My Fair Lady, directed in 1964 by George Cukor, is a musical film version of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion. Henry Higgins, played by Rex Harrison, is a professor of phonetics who wagers a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering, depicted by Wilfrid Hyde-White, that he will be able to transform a common flower vendor into a lady of class. Audrey Hepburn portrays the part of Eliza Doolittle, the subject of Higgins' experiment in this musical, despite the fact that she does not actually sing very many notes in the film. But that is not the reason I found this film almost unbearable to watch. Allow me to give a quick rundown as to why this movie did not work for me.
First of all, does anyone really buy Audrey Hepburn as low-class street vendor? She is simply stunning in my opinion. It really made no difference how annoying her accent was or how the wardrobe department dressed her before the transformation took place. It was anti-climactic to see her transformed into a beautiful woman when you already know Audrey Hepburn is beautiful to begin with. I preferred Wendy Hiller as Eliza in the 1938 version of Pygmalion, directed by Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, for this very reason.
As a general rule I usually steer clear of musicals unless my wife and I get tickets to a show, such as Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables. After watching My Fair Lady, I was quickly reminded of why I steer clear. Unless music is actually part of the story, like in The Sound of Music, I really do not enjoy hearing actors sing their lines for no apparent reason. It just seems so absurd and pulls me out of the movie rather than draw me in. Do I really care about garbage collectors and street cleaners, especially Stanley Holloway's Alfred P. Doolittle singing a four-minute song that does nothing to advance the story line? I am not suggesting that the music was bad in any way. Frederick Loewe did a wonderful job composing the original score. I just thought that there were too many musical numbers.
The movie itself was good as a whole. However, minus the music, this three-hour movie could have easily become a two-hour movie which I believe it should have been all along. Eliza sang, with Marni Nixon's voice: "I Could Have Danced All Night," while I was wondering, "Are these people going to sing all night too?"