“My Fair Lady” (1964)

MOVIE REVIEW: “My Fair Lady” stars Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade), Rex Harrison (Cleopatra, Doctor Doolittle [1967]), Stanley Holloway (Brief Encounter, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes), Wilfrid Hyde-White (The Third Man, Let’s Make Love), Gladys Cooper (The Song of Bernadette, Now Voyager), Jeremy Brett (War and Peace [1956], The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [TV series]), Theodore Bikel (The Defiant Ones, The Enemy Below), and Mona Washbourne (Stevie, Billy Liar). It is directed by George Cukor (Gaslight, The Philadelphia Story), with the screenplay being written by Alan Jay Lerner (An Amerian in Paris, Gigi).

In 1910s London, a pompous phonetics professor (Harrison) takes up the challenge of training a boistrous working class girl (Hepburn) in speech and transforming her into someone who could pass for high society.

My first Audrey Hepburn film. And what a one to choose!

On the 13th of November, I sat down to watch one of my girlfriend’s favorite musicals of all time. Eliza Doolittle (portrayed by Hepburn) is her dream role; something she aspires to play on the stage one day. Having watched the film, I can understand why. Doolittle is a hilarious, unique character. She is fiesty and chaotic, with a sharp wit. Her dialect is horrendous, carrying a voice that is so shrill and annoying that you can’t help but laugh at Rex Harrison’s position in taking her on to transform her into a posh Englishwoman. Truly, there’s quite a bit to chew on with the role, and Hepburn knocks it out of the park, giving a performance that is easily the best part of the feature (along with the chemistry she shares with Harrison).

“My Fair Lady” has the make-up of many classic, big-budgeted musicals of its time. The sets are grandiose, shot primarily on a soundstage. The production design is beautiful, with costumes and backdrops that pop off the screen (especially the scene involving the horse race). It’s a well-oiled machine, and I found myself simply enjoying the aesthetic of it all. The poor streets of 1910’s London, Professor Higgins’ office, Mrs. Higgins’ (Cooper) home, and the club overseeing the race track; many moments captured in fine set-ups. You don’t get cinema like this anymore, folks.

As I stated before, Hepburn stole the show. She formed a nice balance that offered both laughs and sadness, as her role of Eliza Doolittle is something of a tragedy. Watching her journey, the humor of her being a guinea pig to a pompous instructor all but washed away as she argued for her right to a better life. One where she felt wanted. Harrison’s Professor Higgins develops in his own way, serving as a figure just as prominent as Doolittle herself. I found their chemistry to be entertaining and engaging; they played well off each other, particularly in the low moments where their relationship was tested. The theme of falling for one’s own creation is a strong element in this tale, something that was fascinating to me.

Of course, there’s other characters that litter the story. Particularly Eliza’s deadbeat father, Alfred (Holloway). He was funny, though I will say that I didn’t care for his role all that much. The meat of the story resides in Eliza and Higgins, so any time we pull away from that, I wasn’t all that interested. Musicals have a means of gearing their stories toward catchy, whimsical songs that don’t always progress the narrative. Alfred had a few numbers, which were not bad, but my mind drifted at times in watching them. Songs can be hit or miss for me. The music of “My Fair Lady” is well-orchestrated and there are a few choice selections, but I wouldn’t say they are my favorite. What drew me in most was the story itself.

“My Fair Lady” has the workings of a musical classic, to which I’m sure most agree. It won plenty of Oscars upon its release (taking home a whopping eight trophies), cementing Hepburn as one of the greatest leading ladies of her time. Her role of Eliza Doolittle is fun and iconic; worth the watch in seeing her transform from street rat to princess. Aside from a few undesirables, this is a solid musical. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““My Fair Lady” (1964)

  1. Pingback: November Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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