Audrey Hepburn: My Fair Lady

         There was one actress who stood out to me among all the rest this semester; that actress was Audrey Hepburn. Now I have to admit that I am a fan of the late Ms. Hepburn's work in other movies, but it would be wrong of me to use that bias to ignore her ability. As the young Eliza in George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, based on Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical play and on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, Ms. Hepburn was able to present an objectionable young lady who is transformed into a lady with beauty and grace.

         Although the version of My Fair Lady that Ms. Hepburn played in was a musical and prevented many of the students from enjoying it; she managed throughout the movie to keep me interested in what was happening to her character. She acted and lip-synched Marnie Nixon's singing voice, with an ability that no one else acting alongside of her could dare to compete with. Ms. Hepburn's portrayal of Eliza was probably the best that anyone could have asked for. I am sure that this portrayal has left generations of actresses who would find it a real hardship to achieve such an honest and complete depiction of Eliza.

         Eliza's character is multifaceted. She starts out as the girl selling flowers that I felt somewhat sorry for. She soon turns into a victim that I felt even more sorry for. She becomes the victim of Mr. Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) from the beginning. She is publicly humiliated and cast down for her speech patterns by Mr. Higgins. At the beginning she is the poor Eliza with the wretched voice who has to sell flowers on the street to make ends meet because she could never be a lady selling flowers in a flower shop. Her portrayal throughout is an exact image of how I pictured the story from Eliza's perspective.

         However, by a miracle or possibly through feelings of guilt, Mr. Higgins throws her money as he leaves her standing there in the Covent Garden street upset and angry. This money is her fortune, which Eliza is determined to use to make herself a lady. She wants to be the kind of lady that Higgins has said she could be if only she knew how to speak and act properly as only he could teach her. Suddenly the victim is a powerhouse of determination and flair who will find her way as a lady.

         She goes to Higgins' home as a combination of the powerhouse and the victim. She could have been turned away rather quickly until, with the help of Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White), she starts down the path, initially as a damsel in distress. Eliza is not yet a lady and has a lot of work to go, work which is hard and oftentimes torturous for her. She is obviously unsure of herself and lacks a great deal; however, she continues to prevail.

         She is being pushed hard by all, but she is pushed the most by her teacher, Mr. Henry Higgins. Higgins is adamant about teaching Eliza to be a lady and to speak with grace and ease. The problem is that he sees her not just as a student but also as a bet rather than as a lady, which she desperately wants to be. This will be Eliza's ultimate struggle. Ms. Hepburn appears to be a natural at conveying Eliza's struggle. Not only is she able to go through the motions with ease, but she also manages throughout the movie to evolve into a true lady. She becomes what she wanted, but with a power that no other actress will ever be able to surpass.

         Ms. Hepburn was an excellent choice for the role of Eliza and will undoubtedly never be forgotten as the perfect lady that Higgins could have ever created in the story of My Fair Lady.

Kimberly Ritch

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