My Fair Lady is based on Pygmalion a play written by GB Shaw. It had been filmed earlier in 1938 while the irascible author was alive. He had his own ideas on cinema theory and how his play Pygmalion should be translated. Uncharacteristically he was happy with the version of Gabriel Pascal, as he wrote to Wendy Hiller, ‘You’ve nearly wiped my old play off the map’. He must have had in mind the various changes he let Pascal films take with his play. Especially the two- minute final scene, after much wrangling was changed to a romantic ending, which Lerner-Loew also follows in the film version of 1964. Before the shooting of film could begin the name was already on everybody’s lips, not as a take off on the mythological story of Pygamalion but as the longest running Broadway show of the 1950’s.
The 1938 version opens with a visual shot of violet in close up; the 1964 version also focuses on flowers in gorgeous colors while credits come on.
Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is a professor of linguistics and a conceited bachelor set in his ways. On a wager with Col. Pickering, a friend from old school days, Higgins undertakes to teach an illiterate Cockney, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), to speak the King’s English. Shaw’s message was the right education and accent mattered far above class or birth in England. Lerner’s screenplay dispenses with Shaw’s ideological bilge, and instead turns the story into a smart romantic comedy gently poking fun at various levels of British society. If there be a message it is: love conquers all.
Hepburn was a controversial casting choice, because Julie Andrews had played Eliza on stage and Rex Harrison would have liked her over Hepburn. She had to lip-sync all of her famous songs (which were dubbed by an uncredited singer). But Hepburn’s versatile performance makes the controversy irrelevant. Harrison’s portrayal of Henry Higgins not only succeeds in making the character lovable and hate-worthy at the same time, but he also creates an almost archetypal personification of the upper-middle-class Englishman.
Audrey Hepburn … Eliza Doolittle
Rex Harrison … Professor Henry Higgins
Stanley Holloway … Alfred P. Doolittle
Wilfrid Hyde-White … Colonel Hugh Pickering
Gladys Cooper … Mrs. Higgins
Jeremy Brett … Freddy Eynsford-Hill
Theodore Bikel … Zoltan Karpathy
Mona Washbourne … Mrs. Pearce
Isobel Elsom … Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
John Holland … Butler
Professor Henry Higgins: She’s so deliciously low. So horribly dirty.
Professor Henry Higgins: Eliza, you are to stay here for the next six months learning to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist’s shop. If you work hard and do as you’re told, you shall sleep in a proper bedroom, have lots to eat, and money to buy chocolates and go for rides in taxis. But if you are naughty and idle, you shall sleep in the back kitchen amongst the black beetles, and be wolloped by Mrs. Pearce with a broomstick. At the end of six months you will be taken to Buckingham Palace, in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the king finds out you are not a lady, you will be taken to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls! But if you are not found out, you shall have a present… of, ah… seven and six to start life with as a lady in a shop. If you refuse this offer, you will be the most ungrateful, wicked girl, and the angels will weep for you.
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: It’s the new small talk. You do it so awfully well.
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: I do hope we wont have any unseasonable cold spells, they bring on so much influenza. And the whole of our family is succeptable to it.
Eliza Doolittle: My Aunt died of influenza, or so they said. But its my belief they done the old woman in.
Mrs. Higgins: Done her in?
Eliza Doolittle: Yes, lord love you. Why should she die of influenza, when she come through diptheria right enough the year before. Fairly blue with it she was. They all thought she was dead. But my father, he kept ladling gin down her throat. Then she come to so sudden she bit the bowl right off the spoon.
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: Dear Me!
Eliza Doolittle: Now what call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? And what become of her new straw hat that should have come to me?
Eliza Doolittle: Somebody pinched it. And what I say is: them ‘as pinched it, done her in.
Lord Boxington: Done her in? Done her in did you say?
Lady Boxington: Whatever does it mean?
Mrs. Higgins: Its the new slang meaning someone has killed her.
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: Surely you don’t think someone killed her?
Eliza Doolittle: Do I not? Them she lived with would have killed her for a hatpin, let alone a hat.
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill: But it can’t have been right for your father to be pouring spirits down her throat like that, it could have killed her.
Eliza Doolittle: Not her, gin was mother’s milk to her. Besides he poured so much down his own throat, he knew the good of it.
Lord Boxington: Do you mean he drank?
Eliza Doolittle: Drank? My word something chronic.
[responding to freddy's laughter]
Eliza Doolittle: Here! What are you sniggering at?
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: The new small talk, you do it so awfully well.
Eliza Doolittle: Well if I was doing it proper, what was you sniggering at? Have I said anything I oughtn’t?
Mrs. Higgins: No my dear.
