My Fair Lady (DVD, 2004, 2-Disc Set, Special Edition) Reviews
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My Fair Lady (DVD, 2004, 2-Disc Set, Special Edition)

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My Fair Lady - The Musical That Will Change Your Mind About Musicals

Jan 21, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:story, acting, musical numbers, production values, restoration job, DVD extras

Cons:Eliza's screaming can get on your nerves

The Bottom Line: A musical everyone should see on a large screen.  If this isn't a musical you like, then there are probably none you'll like.


I’m not generally a fan of musicals.  Although I have seen some plays I quite enjoy, somehow when it translates to the screen, other than animated features, I don’t care for them.  I’d never seen My Fair Lady although I’d heard much about it.

If you’re someone like me who doesn’t think they will like a musical, give this one a chance.  I was completely bowled over by it, in a good way.  I think a lot of that has to do with the incredible talent present in the film.

Outside of the opera one night as the peacocks of society are leaving, Professor Henry Higgins (portrayed by Rex Harrison) observes a Cockney flower girl (portrayed by Audrey Hepburn) interacting with the crowd hoping to cull some crumbs that will enable her to survive.  In particular, he notices how she talks and how that indicates her class in society.

However, Higgins also believes he could cultivate her in short order and says that to the Colonel Pickering (portrayed by Wilfrid Hyde-White).  The conversation is easily overheard by the subject of their discourse, Eliza Doolittle, and stays with her, prompting her to seek our Professor Higgins and ask for his help.  She's only hoping for him to teach her enough that she can get a decent job as a lady's maid or shop girl.  This would better her station in life.

Higgins is convinced when Pickering turns Eliza's proposition into a bet.  He has her cleaned up and begins to giver her speech and behavior lessons.  However, he doesn't really see Eliza as a person.  The way he talks about her is like she's a non-person and just a toy to be played with.  Even his head housekeeper, as much as she looks down on Eliza, chastises his attitude.

Night after night, Higgins and Pickering work until the wee hours of the morning with Eliza trying to alter her speech.  Everyone is frustrated and tired, even Eliza who opted for this is the first place.  Finally a breakthrough occurs.  The question for them is if it’s enough for Henry to be able to present her as if she were a princess among society.

While Pickering is always kind to Eliza, Higgins sees her as a means to an end.  It’s his mother who calls the two men on treating Eliza like a doll to be played with and dressed up, without thinking about the person underneath.  Early on it does seem Eliza has fallen for the brusque, callous Professor.  The question remains throughout if he’s truly fallen for her and if he will realize it before it’s too late.

Everything in the film is nearly flawless.  From the setting and attention to detail of the Professor’s house as well as the London streets.  The setting for the horse race is amazingly simple while at the same time being convincing.  The costumes are dazzling, if a bit overdone.  It does serve to stress the impression of high society being made up of peacocks, however.

The musical numbers fit in quite well, which has always been an issue with me.  Audrey Hepburn’s numbers were dubbed in by Marni Nixon.  Although at times the voice doesn’t seem to match, in general it’s an excellent job.  There are recordings out there of Hepburn doing several of the songs and although she doesn’t have the same strength in her voice as Nixon did, I wish they had let her try a few songs and left them in the final film.  Harrison is reprising the role he played in the theatre, so this was a seamless transition.


I did find the yelling Hepburn did a bit annoying.  Perhaps that was the angle they were going for, but her yelling in protest whether it was being bathed or being forced into lessons, or even protesting something Higgins says grated on me in short order.  It’s really my only complaint about the film.  All of the actors do an incredible job, and it’s not just a matter of the talent from the theatre being put on the silver screen.  There was major controversy over the selection of Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle over Julie Andrews who had the role on Broadway.  Hepburn and Harrison do seem to get on well, or at least they manage to create that image which is important.

The DVD itself is loaded with extras.  There’s a lot of the background given to this controversy and the decision as well as the fallout from it in terms of awards.  There’s a look inside the restoration of this film, which was quite a job.  It would be a shame if great films like this were lost to the poor care of the ages, and this one nearly was.  The amount of work that went into restoring it is pretty daunting.  The vocal tracks Hepburn recorded are here as well which makes it easy to compare the two.

Watching this on DVD, especially on the widescreen is a real treat.  It’s a dazzling film with an amazing attention to the details and colors.  The restoration really brought out the beauty of the film and the way the tone and atmosphere are often set by the colors.  I really recommend viewing it on a large screen if you can.

There’s nothing not to like here from the film itself to the restoration to the DVD extras.  As someone who isn’t usually impressed with musicals on the silver screen, My Fair Lady was one that would make me go a long way to changing that opinion.  It’s really a must-see and I think it transcends the generations.  I recommended it to my daughter already and I recommend it to anyone else.



SPECIAL FEATURES:

• Commentary with Gene Allen, Marni Nixon, Robert A. Harris, and James C. Katz
• More Loverly Than Ever: The Making of My Fair Lady - Then and Now
• 1963 Production Kickoff Dinner
• Audio of George Cukor Directing Baroness Bina Rothschild
• Audrey Hepburn Vocals
• Show Me Galleries
• Posters & Lobby Cards with Rex Harrison Radio Interview
• The Fairest Fair Lady
• L.A. Premiere Footage
• Rex Harrison's Golden Globe Acceptance Speech
• 37th Annual Academy Awards
• Awards
• Trailers




© 2010 Patti Aliventi


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