Wednesday, February 8, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 15: My Fair Lady

Movie: My Fair Lady
Nominations:Best Picture, Best Director - George Cukor, Best Actor - Rex Harrison, Best Supporting Actor - Stanley Holloway,  Best Supporting Actress - Gladys Cooper, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume, Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound, Score, Editing

Wins/Snubs: It won Best Picture, Director, and Actor, as well as much deserved Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume, Sound and Score.  Neither Supporting actor won - Peter Ustinov won for Topkapi and Lila Kendrova won for Zorba the Greek, neither of which I've seen so I can't comment.  However, the big controversy for this year - isn't there always one? - was the fact that Julie Andrews, who originated the role of Eliza Doolittle on Broadway but was passed over for the film role, which went to Audrey Hepburn.  Ironically, Hepburn was NOT nominated for this role, but Julie Andrews WON the Oscar for Mary Poppins in the same year.  I guess you could say she was destined to win the Oscar for 1965 regardless of the role she played.

My Fair Lady is based on the George Bernard Shaw play "Pygmalion" about a speech instructor, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) who sees a flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) with a strong gutter accent in London and makes a bet with his friend Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) that with his tutoring, she could pass for a duchess at a ball.  She moves in with them and they attempt to change her speech, but it also involves changing her completely.  Essentially she's no longer able to return to selling flowers - they've raised her speech and elevated her self-confidence and social circle.  Of course, it's hard not to get a crush on the man who changes your life (though mostly Eliza professes to hate Higgins), and Higgins himself has "grown accustomed to her" presence in his life.  There are stronger issues within it, but since it's still a musical, they're moments of depth, but that's about it.  The songs are still fairly light.

Watching this again (I once owned this on 2 VHS tapes and now on DVD) and seeing it as Oscar-fodder, I'm even more surprised that Stanley Holloway didn't win the Oscar for Supporting Actor.  He plays Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, common dustman (which I think means he shoveled coal).  When he finds out she's moved in with Higgins, Alfred goes to shake down Higgins for a little money so he can get drunk - he sees Eliza's change in situation as a lucky moment for himself ("With a little bit of luck" - top photo).  After he gets a few pounds from him, Higgins sends his name to a friend who leaves Alfred a ton of money in his will -forcing him to be respectable (bottom photo).  His girlfriend is making him marry her "I'm getting married in the morning" is one of the best songs in all musicals.  

There's a lot I could say about how amazing the music, and costumes, and direction are throughout this - they do a great job incorporating the music as a natural part of the story.  It's easily deserving of its Oscars.  

1 comment:

David Bishop said...

This is one of my all time favorite musicals. I saw a stage production of it here in California at the Orange County Performing Arts Center some years back where Marni Nixon (the woman who supplied Hepburn's singing voice for the film) played Henry Higgins' mother.