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  • My Fair Lady
    • My Fair Lady
    • Runtime:127 min
    • Release Date:2014-07-29 08:32:51
    • Director: George Cukor
    • Genres: Drama, Family, Musical, Romance
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:My Fair Lady
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The now famous musical adaptation of Pygmalion with Rex Harrison as the
arrogant elocution teacher Professor Henry Higgins who bets that he can
turn Cockney flower seller Audrey Hepburn into a real lady and falls in
love in the process. It is truly amazing to me the kind of unbridled
affection that viewers and film historians have for this adaptation of
the stage musical considering how devoid of passion the final result on
screen is. Director George Cukor has crafted a technically lovely
looking film, but the magic is muted and the enchantment of the stage
hit is sorely wanting. Harrison was tapped to recreate his stage
success, but filmmakers passed over Julie Andrews to gift the role of
Eliza Dolittle to non-singer Audrey Hepburn (she is dubbed by Marni
Nixon). Hepburn is truly lovely here, but she is no where near the
immortal asset to the film that fans like to pretend. What is amazing
about My Fair Lady – the screen version – is how much it makes one
think fondly of OTHER screen musicals. Life is desperately needed here
and on vastly short order. For instance, Stanley Holloway's purportedly
show-stopping numbers as rendered on screen have a surprisingly MEH
factor. When Eliza sings effervescently that she could have "danced all
night" with Higgins, what she refers to on screen is a couple of clunky
turns around Higgins' cramped study. Many of the numbers are deservedly
familiar, but one walks away thinking they could have been staged much
better than presented – particularly against the absurdly phony
backgrounds. Harrison's stuffed shirt Higgins wears thin quickly. He is
arrogant, preening and obnoxious, and it is virtually impossible to
root for a romantic coupling between he and Eliza. The film's strong
misogynistic streak may come from the source, but the screenplay here
does nothing to soften it. Eliza raises a good point when she draws
Higgins' attention to the fact that now that he has raised her
consciousness and turned her into a lady – what can she do now? The
fact that he considers her an ingrate and gets insulted says all we
need to know about a pompous, vainglorious character that fails to
evolve. It says a lot when the viewer actually hopes Eliza will take up
teaching and marry young aristocrat Freddy, who actually adores her for
herself, rather than settle for a life of servitude with Higgins. The
film's final scene with Eliza puzzlingly returning to Higgins and him
barking at her to get his slippers is decidedly disheartening. A
classic that is nice to see once, but whose reputation has become too
bloated to be believed.

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DVD runtime: 170 min. (Intermisssion about 2/3rds through). The film is
a version of Lerner & Loewe's 1956 Broadway musical which was a musical
adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1916 play "Pygmalion." (Shaw's play
loosely draws on Ovid's 1st century "Metamorphoses" for its plot.)
"MFL" is in Ebert's list of "Great Films."

Years ago, I bought the record album of "MFL" and the sequence of its
music tells the rough outlines of the story: a financially secure,
snobbish, completely non-empathic but gifted phonetics professor, Henry
Higgins (Rex Harrison) makes a bet with a close friend, Col. Pickering,
that in 6 months he can transform Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a
Cockney speaking girl selling flowers, a "gutter snipe," into a lady
who'll be accepted by & in upper society.

The movie shows that next 6 months as Eliza learns "proper" speech and
manners. Harrison & Holloway (who plays Eliza's father) reprise their
roles from the Broadway musical. Hepburn's Cockney accents seemed
genuine; she lip syncs her songs to Marni Nixon's actual vocals. Roger
Ebert's helpful review discusses in detail the huge uproar from the
choice of Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews (who played Eliza's role on
Broadway), the substitution of Nixon's singing voice, and the fate of
lip syncing after that (plus many other interesting things).

This gorgeous, stunning film adds more verses and variations to the
music than that on my album. Harrison and Hepburn are simply great in
their roles, as are all other supporting players including a much
younger Jeremy Brett (now an old Sherlock Holmes in the PBS series) as
Eliza's young aristocratic suitor, Freddy, smitten with Eliza.

All the sets are magnificent. My companion had seen stage versions of
"MFL" twice before but never this film; she said the film was much
richer and more satisfying to her. I was roughly familiar with the
story but surprised to find some things I didn't know: that there was a
near disastrous practice run with Eliza at the Ascot and that something
unwanted happened to Eliza's father that elevated him into the middle
class.

My rating is 10 of 10 stars. A minor criticism is that I thought the
Doolittle (Holloway) singing and dancing number, "I'm Getting Married
in the Morning," went on a little too long (half would've been
sufficient).

The film nicely leaves one in doubt as to whether Eliza will go back
and stay with Higgins or marry Freddy–although possibly with a slight
bias to returning to Higgins.

In case you wonder what happens to Eliza in GBS's "Pygmalion" you can
read Shaw's own long description of their later lives (see 'Sequel:
What Happened Afterwards') following Act V (for the link, google:
bartleby Shaw, Bernard 1916 Pygmalion) And, in the same link, if you
read the 'Preface: A Professor of Phonetics,' you'll find that Shaw
somewhat modeled Higgins' personality and interactions after an actual
professor of phonetics, Henry Sweet, who was gifted but quite
prickly–and/or, read the entire delightful play.

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Not wanting to be a party pooper, overall, My Fair Lady is such a feast
for a musical-lover like me. However, to the end, I believe that the
movie itself will benefit itself more with few editing especially the
'Get Me to the Church on Time' number sung by Mr. Doolittle which I saw
does not contribute at all to the storyline.

As for the part in which Eliza poured her heart to Mr. Higgins, she
told him that she's needed in the house to tell him where's his
slippers, to do things for him, in which I couldn't identify at all the
physical hardships that she faced in Higgin's house (except for mental
stress due to the verbal abuse and the trainings). Sure do what I saw
was that she got herself living in a wealthy lifestyle, with maids
changing her to pajamas. i was lost for awhile during that scene, but
maybe it's just me.

The biggest credit for this movie is definitely the presence of Audrey
Hepburn. Oh my, the differences she showed being the commoner and the
faux, high class lady is just obvious and mesmerizing. She deserved
every accolades coming in her way after the movie.

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