My Fair Lady

George Cukor, USA 1964, 170 minutes

In this eight-times Oscar winning (including best picture) film set in Victorian times, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) a cockney flower seller from Covent garden is transformed into a lady by Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and taught to speak properly. All this in an attempt to improve her standing in life and as part of a bet placed with Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White). With a then massive budget of $20 million, director George Cukor is able to recreate the splendour of the time with both lavish sets and costumes. This is yet another film which benefits infinitely from being seen on the big screen.

This is not just a musical about romance (there is no kiss) but a comment on intelligence and the notion that being set free from ignorance will realise your potential (a popular Victorian notion to hold). Higgins spends much of the film practically bullying Eliza, after all.

Like most movie musicals this was adapted from a long-running Broadway musical. In this case most of the original Broadway cast repeat their roles in the film version, the only exception being the addition of Audrey Hepburn excellent in the role of Eliza (despite the fact that she does not do her own singing). Julie Andrews played the part on Broadway but lost out in this film version, creating a shock around Hollywood at the time and ultimately lead to Andrews winning that year's best actress Oscar. Hepburn however could not sing and was dubbed by Marni Nixon, a famous singing double of the time. The film retains its theatrical roots however, the set pieces are stunning and only a very few changes were made from the original score. Indeed, the whole thing appears very staged, in the gloriously engaging style of similar scale musical films such as Oliver.

Adapted from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, the addition of the Lerner & Loewe songs provide an extra dimension to the story. Even if you do not usually like musicals. Songs like `The Rain in Spain' and `Get Me to the Church On Time' will be familiar to most people.

Fantastically unmissable.

Review by Liz Burroughs
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98