Musical Enhancements

        Musicals are not for everyone. I happen to think that musicals can be exceptional films; and, in some cases, such as in George Cuckor's 1964 musical My Fair Lady, which was based on the 1913 play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, the music enhances the story. My Fair Lady would just be another adaptation of an old story if not for the brilliant lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe.

        Songs such as "Why Can't the English" and "Wouldn't it be Loverly" help to introduce the audience to the major characters. "Why Can't the English" gives us a deep insight into Professor Higgins' (Rex Harrison) disposition. He is coarse and has little patience. He is obsessed with linguistics, and they consume his life. "Wouldn't it be Loverly" tells us that Eliza Doolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn with vocals by Marni Nixon, is a dreamer too big for the low, dirty life she lives as a common flower girl. It helps us to understand why she would put up with the horrible manners of Professor Higgins to learn how to speak properly.

        Though the songs in My Fair Lady certainly do enhance the story, that does not mean that all of the songs are necessary. Alfred Doolittle's (depicted on the stage and screen by Stanley Holloway) first song, "With a Little Bit of Luck," does a sufficient job of telling his character. He is one of the "undeserving poor" and is content in his position in life. His second song, "Get Me to the Church on Time," however is completely unnecessary and just serves to drag the movie on. It does not tell us anything new, nor does it progress the story. If anything the song holds the movie back since it is performed near the end with lots of action central to the plot happening before and after it.

        The music, along with the eye-popping cinematography by Harry Stradling, help to make My Fair Ladyan outstanding film. It is also one of the very few musicals to win an Oscar for best picture. The catchy lyrics and interesting story should make My Fair Lady a musical that is enjoyable by everyone.

Ashley Williams

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