It Was Not in Black and White

         The 1964 movie My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play Pygmalion, included excellent costumes, cinematography, and music. All these elements pulled the scenes together and made it entertaining because it was not filmed in black and white, as was the 1938 film Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard.

         The costumes were all designed for the times. The dresses that Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) and Professor Higgins (Rex Harrison) buy for Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) are elegant and flattering to her figure. The dresses and most of her hairdos truly transform her from a flower girl to a duchess. Even Colonel Pickering and Professor Higgins dress well for their stature. They both wear the finest of suits. Colonel Pickering is obviously a good shopper because he knows where to buy the best dresses when shopping for Eliza. Higgins even wears expensive pajamas. The pants with the button-up collared shirt were an expensive item to own in those days. I think they did it to show his stature in society. After all, they did go to the trouble of having Eliza say that she slept in her everyday clothes. Eliza did not even own pajamas. Also, the hats that the women wear at the Ascot races were spectacular additions to their fancy black and white dresses. With the hats on, they were so vivid and brilliantly used onscreen.

         Harry Stradling's cinematography in the movie is creative. I particularly enjoyed how the sequences wherein Eliza practices her vowels are filmed. Close-up shots of her face allow the audience to see the true torture she is going through by the expression on her face. Another creatively filmed scene occurs at the races when Eliza is first allowed to try out her new speech. The camera remains focused on her throughout the scene, but not close up. It is more like a medium shot. However, it allows the audience to see how everyone in the group of people are focused on Eliza because she is the new girl. Everyone hates to be the "new kid," and through the cinematography in that shot, the audience understands how she feels.

         Lastly, I enjoyed the musical numbers that are used and performed in the movie. The songs that Professor Higgins performs are probably my favorites. The cinematography also plays a large role in the success of the songs. Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's music would not be nearly as enjoyable if the professor had just sat in his desk chair singing. Instead, he is filmed sliding down staircase banisters and dancing about the room. I found most of the songs add humor to the movie, especially the song about being a man.

         Of all the movies we watched in this class, My Fair Lady was my favorite. I thought it was funny, and by the end I was so involved that I realized all of the elements discussed here have lead to my enjoyment of the film.

Paige LeFan

Table of Contents