The Attack of the Musical

     I admit, I like a good musical every now and then. But I can only tolerate musicals under one condition: they must be live. Somehow, an on-screen or film version of a musical is the equivalent of a dental check-up for me. My Fair Lady, the 1964 musical film version of Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, is no exception. My Fair Lady (directed by George Cukor) is too overblown, and completely wastes Audrey Hepburn's talent.

     In this work, Professor Higgins (portrayed by Rex Harrison) and Colonel Pickering (depicted by Wilfred Hyde-White) transform Eliza Doolittle, (played by Hepburn) from a sow's ear into a silk purse. Not surprisingly, a romantic attraction develops between Higgins and Eliza. However, no real chemistry develops between them. Their scenes are nauseating, and Higgins is so unlikable that I did not even want to look at him. Eliza's accent in the beginning may have been important to the story, but it just annoyed me. I wanted to cover my ears when she was speaking.

     Even worse than Eliza's accent in the film is the singing part. In my opinion, this movie would have been much better without the music. For a musical to be first-rate, the story must center on the music. The Sound of Music and The King and I are two good examples of this. The songs of My Fair Lady added nothing to the film. Instead of Eliza singing to herself about how Higgins would someday pay, her telling him off and giving him a little slap would have sufficed just fine. The servants' grumbling as singing was one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when actors "sing" their dialogue; it might as well be fingernails on a chalkboard.

     My Fair Lady is based on a terrific play. Without the music, it could have been a fine cinematic adaption of Shaw's work. We really did not need to know "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain."

Krista Kimmel

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