Eliza Doolittle: Well that’s a mercy anyhow…
Professor Henry Higgins: Damn, damn, damn, DAMN!
Professor Henry Higgins: I’ve grown accustomed to her face! She almost makes the day begin! I’ve grown accustomed to the tune that she whistles night and noon. Her smiles, her frowns, her ups, her downs, are second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in… I was serenely independent and content before we met! Surely I could always be that way again… And yet… I’ve grown accustomed to her looks, accustomed to her voice, accustomed… to her… face.
Professor Henry Higgins: Marry Freddy! What an infantile idea, what a heartless, wicked, brainless thing to do. She’ll regret it. She’ll regret it! It’s doomed before they even take the vow.
Professor Henry Higgins: I can see her now, “Mrs. Freddy Einsford-Hill,” in a wretched little flat above a store. I can see her now! Not a penny in the till, and a bill-collector beating at the door! She’ll try to teach the things *I* taught her… and end up selling flowers instead! Begging for her bread and water! While her husband has his breakfast in bed! In a year or so, when she’s prematurely gray, and the blossom in her cheek has turned to chalk, she’ll come home, and lo! He’ll have upped and run away with a social climbing heiress from New York! Poor Eliza! How simply frightful! How humiliating! How *delightful*!
Professor Henry Higgins: How poignant it will be on that inevitable night, when she shows up on my door in tears and rags! Miserable and lonely, repentant and contrite! Shall I take her in, or hurl her to the wolves? Give her kindness, or the treatment she deserves? Will I take her back, or THROW THE BAGGAGE OUT? Well, I’m a most forgiving man. The sort who never could, ever would, take a position and staunchly never budge. A *most* forgiving man… But, I shall NEVER take her back! If she were crawling on her KNEES! Let her promise to atone, let her shiver, let her moan, I’ll slam the door and let the hellcat FREEZE! Marry Freddy! HA!
[turns to unlock the door, but stops in despair]
Professor Henry Higgins: But I’m so used to hear her say, “Good morning” every day… Her joys, her woes, her highs, her lows, are second nature to me now, like breathing out and breathing in… I’m very grateful she’s a woman, and so easy to forget! Rather like a habit one can always break… And yet… I’ve grown accustomed to the trace… of something in the air… Accustomed… to her… face.
Professor Henry Higgins: Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Eliza Doolittle: I ain’t done nothin’ wrong by speaking to the gentleman. I’ve a right to sell flowers if I keep off the kerb. I’m a respectable girl: so help me, I never spoke to him ‘cept so far as to buy a flower off me.
Eliza Doolittle: I ain’t dirty! I washed my face and hands before I come, I did.
Professor Henry Higgins: She’s an owl, sickened by a few days of *my* sunshine.
Professor Henry Higgins: Mother!
Mrs. Higgins: What is it, Henry? What’s happened?
Professor Henry Higgins: [quietly, bewildered] She’s gone.
Mrs. Higgins: Well, of course, dear, what did you expect?
Professor Henry Higgins: What… what am I to do?
Mrs. Higgins: Do without, I suppose.
Professor Henry Higgins: And so I shall! If the Higgins oxygen burns up her little lungs, let her seek some stuffiness that suits her. She’s an owl sickened by a few days of my sunshine. Very well, let her go, I can do without her. I can do without anyone. I have my own soul! My own spark of divine fire!
Mrs. Higgins: Bravo, Eliza.
Eliza Doolittle: [singing] I shall not feel alone without you, I can stand on my own without you. So go back in your shell, I can do bloody well without…
Professor Henry Higgins: [singing] By George, I really did it, I did it, I did it! I said I’d make a woman and indeed, I did. I knew that I could do it, I knew it, I knew it! I said I’d make a woman and succeed, I did!
Professor Henry Higgins: Eliza, you’re magnificent. Five minutes ago, you were a millstone around my neck, and now you’re a tower of strength, a consort battleship. I like you this way.
Eliza Doolittle: Goodbye, Professor Higgins. You shall not be seeing me again.
Professor Henry Higgins: You see, the great secret, Eliza, is not a question of good manners or bad manners, or any particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls. The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you’ve ever heard me treat anyone else better.
Eliza Doolittle: I don’t care how you treat me. I don’t mind your swearing at me. I shouldn’t mind a black eye; I’ve had one before this. But I won’t be passed over!
Professor Henry Higgins: Well then, get out of my way, for I won’t stop for you. You talk about me as though I were a motor bus.
Eliza Doolittle: So you are a motor bus! All bounce and go, and no consideration for anybody. But I can get along without you. Don’t you think I can’t!
Professor Henry Higgins: I know you can. I told you you could.
Professor Henry Higgins: [quietly] You’ve never wondered, I suppose, whether… whether I could get along without you.
