Thursday, May 31, 2018

Movie #462: My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady is, of course, the film version of the famed stage musical, and stars Audrey Hepburn (singing by Marni Nixon), Rex Harrington, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Jeremy Brett, Mona Washbourne, and Gladys Cooper.

You probably know the story, but: Professor Higgins (Harrington) makes a bet with colleague Pickering (Hyde-White) that he can pass a Cockney flower seller Eliza (Hepburn) off as nobility at an Embassy ball by teaching her "proper" English. He manages that, but he treats Eliza like dirt because he's a classist dickbag, but then after she quite rightly storms out, he realizes that he's grown fond of her. She comes back, but their relationship afterward is left uncertain.

(I'm leaving out a lot here, including the relationship between Eliza and her father (Holloway), the love interest Freddy (Brett), and Higgins' mother (Cooper), because almost none of that is relevant to the main plot.)

This movie is really long, but I think the last time I watched it was pre-SLP training, and it's interesting now that I have more of a background in phonetics and dialect. To wit: Higgins is a prescriptivist, which bugs the shit out of me (I mean, product of the times, sure, but what I find infuriating is that he's able to recognize the philosophical genius of Eliza's father because of his lack of eduction, but places so much emphasis on "proper" speech, but recognizes that it's all that keeps Eliza from "nobility"). I also had not realized how much the movie queer-codes Higgins, holy shit.

There are a host of really famous songs from this musical - "Get me to the Church on Time," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" just for starters. I think that about a quarter of the show is unnecessary and I'm amazed they kept everything in for the film - it's three hours long and contains an intermission, but it also won eight Oscars including Best Picture, so apparently audiences didn't mind that.

The cast is fantastic; I love Harrington as Higgins, but Hyde-White is also low-key and subtle and funny, and of course Holloway gets some good laughs. Hepburn is lovely as Eliza, and I also really enjoyed Cooper as a voice of reason in this whole mess. Could have taken or left Brett as Freddy; frankly I think that plot point didn't survive the transition from Pygmalion very well.

My Grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low (it's so damn long)

Next up: My Fellow Americans