Are We Seeing Double?

        My Fair Lady was a musical play by Alan J. Lerner, written in 1956 and based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 Pygmalion. In 1964 My Fair Lady came to the big screen, and it it was as if nothing had changed. The movie was directed by George Cukor and should have made Lerner proud with its dialect, music, and bringing the reader’s visions to life.

        Most of the time, movies use plays as a guideline especially when it comes to the actors’ lines. My Fair Lady is the exception; the lines almost match to the tee! What is so great about lines matching is that the author’s message is not lost. Most of the time with movies the story line and message will change in order to sell more movie tickets. When this happens, we the audience get shafted. Not every movie goer wants the same old, same old story. Luckily with My Fair Lady, the audience gets a more in-depth plot with substance, just as the author had intended. When talking about lines, I find that it also brings dialect to mind. Reading how Liza speaks with her Lisson Grove dialect proves somewhat of a challenge at times. It is hard to imagine how that would actually sound, but Audrey Hepburn (who played Liza) brought the dialect to life! Although we should know how English sounds, the movie also makes a point of letting the audience hear the difference between proper English and everyday English. Colonel Pickering’s (Wilfred Hyde-White) and Henry Higgins’ (Rex Harrison) proper English and dialect made a distinct difference between the way a Cockney flower girl spoke and upper-class Englishmen spoke.

        It is obvious there is a difference between reading music and actually hearing it sung. In the movie, the music just adds to the emotions and feelings going on. The music at times adds a comical twist. A prime example of this is heard when Liza sings, “Just You Wait, Henry Higgins, just You Wait.” She is singing about wanting to hurt him since he has been so a hard on and horrible towards her. Another comical song is heard when Mr. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) is about to get married, and all he is worried about is “Get Me to the Church on Time!” It shows how he spent his last night as a bachelor and proves to be quite entertaining.

        Everyone knows that one’s imagination can take him or her so far when reading a book. What the film does to the play is to bring out the settings, costumes, and colors. The play makes Higgins’ house sound like his place of work. In the movie, the house is so much more than that! His study is portrayed the same, with speech machines, records and a large desk. The film brings the rest of his house to life. My two favorite rooms the film portrays better are Liza’s room and Higgins’ library. Upon seeing Liza’s room in Higgins’ house, I realized that it was understandable why she felt that the room was too good for her. Everything was crisp and clean with flowers. She felt too common and dirty to uses such a room. Then Higgins’ library just really amazed me. It was bi-level and filled to the brim with books. It seemed fitting for him to own that much knowledge since he himself was such a knowledgeable man. Once again, when reading a play, one determines that what the characters wear is very open for interpretation.

        The film knocked my expectations for costumes out the park! One of the most memorable scenes is seen when everyone is at Ascot for the races. All of the rich, haughty women were dressed in fashionable black and white dresses that were all a muted color palette. To top off their dresses, each had a “unique” matching hat. The rich upper-class men were dressed accordingly to go along with whom they had arrived. Liza arrived in a breath-taking white and black gown that matched the color palate. Even though she matched, Eliza still stood out of the crowd with her beauty. Higgins, not being one to care about what people thought of him, came dressed in an everyday suit. He stuck out like a sore thumb, but it did not bother him a bit. Another visual sensation was the gowns and tuxedos at the ball. Liza was dressed like a princess and even passed for one too! She was poised, dripping, with jewels, and spoke as eloquently as Higgins himself. With the movie being in color, it brought all the visual senses together.

        With so much likenesses in the two versions, it was as if we were seeing double. Lerner’s dialect and message were kept the same. The film also brought out the music to is full enjoyment and took the reader’s imagination and brought it to life through color, costumes, and sets.

Kelly Kneer

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