Eliza Doolittle: Well, you have my voice on your phonograph. When you feel lonesome without me you can turn it on. It has no feelings to hurt.
Professor Henry Higgins: I… I can’t turn your soul on.
Eliza Doolittle: Ooh, you are a *devil*. You can twist the heart in a girl the same way some fellows twist her arms to hurt her!
Colonel Hugh Pickering: Have you NO morals, man?
Alfred P. Doolittle: Nah. Nah, can’t afford ‘em, guv’nor. Neither could you, if you was as poor as me.
Professor Henry Higgins: I know your head aches; I know you’re tired; I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher’s window. But think what you’re trying to accomplish. Think what you’re dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it’s the greatest possession we have. The noblest thoughts that ever flowed through the hearts of men are contained in its extraordinary, imaginative, and musical mixtures of sounds. And that’s what you’ve set yourself out to conquer Eliza. And conquer it you will.
Professor Henry Higgins: *You* won my bet? You presumptuous insect, *I* won it.
Professor Henry Higgins: All right, Eliza, say it again.
Eliza Doolittle: The rine in spine sties minely in the pline.
Professor Henry Higgins: [sighs] The *rain* in *Spain* stays *mainly* in the *plain*.
Eliza Doolittle: Didn’t ah sy that?
Professor Henry Higgins: No, Eliza, you didn’t “sy” that, you didn’t even “say” that. Now every night before you get into bed, where you used to say your prayers, I want you to say “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” fifty times. You’ll get much further with the Lord if you learn not to offend His ears.
Eliza Doolittle: I sold flowers; I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me, I’m not fit to sell anything else.
Professor Henry Higgins: [singing] Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that! Their heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags. They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening and infuriating hags!
Colonel Hugh Pickering: Well, I’m dashed!
Mrs. Higgins: Henry! What a disagreeable surprise.
Colonel Hugh Pickering: Are you a man of good character where women are concerned?
Professor Henry Higgins: Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?
Colonel Hugh Pickering: Yes, very frequently.
Professor Henry Higgins: Well, I haven’t. I find that the moment a woman makes friends with me she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damn nuisance. And I find that the moment I make friends with a woman I become selfish and tyrannical. So here I am, a confirmed old bachelor and likely to remain so.
Eliza Doolittle: I could have danced all night.
Colonel Hugh Pickering: Higgins, at a time like this, it’s positively indecent that you don’t need a glass of port.
Eliza Doolittle: Come on, Dover, move yer bloomin’ arse!
Alfred P. Doolittle: The old bloke died and left me four thousand pounds a year in his bloomin’ will. Who asked him to make a gentleman out of me? I was happy. I was free. I touched pretty nigh everyone for money when I wanted it, same as I touched him. Now, I’m tied neck and heels, and everybody touches me. A year ago, I hadn’t a relation in the world except one or two who wouldn’t speak to me. Now, I’ve fifty, and not a decent week’s wages amongst the lot of ‘em. Oh, I have to live for others now, not for myself. Middle-class morality.
Eliza Doolittle: The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.
Mrs. Higgins: However did you learn good manners with my son around?
Eliza Doolittle: It was very difficult. I should never have known how ladies and gentlemen really behaved, if it hadn’t been for Colnel Pickering. He always showed what he thought and felt about me as if I were something better than a common flower girl. You see, Mrs. Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a common flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me like a common flower girl, and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me like a lady, and always will.
Professor Henry Higgins: The question is not whether I’ve treated you rudely but whether you’ve ever heard me treat anyone else better.
Professor Henry Higgins: May I ask, do you complain of your treatment here?
Eliza Doolittle: No.
Professor Henry Higgins: Has anyone behaved badly? Colonel Pickering, Mrs. Pearce?
Eliza Doolittle: No.
Professor Henry Higgins: You certainly don’t pretend that I have treated you badly?
Eliza Doolittle: No.
Professor Henry Higgins: You impudent hussy!
Landlady: …and what things does she want? Her bird cage and her Chinese fan. But she says, never mind about sending any clothes.
Alfred P. Doolittle: I knew she had a career in front of ‘er!
Colonel Hugh Pickering: [on telephone to Scotland Yard] No, she’s no relation, no. What? Well, just let’s call her a “good friend”, shall we? I beg your pardon! Listen to me, my man, I don’t like the tenor of that question – what we do with her is our affair – your affair is bringing her back so we can continue doing it!
Eliza Doolittle: *Here* are your slippers! *There*…
[throws a slipper at Higgins]
Eliza Doolittle: And *there*!
[throws the other one]
Eliza Doolittle: *Take* your slippers, and may you NEVER have a day’s luck with them!
