My Fair Lady: A Masterpiece in Many Ways

         I had really enjoyed watching the 1938 film Pygmalion, based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play and directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard. In my opinion, Wendy Hiller did a great job portraying Eliza Doolittle and her development from a flower girl to a lady. I was wondering if the 1964 musical film My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, could get any better. Astonishingly, it was much better in many ways: First of all, the settings and the props were very helpful in creating suitable pictures and accompanying the action. The ladies’ dresses and hats at the horserace scene in Ascot were hilarious and made fun of the high-society in an entertaining way. Moreover, the devices Higgins (Rex Harrison) used to practice pronunciation with Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) were very detailed and sophisticated.

         Although this film is almost three hours long, it was always rich in variety, and I never got bored. In my opinion, the most brilliant piece of this film is the part that shows Eliza being forced to practice her phonetics in fast motion. The different “torture” devices and the harsh instruction by Higgins increase her frustration and make her almost desperate in the end. The way in which this process is portrayed is really high cinematic art. Another aspect that prevents the movie from being monotonous and boring is the choice of songs by the main characters: By means of these songs, the characters show their feelings and the viewer can pause to think about the preceding action. I do not like pure musicals because the ceaseless singing is always getting on my nerves; but here the songs are a good alternation; and, of course, they are performed very well by the cast.

         Speaking about the cast, I think it is perfect in this film. Especially Audrey Hepburn does such a good job in portraying Eliza and her development that the picture of her I had already worked in my head got even clearer. She finally gave life to this figure, and she showed her clumsiness in the beginning, and later her frustration, her anger and her cluelessness in a very authentic way. I had never expected that I could enjoy a three- hour musical film from the first minute to the last, but I did.

Bernhard Holzfurtner