Director: George Cukor
Original Release: 1964
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
This, my friends, is the power of Pandora. Our daughter has two stations of her own on my Pandora account and one of her seeds is "Singin' in the Rain" as sung by Tony Martin. The song has introduced her to the broader world of show tunes. This movie choice was influenced almost entirely by the songs from her station. I'm certain it won't be the last.
Another factor may have played in the decision. My Fair Lady has been a favorite in my family for four generations now. My Sister was first introduced by our maternal grandmother during a visit. Once she got back home, she dug up the Broadway cast LP from my parents' record collection and we started listening all the time. It was several more years before I saw the film, by which time I already knew most of the songs by heart.
One tune in particular has played a significant role in my life. "On the Street Where You Live" is one of the greatest tenor showstoppers in the entire repertoire. When I moved to New York City in my mid 20s, the song was one of my audition pieces for choirs and voice teachers. I also once serenaded My Wife with it on the streets of NYC early in our courtship. It's one of my father's favorites, too. He is also tenor.
Over the past year or so, I've given voice lessons as part of a barter arrangement. A woman in our community gives Our Girl piano lessons in exchange for vocal training for her husband. Often the lessons are back-to-back so my daughter gets to listen. "On the Street Where You Live" is one of the songs I taught him so she's also heard me sing it and knows how I feel about it.
The film version of My Fair Lady was enormously successful, though not without controversy. The movie was a box office smash and took home eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. But the Broadway devotees were furious over the casting of Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. On stage, Julie Andrews had sky rocketed to stardom in the role. The film producers didn't think she was a big enough name to carry the film. Hard to imagine now, right? Well, she certainly got the last laugh - story here.
A similar mistake was nearly made with the Henry Higgins role, too. Among several others, Cary Grant was offered the role. His response was blunt: no, and if Rex Harrison weren't cast, he wouldn't even bother to go see the movie.
Rex Harrison was, indeed, cast in the role he'd made famous on stage - won an Oscar, too. Stanley Holloway also performed his role on both stage and screen, that of Eliza's father Alfred. They are both so ideally suited to the roles that one wonders in hindsight why Warner Brothers didn't just sign the entire Broadway cast en masse.
Judged on the music alone, My Fair Lady may be my favorite musical of all - well worthy of a 5. But to me, the story itself is less engaging and also a bit too long. I once saw a stage performance of Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw play upon which My Fair Lady is based. The side characters are better developed in the original, especially Freddy, the love interest. Also, Eliza leaves Henry for good in the play - a far more satisfying ending. Our Girl loved the movie, even considered the ending a happy one. We did tell her that if she should ever find herself in a similar situation, stick with Freddy.
Hepburn is a great Eliza, even if they did dub most of the singing (take another bow, Marni Nixon). The Julie Andrews hubbub was hardly her fault. Apart from being a charming actress, she's a costume designer's dream come true. If you love hats, in particular, this may be the greatest movie ever made.