Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Songs, acting
Cons: I really don't like the story
The Bottom Line:
Many memorable songs
Story I don't like
I Should Just Accept That I'm Not a Fan of This Musical
Since I've become quite the fan of the Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins Mysteries, I figured I really should watch My Fair Lady at some point. Yes, I've seen the stage version many times over the years, but I've never actually watched the movie. When I caught it on TV, I decided to change that. The result is pretty much what I expected.
In case you aren't familiar with the story, it involved Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a flower girl in London in the 1910’s with a heavy Cockney accent. One evening, as she is huddling with a bunch of theater goers in the middle of a sudden rainstorm, she meets professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a specialist in linguistics. An idle boast to Colonel Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White), another linguist that Henry has met that night, leads to Eliza showing up at the professor's home the next day asking for lessons to turn her into a proper lady. Soon, Eliza is studying full time as Henry is trying to pass her off as a refined lady at a ball coming up. Can he do it?
So here's my thing - I just don't like the story. Henry is horrible to Eliza, and I spend much of the movie cringing at his antics. His behavior late in the second half isn't nearly enough to redeem his character. As a result, I absolutely hate the ending of the musical. I much prefer the original ending of Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw play that was turned into this musical. Fortunately, the authors of the mystery novels I mentioned at the start have kept that ending and softened Henry quite a bit. Anyway, the ending here ruins much of the story for me.
Now, that isn't to say that I don't enjoy the music along the way. While there aren't any big show stoppers or dance numbers along the way, there are quite a few fun songs. They are the reason this is the classic musical it is today.
Of course, I do have to comment on the singing. Audrey Hepburn was famously dubbed by Marnie Nixon here outside a random line here or there. Meanwhile, Rex Harrison, speak/sings most of his songs. It really bugs me that the main male lead in a musical isn't singing. Maybe that's one reason I don't like his songs. Or, the other reason, might be because they are such an outflow is his character, which I already don't like.
Likewise, the movie looks wonderful. While it was filmed in the mid-1960's, it is set in the 1910's. The result is a lavish production that captures the feel of the periods. Yes, I said both. Even though it does evoke the earlier time period, there is something about it that just screams 1960's big budget musical. Since that's what it is, that's no big deal.
The acting is wonderful. Rex Harrison deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of Henry Higgins. He does a great job of making us hate the character. When Eliza finally reaches her breaking point late in the movie, we can understand why. My earlier complaints about the singing aren't an issue with the acting at all.
I can understand why people love My Fair Lady so much. But my issues with the plot, especially the ending, keep me from enjoying it as much. I'm glad I watched the movie musical, but I don't feel the need to watch it again.