught her. He explodes and Eliza is satisfied that she has enjoyed a small measure of retaliation. 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. He realizes Eliza's worth and that he loves her and she has discovered that, despite all his bluster, he deeply cares for her after all.

Cast[edit]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Overture" - Played by Orchestra.
  2. "Why Can't the English Learn to Speak?" – Performed by Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Audrey Hepburn.
  3. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" – Performed by Audrey Hepburn (dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Chorus.
  4. "An Ordinary Man" – Performed by Rex Harrison.
  5. "With a Little Bit of Luck" – Performed by Stanley Holloway, John Alderson, John McLiam and Chorus.
  6. "Just You Wait" – Sung by Audrey Hepburn (partially dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Charles Fredericks.
  7. "Servants Chorus" – Sung by Mona Washbourne and Chorus.
  8. "The Rain in Spain" – Performed by Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Audrey Hepburn (partially dubbed by Marni Nixon).
  9. "I Could Have Danced All Night" – Performed by Audrey Hepburn (partially dubbed by Marni Nixon), Mona Washbourne and Chorus.
  10. "Ascot Gavotte" – Sung by Chorus.
  11. "Ascot Gavotte (Reprise)" – Sung by Chorus.
  12. "On the Street Where You Live" – Sung by Jeremy Brett (dubbed by Bill Shirley).
  13. "Intermission" - Played by Orchestra.
  14. "Transylvanian March" – Played by Orchestra.
  15. "Embassy Waltz" – Played by Orchestra.
  16. "You Did It" – Performed by Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Chorus.
  17. "Just You Wait (Reprise)" – Sung by Audrey Hepburn.
  18. "On the Street Where You Live" (reprise) – Sung by Jeremy Brett (dubbed by Bill Shirley).
  19. "Show Me" – Sung by Audrey Hepburn (dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Jeremy Brett (dubbed by Bill Shirley).
  20. "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" (reprise) – Sung by Audrey Hepburn (dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Chorus.
  21. "Get Me to the Church on Time" – Performed by Stanley Holloway, John Alderson, John McLiam and Chorus.
  22. "A Hymn to Him (Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?)" – Performed by Rex Harrison and Wilfrid Hyde-White.
  23. "Without You" – Sung by Audrey Hepburn (dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Rex Harrison.
  24. "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" – Performed by Rex Harrison.
  25. "Finale" – Played by Orchestra.

Production[edit]

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.)

Dubbing[edit]

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.

Intermission[edit]

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.

Soundtrack[edit]

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"

Reception[edit]

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

Restoration[edit]

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, which purchased the film from Warner Bros. in 1971.[11]

Planned remake[edit]

A remake of the film planned in 2008 did not eventuate.[12][13][14][15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=myfairlady.htm
  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". Rogerebert.com. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  10. ^ "The 37th Academy Awards (1965) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. 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. ^ Simon Reynolds, "Knightley in talks for 'My Fair Lady'," Digital Spy (June 6, 2008).
  13. ^ "Keira Knightley is My Fair Lady". ComingSoon.net. 2008-06-06. Retrieved 2014-02-05. 
  14. ^ "Clooney, Pitt at daggers drawn over role in My Fair Lady remake". Thadian News, September 25th 2008
  15. ^ Cameron Mackintosh Shares Update on MISS SAIGON & MY FAIR LADY Films - One is OFF! broadwayworld.com, Retrieved May 3, 2014
Bibliography
  • 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]