The Costumes That Saved a Film

         In the 1964 film My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor, there are many things that I dislike. First and foremost it is a musical. Usually this would not bother me too terribly much; but come on; it was three hours long! The majority of the songs were stretched out to seemingly show off the cast's musical prowess and not to promote the story line. Being based on a story such as Pygmalion (written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913) I do not feel that this was necessary. The story stands so strong on its own that trying to doll it up actually takes away from the story as a whole. With all of that being said, there was one captivating thing about this movie, the costumes.

         Being an artist, I am visually captivated by color and design. These are two elements that they pulled off very well in My Fair Lady. I was immediately captivated at the open of the film when the director chose to show us an array of people leaving the Royal Opera at Covent Garden. What amazed me so much was the bold use of color. It seemed as though every woman was dressed in a different vibrant color, and it immediately peaked interest in the costuming.

         Although I disliked the musical as a whole, there was another scene that was among the best I have ever seen. This was of course Eliza's (Audrey Hepburn) debut at the Ascot Horse Races. I was really interested in the art director's (Cecil Beaton) use of black and white costuming. All of the men and women at the race are dressed in a combination of black and white. The women's dresses, almost ostentatious in design, are done in blocks of black and white. I thought that this was very interesting for a color film. I wonder if there was not an intentional reference to the recently obsolete black and white films that had graced audience's just years before. Regardless of the reasoning, it was a good choice. The black and white in contrast to the colors of the track was absolutely dynamic.

         I wish that film directors today would make use of color the way that directors did about forty years ago. Today we take color for granted; but, when it was first developed, directors intentionally used it to their advantage, making their films extremely strong visually. If modern directors could combine Cecil Beaton's use of color with our modern technology they would have box office blowouts.

Sarah Dixon

Table of Contents