My Fair Lady (1964)

My Fair Lady (1964), directed by George Cukor.

Lavish stage sets and costumes and Audrey Hepburn is always adorable, but she is essentially elegant and could never be dirty enough to be Eliza Dolittle, who has never had a proper bath. I don't suppose Julie Andrews could, either.

None of the performances are as good as in Pygmalion (1938), but that's really not fair because this is a musical: we see it for an extra layer of fantasy, not dramatization.

The biggest problems are the length (nearly 3hrs) and the music. Lerner and Loewe have some strong tunes ("I Could Have Danced All Night" and "On the Street Where You Live") but too much of the running time is padded with inconsequential and tuneless elaborations of trivial dialog. How long do you want to hum along with "Poor Professor Higgins"? Strange fact: the Shaw estate insisted that as much of the original text be sung as possible.

Much to her disappointment, Hepburn's singing was dubbed. Jack Warner could have had Julie Andrews from the stage version but wanted a big name. Ironically, Andrews won Best Actress for Mary Poppins (1964) that year and became a big name because of it.

Jeremy Brett's (later Sherlock Holmes!) singing is obviously dubbed. Rex Harrison barely sings a note and talks his way through the songs with his own voice.

Andre Previn arrangements.

It won eight oscars including Best Picture, Director and Actor. You never know what the Academy is going to do.

I'll save analysis of the story for a review of Pygmalion (1938) someday. Is it nature, nurture, or just a new coat of paint? As Eliza says: you speak differently and people treat you differently, making you feel differently, making you a different person.

Available on Blu-ray with a lovely image. The commentary track is from the DVD years: technical details on the original production and 1990s restoration by Gene Allen, Robert Harris and James Katz. Marni Nixon, who dubbed Hepburn's singing, is spliced in from time to time.