“Fair”-ly Ahead of Its Time

        Still known as one of the greatest musicals in the history of cinema, George Cukor’s 1964 film, My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion, set a high standard for a genre that was extremely popular in the mid-twentieth century. Released within ten years of The Sound of Music, The King and I, and Oklahoma!. Cukor’s film had big shoes to fill, and plenty of critics that knew what it takes to craft a legendary musical.

        The end result was what many people now see as the “stereotypical musical.” Cukor’s choice to cast Audrey Hepburn in the starring role of Eliza Doolittle increased the initial success of the film, and continues to be one of the main reasons for the film’s success. However, Cukor’s magic gave them film more than just an A-list cast. His use of color film, elaborate sets and costumes, and his take on the musical aspect of the film is what has helped the film reign supreme as one of the greatest films of its time.

        By presenting the film in color, Cukor was initially giving his audience something that they were not accustomed to. The realism of the film was something the fans had not experienced, and it gave the movie a much more realistic stance. In some cases black and white would have done just fine, such as in the beginning, when Eliza is dancing through the streets. But others, like the reception of the queen, would have been very watered-down without the thousands of hues that came with that scene.

        To add to the color of the film, Cukor’s detailed sets and elaborate costumes gave the audience a spectacle very similar to what they would have experienced at a Broadway musical. For instance, during the racetrack scene, the over-the-top nature of the costumes worn by the women at the race would not have been justified by black-and-white film.

        Cukor’s choice of costumes and the decision to shoot with the state-of-the-art color film went hand-in-hand and truly helped make My Fair Lady the legend that it is today.

Marshall Toy

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