Wednesday, September 1, 2010

No. 91: My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady (1964)

Starring: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Stanley Holloway

Director: George Cukor

Awards: 8 Oscars, including Best Picture

I don't think I've ever started writing a post with negative thoughts about the movie. Well, that’s not true anymore – because you know what? I’m throwing this down: My Fair Lady is not a good movie. I know, it’s a shock. I’m usually a pretty positive person. But to my surprise, I found it so bad that I admit: there may have been fast-forwarding. Yep, that painful.

In the case of this movie, the problems far outnumbered the shining moments. Audrey Hepburn’s character is annoying and over-the-top, and seems ill-cast. The songs aren’t all that great, and the script adaptation seems awkward at times. In short – eh. Not so great.

I may dislike My Fair Lady, but I’m still obligated to summarize the horrors, so here goes.

Professor Henry Higgins (Harrison) is a misogynistic and bad-tempered phonetics genius who overhears ill-mannered Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn). He’s appalled by her poor speaking, and makes a bet that he can turn her into a “lady,” and take her to a society ball. After months of hard work, Eliza goes to the ball and it’s a great success. But Higgins takes all the credit for Eliza’s work, and she leaves in a rage. After she's gone, Higgins realizes that for all his mocking, he misses her. He finds her, they squabble, and she swears to never return. BUT - of course, she does, and it’s a sort-of-happy ending. I suppose.

So. Why on EARTH is this movie on the AFI’s list? I really don’t quite know. There are many far more deserving musicals that were omitted. Films like Cover Girl (1944) or Shall We Dance (1937) – now those are good musicals. Good songs, good scripts, and most important – no Audrey Hepburn squawking in a painfully shrill voice.

It's not like there are absolutely no good things about My Fair Lady. Rex Harrison is hilariously rude, and even though he acts atrociously to Eliza, she’s so annoying you don’t even mind. Stanley Holloway turns the bit role of Eliza’s comically drunk father into one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. And admittedly, some of the Lerner and Loewe songs like Why Can’t The English? are pretty good.

So not everything is bad - just most of it. Sadly, I’m not in a hurry to recommend it.

Next up, The Jazz Singer (1927) – starring Al Jolson. This movie is all about film-industry firsts; it was the first film to incorporate sounds and dialogue. Should be interesting, so stick around and read about it!


  1. Good points made. I personally am glad to see you back at the reviewer's desk (and of course, glad we're past the Cockney-squawking).

  2. I absolutely agree with you. I can't stand My Fair Lady. I highly recommend the original (non-musical) version of this story, Pygmalion. I did enjoy that one.