Synopsis – In 1910s London, snobbish phonetics professor Henry Higgins agrees to a wager that he can make crude flower girl Eliza Doolittle presentable in high society – My Fair Lady.
Director – George Cukor
Starring – Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway
Released – 1964
If you liked – The King and I, Oliver, Breakfast at Tiffanys
Musicals can be pretty much split into two categories, films where the plot is based around music and song (Sister Act, Opening Night, Bandslam, Fame etc.), which I tend to enjoy, or films where the characters are liable to randomly burst out into song (Le Miserables, La La Land etc), which I tend not to enjoy as much, mainly due to the strangeness of someone starting to sing halfway through a conversation and everyone else joining in. That said, My Fair Lady is one of the few musicals in this second category that I found enjoyment from despite its stage-play feel and dated plot.
One of the reasons for this is the timeless Lerner and Loewe score that sticks in your head and catchy tunes such as the enduring “On the Street Where You Live.” The film also benefits from the skilled performance of Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, a role he perfected on stage and built on for the movie to the point where anyone who has played Higgins since is also compared to Harrison and found wanting. It is, however, a shame that the same can’t be said for his co-star and the biggest name in this film; Audrey Hepburn. Although she leaves a memorable impression with the help of Cecil Beaton’s outrageous costume choices, especially the iconic white dress and towering hat worn during the Ascot sequence, I couldn’t help but find her unconvincing as Eliza Dolittle, not helped by some simply woeful lip-synching, especially during the musical numbers.
The film also struggles with a paper-thin plot stretched over three hours long, well past the point where the main conflict has been resolved and modern audiences may find the idea of educating a working-class woman to be posh with emotional torture, a little problematic to say the least, But despite all of these faults, I still very much liked this movie. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the fashion choices are stunning, the set designs are ravishing and the songs had me singing along.