A Thing of Beauty

         Of all the movies we watched this semester, my favorite was the 1964 My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor and based on Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical play. The costumes, settings, and the music played a large part in this. It was obvious that a great deal of time and skill went into it.

         The costumes were from the time period of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, that My Fair Lady was based on. Among my favorites were the dresses that Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) wore. She was beautiful even in the Cockney flower girl dress. The ultimate costume of the movie was the gown she wore to the embassy ball. It gave the audience the opportunity to see the finished product of Henry Higgins' (Rex Harrison) transformation of Eliza from a common flower girl to someone who could be passed off as a duchess. Without the beautiful costumes, she would have been incomplete.

         The sets were also great. I especially liked Henry Higgins' home. It suited his character. From the library, where we see him searching for a book, to the lab, where Eliza is practicing her vowels, all look authentic. The best part of his home was the wonderful staircase where we first see Eliza as she comes down dressed in the beautiful gown and jewels. It was also a great place for the scene where she asks the king for Henry Higgins' head.

         The set for the races was interesting. Everything was extreme there. From the hats to the attitude of the crowd, we get the full effect of the snobbery of the upper classes. This was another place that the costumes played a part in the movie. They were a part of the set.

         I liked the pub and the surrounding area where Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway), spent most of his time. The characters and costumes there are how I picture the lower-class area of London to be at that time. Doolittle blended in well with his surroundings. It was where he belonged.

         The music of the movie was another great part of it. I especially enjoyed Doolittle as he sang "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "I'm Getting Married in the Morning." The words suited his character, and it all blended well with the set. With the first song, we learn a lot about Doolittle. He is a drinker and a bit lazy. He also did not want to be married, and he is a bit of a moocher. In the second song, we see a man who is accepting his fate, but he is not happy about it. He sings, "Drug me or jail me, Stamp me or mail me, But get me to the church on time."

         Another great song is after Eliza finally says the words correctly and Higgins and Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) have gone to bed. She sings, "I Could Have Danced All Night." Through the song, we see not only the joy she feels about what she has accomplished, but also the first sign that she is falling in love with Higgins. She sings, "I only know when he began to dance with me I could have danced danced danced all night."

         We learn a great deal about Henry Higgins' feelings about women through the song "Let a Woman in Your Life." He really has no use for them. He sings, "Oh let a woman in your life, and you are plunging in a knife." It is obvious that he feels he has no need for a woman.

         In the end, it is through the words of a song that we learn that Higgins realizes his need for Eliza. He tells us in the song "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" that he wants her to be a part of his life. In the words, "She almost makes the day begin," we can see just how important she has become to him.

         I really loved this movie, but it was from a combination of the costumes, the sets, and the music. They made the movie complete. They blended together well; and, if any one of them had been less than they were, it would have taken a great deal away from the movie. I am grateful to the costume and set designers as well as the writers of the music and songs for giving me a movie I have enjoyed for years. It will continue to be one of my favorite movies of all time. Of course, credit must be given to the actors for putting it all together. The combination of all these things has made a great movie.

Deborah Black

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