Shades of Grey

     In the 1964 film My Fair Lady, which was directed by George Cukor, and is an adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, the use of color is symbolically connected to understanding the moods and views of certain people at certain times. This paper will look at two scenes where the colors used add to the dimensions of the movie. They are the Ascot opening day, and the scene where Higgins (portrayed by Rex Harrison) is walking home after Eliza (portrayed by Audrey Hepburn) refused to go back to him.

     In the Ascot opening day scene the only colors used for their clothes were black, white and grey. As the people sing about how exciting and important opening day at the races is, they show no emotion. Their faces are still except for singing, and each person is seen as a model of upper-class morality. The color white, which is seen in almost every women's dress denotes how innocent and pure of heart the upper-class appear to be. The black denotes the underlying evil hidden behind the facade of the upper-class; the view they hold that they are better than people of the lower classes. These two colors entwine to suggest the way they view their place in society as a job which has strict standards yet has rewards such as attention and prestige. They show no excitement, as if it is their duty to be there; it is no more important to them than any other social event which they are expected to attend and behave at accordingly.

     The different shades of grey in this scene add to our understanding of what Eliza is getting herself into. These people are somber, as if in between happy and sad. There are different views that can be seen of their society when one puts all of these colors together; aspects that are not mentioned elsewhere in the novel or film. During this scene one can see that upper-class people wear a mask to hide their emotions, to hide their excitement, and inevitably to hide who they really are. These people are perfect models of what their class expects them to be.

     When Eliza refused to return with Higgins, he walks home and sings of his mixed feelings. He is not only dressed in grey but many of the building and other surrounds on his way are also different shades of grey and grey-blue. He cannot decide how he truly feels about Eliza. Though he is "used to her face" and misses her, a part of him still insists she is ungrateful for not returning with him after everything he has done for her. These shades of grey increase our understand of Higgins and the new-versus-old view of women he had held for so long. It also denotes the indecision he feels. He cannot totally accept this new insight for he has spent many years disliking the ways of women. Eliza has made him question his own behaviors and views which he swore he could not change.

     The use of color in My Fair Lady is symbolically related to the moods and views of various people throughout the film. Through this literary technique one gets a better understanding of certain characters without having these details directly told to the viewer. This gets the viewer more involved in the film and allows us to piece together unexplained dimensions of characters which one may otherwise see as less complex, and possibly less interesting.

Lisa Manners

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