My Fair Lady—Where Do I Begin?
Special Guest Blog By Caroline Lappetito, Raleigh/Cary TCM Backlot Chapter Member
“Lots of chocolate for me to eat…warm face, warm hands, warm feet! Ohhhh wouldn’t it be loverly?”
“I’m an ordinary man…but let a woman in your life…I shall never let a woman in my life!”
“I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night and still have begged for more!”
“Get me to the church, get me to the church, for God’s sake get me to the church on time!”
“I have often walked down this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before, all at once am I, several stories high, knowing I’m on the street where you live”
My Fair Lady! Where do I begin to describe why I love this incredibly rich movie that is a fantastic feast for the senses—not to mention a warm, sweet dessert for the heart and the soul? It is a story that captivates me—an homage to George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion— the story of a “loverly” girl who works hard and through dogged effort and perseverance, overcomes her lowly background to reach the imperial Victorian status of a “lady.” It is a movie I have seen at least five times and could easily see five more times! Why do I love this movie?
Is it because My Fair Lady is a movie that delights the eyes from the opening frames, treating the viewer to seas of exquisite, colorful flowers from the London flower mart, while tantalizing one’s ears with snippets of haunting melodies skimmed from an enchanting musical score by Frederick Loewe with memorable lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner—a score that has one tapping one’s feet and humming the tunes long after?
Should I start by describing the gorgeously photogenic Audrey Hepburn and her poignant but joyful portrayal of Eliza Doolittle, the poor but principled and plucky flower girl who sheds her gutter speech and precarious life just getting by as a “good girl I am” in the underbelly of London society? And then, like a glorious butterfly, she determinedly crawls out of her cocoon to “spread my wings and do a thousand things?” And who cannot get a lump in one’s throat, seeing how Eliza stands silently, with regal bearing, totally transformed from a scruffy street urchin into a poised and lovely princess in her glittering Parisian gown and jewels, patiently waiting for Professor Higgins’ arm to escort her to the embassy ball?
Or is it that handsome but vexing, sophisticated and oh-so-interesting Professor Henry Higgins, who springs to life from the imagination and thespian skills of Rex Harrison—an incredible actor—that fascinates me? Harrison’s Higgins embodies pompous precision and order and reverence for the English language above all else …and then becomes… so incredibly endearing as he contemplates life without the constant reminder of Eliza and “her ups, her downs.” We witness how sadly forlorn he becomes as he realizes that he has grown “accustomed to her face.”
Or maybe it is it that I thoroughly enjoy that rakish, loveable, precocious Alfred P. Doolittle played by little known but super strong character actor, Stanley Holloway, who sings, dances and entertains his minions in the bowels of London, flaunting all convention but appealing so, as he reminds his posse of ne’er-do-wells to “get me to the church on time.”
Maybe it is the lush, vivid photography or the absolutely to-die-for period costumes at the Ascot Racecourse opening day scene that make modern ladies want to squeeze into a corset and parade in lovely organza and silk gowns and preposterous hats…and modern gentlemen want to try on elegant gray day coats, lace cravats and shiny top hats? Or even the gentlemen’s comfy velvet dressing gowns—so good with a cigar and brandy after a hard day—or the top hats and satin-lined capes over a tuxedo with a quick glass of port to “steady the nerves” before the embassy ball? Ah, those were the days!
But no—no, I think after all, it just must be the music that makes me love this movie! The rich variety of haunting score and lyrics that move the plot along, reveal the true characters of the players and make your spirits soar! The music that days later, keeps rolling around in your head and makes you wish that you too could have “danced all night and begged for more!”
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