4 – My Fair Lady – The Guardian’s Top Ten Movie Musicals

Movie Musicals are as popular today as they were back in the twenties when sound was first introduced to cinema.
In December 2013 The Guardian Newspaper published their list of the Top Ten Movie Musicals.
Here is what the Guardian’s critics have to say, what we at Actor Hub think of each choice and some of your thoughts (via Amazon’s reviews).
If you agree or disagree please let us know via Twitter @actorhub.
Read the original article on the Guardian’s website.

#4 My Fair Lady – Top Ten Film Musicals

What The Guardian Said:

The title of George Cukor’s adaptation of George Bernard’s stage play – the much more self-explanatory Pygmalion – has often eluded cinemagoers since the film’s release in 1964. The likeliest explanation – and one that reflects the spirit of Shaw’s sophisticated wit – is that it is a spin on Shaw’s provisional title Fair Eliza (after Beethoven’s Für Elise) and also the Cockney pronunciation of “Mayfair lady”, which, after all, is the object of its leading man’s boast – to be able to pass off common flower seller Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) as a society duchess.
With book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, the partnership behind Camelot and Brigadoon, My Fair Lady achieved greatness by staying as mindful of Shaw’s original play as Shaw was of Ovid’s version of the Greek myth, in which a sculptor creates a beautiful statue that comes to life and causes him to fall in love with her. This fusing of romance and socialist principles gives the film its kick, with Rex Harrison hilarious as the elitist linguist Henry Higgins, who continues to dismiss Eliza as “this thing that I created out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden” even as she is accepted into the loftiest echelons of the establishment.
Many off-screen controversies rage, such as whether Julie Andrews was robbed of a role that should have been hers from the stage play, and indeed whether Audrey Hepburn was robbed of an Oscar nomination – she was a notable omission – when it became known that her singing voice had been dubbed by Marni Nixon. But while debate continues to swirl around the mischievous last line – “Eliza? Where the devil are my slippers?” delivered after Higgins sings the surrendering I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face – the ambiguity adds to its timelessness. Rather than a walk into the sunset, Cukor’s film ends with a scene of domestic detente that any couple will recognise. Damon Wise

What We Think:

My biggest problem with movie musicals is that the transition from stage to screen takes away some magic and I am always left wanting to go and watch the show live on the stage. My Fair Lady is one of the few musicals which successfully makes this leap from the boards to celluloid.
The beautiful Audrey Hepburn is wonderful as Eliza, although a little bit of me does wonder what the result would have been like if the producers had been brave enough to cast Broadway’s Eliza Doolittle, Julie Andrews. It is no secret nowadays that Hepburn’s singing voice is dubbed over by Marni Nixon, however you do hear her own voice for about two thrids of Just You Wait and also the lines Bed, bed, I couldn’t go to bed! and Sleep, sleep, I couldn’t sleep tonight! in the song I Could Have Danced All Night
The film looks beautiful throughout and the costumes by Cecil Beaton are just incredible – the Ascot scene alone is a pure cinematical delight!
[Spoiler Alert] The only Actor Hub gripe we have with the film is the ending – Eliza returning to Higgins – the woman relinquishing her power to the man – has always annoyed me, especially the way he treats her when she does return Where the devil are my slippers?. The play does not end this way.
That is my only gripe in an almost three hour movie of pure joy! This film is a true movie musical epic with some wonderful performances, gorgeous cinematography and big set pieces. ActorHub
Trivia Fans:
  • When Audrey Hepburn was first informed that her voice wasn’t strong enough and that she would have to be dubbed, she walked out. She returned the next day and – in a typically graceful Hepburn gesture – apologized to everybody for her “wicked behavior”.
  • About twenty minutes before the end of the film, Colonel Pickering offers to go off and find the missing Eliza. He exits the library set – and is never seen in the movie again!
  • Audrey Hepburn announced the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy to the devastated cast and crew immediately after filming the number “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” on the Covent Garden set on 22 November 1963.
  • Rex Harrison’s microphone (hidden in his neckties) would occasionally pick up police broadcasts from passing police cars.

What You Think:

The Top Ten Movie Musicals