Wouldn’t it be loverly?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008 | All Things, Film

When I read that My Fair Lady was going to be playing at the MoMA as part of “Rex Harrison: A Centenary Tribute” (March 5–24, 2008), I knew I would find the time to go. The 1964 film is one of my all-time favorites – one of three musicals to which I can sing along to just about every song. (The others are The Sound of Music and West Side Story.)

Roger Ebert called My Fair Lady “the best and most unlikely of musicals…The songs are literate and beloved; some romantic, some comic, some nonsense, some surprisingly philosophical, every single one wonderful.”

MoMA film

MoMA film

Controversy surrounded the casting of Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews for the part of Eliza Doolittle; Andrews had originated the role on stage to great acclaim, but producer and Warner Bros. Studio head Jack L. Warner chose established movie actress Hepburn for her greater box-office appeal. My Fair Lady went on to be nominated for twelve Oscars, winning eight (including best picture, actor and director). Hepburn, whose songs were (in)famously dubbed by Marni Nixon, was not nominated for Best Actress that year; ironically, Andrews was nominated… and won for Mary Poppins. In his Academy Award acceptance speech, Rex Harrison, the man who had played Professor Henry Higgins opposite them both, thanked “two fair ladies.”

The MoMA theater was packed tonight with fellow devotees of Hepburn and Harrison’s repartee, Lerner & Loewe’s classic songs and photographer Cecil Beaton’s delightful costumes.

The My Fair Lady DVD has a dual soundtrack, which features two songs with Hepburn’s original singing voice so listeners can judge for themselves how inadequate it was. (Contrast the scene with Nixon’s final cut here.) Interestingly, Harrison himself, despite extensive vocal training, was unable to sing his role either, which resulted in his signature quasi-speaking song delivery throughout the film. Sexy Rexy‘s deliciously patrician tones reportedly inspired the voice of Stewie Griffin on “Family Guy”.

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There are 2 Comments ... Wouldn’t it be loverly?

hyb
March 30, 2008

You know the best part? When they joke about the Hungarian Rhapsody.

So funnerly!

vipnyc
March 30, 2008

Prof. Higgins: … and when at last the dance was done,
He glowed as if he knew he’d won.
And with a voice too eager,
And a smile too broad,
He announced to the hostess
That she was… a fraud!

Mrs. Pearce: No!

Prof. Higgins: Jawohl!
‘Her English is too good,’ he said,
‘Which clearly indicates that she is foreign.
Whereas others are instructed in their native language
English people aren’t.
And although she may have studied with
An expert dialectician and grammarian,
I… can… tell… that… she… was born… Hungarian!
Not only Hungarian, but of royal blood.
She is… a princess!’

Go for it ...