Winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture (1964), an extravagant and laugh-out-loud film version of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.
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Top hats, heavy downpour, rich gentlemen’s and the cockney accents, there is no doubt about where the film is set; welcome to London! At an instance we are introduced to a class divided city. On one side we have the rich know-it-alls such as Henry Higgins and on the other the poor cockneys such as Eliza Doolittle. This is a story about a common cockney girl who decides to transform herself into a beautiful and glamorous lady; however that is easier said than it’s done!
Audrey Hepburn plays the feisty Eliza Doolittle with Rex Harrison playing Henry Higgins the confident phoneticist who proposes that he can transform Eliza from a cockney flower girl and pass her for a duchess at the Embassy Ball. After a proposal of change from Higgins, Eliza decides that she must change her accent to succeed in life where she dreams to one day work in a flower shop.
The film moves swiftly to show the amount of change being put into creating a lady out of Eliza with many laughs along the way. Most=2 0notably, about an hour into the film Eliza seems to have picked up the lingo after what seems to have been many sleepless nights of repeating her vows and catchphrases. To put Eliza to the test Higgins arranges for her to attend the annual Ascot races where she will sit amongst his mother and her friends to see if she fares well with her new accent. All is going well; Eliza is dressed in a beautiful white dress with a big black and white striped bow and a traditionally large hat which looks as if it is carrying a ridiculously large bouquet of flowers on top. She is talking confidently, although not very lady like as she tells the crowd about the so-called “murder” of her, all attention is on her. However, when it comes down to the races Eliza goes a little over-board and gets carried away. Unlike the other guests at Ascot Eliza makes a huge show of supporting her horse Dover and in doing so forgets that she is to act like a lady and shouts, “Come on Dover! Move you’re bloody ass!” in a strongly recognizable cockney accent and is subsequently rumbled.
Higgins, nevertheless doesn’t back down and spends more time with Eliza. The climax of the film is the Embassy Ball where we find out if Eliza passes the test, so to say. Although if the audience knew better they would have gues sed from the off-set that Eliza would pass and in fact become the fairest lady of the ball.
It is quite clear as to why My Fair Lady did incredibly well at the 1964 Oscars with the exquisite set designs and the extravagant costumes worn by all the extras especially at the ball which gave it a magical, fairy-tale feel to the event. Eliza’s dress and jewelry for the ball in particular highlights the change which she has endured from when we were first introduced to the character selling violets in the street to now dancing with the Prince of Transylvania. George Cukor, the director clearly highlights this fact by mixing various shots together, such as high angled and close-up shots as well as smooth editing to portray that everyone’s eyes are transfixed on Eliza stunned by her beauty and aura. Inevitably the night was a success with many guests believing that she was in fact a princess.
Higgins and Eliza’s relationship although seemed hateful they both needed each other but also can not stand each other. In the end, like many Hollywood films, it seems that no matter how much Higgins denied it he had bec ome familiar to Eliza’s beauty which he could not live without.
Harrison’s reprisal of his role as Higgins and Hepburn’s astounding performance as Eliza makes My Fair Lady a truly entertaining and irresistible musical. It’s a story about a young girls dream for change in direction not wanting to end up like her father, still scraping to bring in the money. You may feel sorry for her and you may laugh at her, but one thing is for sure, you will be singing along to all the classics whilst eating your bowl of pop-corn. So be prepared for an undeniably funny and cockney film the whole family can enjoy.
In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire it sure is loverly to be the fairest lady of them all!