Eliza Doolittle: There can’t be any feeling between the likes of me and the likes of you.
Professor Henry Higgins: The French don’t care what they do actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.
Professor Henry Higgins: I’ve learned something from your idiotic notions, I confess that; humbly and gratefully.
Professor Henry Higgins: By George, Eliza, the streets will be strewn with the bodies of men shooting themselves for your sake before I’m done with you.
Mrs. Higgins: Where’s the girl now?
Professor Henry Higgins: She’s being pinned. Some of the clothes we bought her didn’t quite fit. I told Pickering we should have taken her with us.
Professor Henry Higgins: There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven’t used it for years.
Eliza Doolittle: You oughta be stuffed with nails, you ought!
Professor Henry Higgins: Damn Mrs. Pearce; damn the coffee; and damn you!
Professor Henry Higgins: Damn, damn, damn, damn!
Eliza Doolittle: I’m a good girl, I am!
Eliza Doolittle: And I say, them ‘as pinched it, done her in.
Professor Henry Higgins: Shall we ask this baggage to sit down or shall we just throw her out of the window?
Professor Henry Higgins: Have some chocolates, Eliza.
Eliza Doolittle: [halting, tempted] ‘Ow do I know what might be in ‘em? I’ve ‘eard o’ girls bein’ drugged by the likes o’ you.
Professor Henry Higgins: [Takes a chocolate and breaks it in half] Pledge of good faith. I’ll take one half…
[puts one half into his mouth and bolts it; then pops the other half into Eliza's mouth]
Professor Henry Higgins: And you take the other. You’ll have boxes of them, barrels of them. You’ll live on them, eh?
Eliza Doolittle: [Eliza chews hesitatingly] I wouldn’t’ve et it, only I’m too ladylike to take it out o’ me mouth.
Professor Henry Higgins: Think of it, Eliza. Think of chocolates. And taxis…! And gold! And diamonds!
Eliza Doolittle: Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo! I don’t want no gold and no diamonds! I’m a good girl, I am!
Professor Henry Higgins: Eliza? Where the devil are my slippers?
Professor Henry Higgins: You might marry, you know. You see, Eliza, all men are not confirmed old bachelors like myself and the Colonel. Most men are the marrying sort, poor devils. And you’re not bad-looking; you’re really quite a pleasure to look at sometimes. Not now, of course, when you’ve been crying, you look like the very devil; but when you’re all right, and quite yourself, you’re what I would call… attractive.
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Darling!
Eliza Doolittle: Freddy, whatever are you doing here?
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Nothing. I spend most of my nights here. It’s the only place where I’m happy.
[Freddy steps forward]
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Don’t laugh at me, Miss Doolittle.
Eliza Doolittle: Don’t you call me ‘Miss Doolittle’, do ya hear? Eliza’s good enough for me.
[Eliza starts to leave, then turns to Freddy, who is eagerly following]
Eliza Doolittle: Oh, Freddy, *you* don’t think I’m a heartless guttersnipe, do you?
Freddy Eynsford-Hill: Darling, how could you imagine such a thing? You know how I feel. I’ve written two and three times a day telling you. Sheets and sheets!
Professor Henry Higgins: Oh, Pickering, for God’s sake stop being dashed and do something!
Eliza Doolittle: Lot’s of chocolates for me to EAT!
Cockney: We’ve got a bloomin’ heiress in our midst. Will you be needing a butler, Eliza?
Eliza Doolittle: Well you won’t do.
Lady at Ball: That young woman with Colonel Pickering, find out who she is.
Zoltan Karpathy: With pleasure!
* Audrey Hepburn’s singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon, despite Hepburn’s lengthy preparation for the role.
* Jeremy Brett’s singing was dubbed by Bill Shirley, despite the fact that his singing was actually remarkably good.
* James Cagney was originally offered the role of Alfred Doolittle. When he pulled out at the last minute, it went to the man who played it on Broadway, Stanley Holloway. Peter O’Toole, Cary Grant, Noel Coward, Michael Redgrave and George Sanders were all considered for the role of Higgins before Rex Harrison was finally chosen to reprise his Broadway role.
* Jack L. Warner originally didn’t want Rex Harrison to reprise his stage role as Higgins for the film version, since he had seen Cleopatra (1963) and thought the actor looked too old to be believable as Audrey Hepburn’s love interest. Peter O’Toole was considered for the role of Professor Higgins, but his salary demands were too high. Harrison responded in a letter to Warner that he had only looked old as Julius Caesar because he had been playing an epileptic at the end of his life, and after sending some publicity photographs of himself – minus his toupee – he was eventually cast.
* Jack L. Warner paid $5 million for the film rights in February 1962.
* Rex Harrison wanted Julie Andrews for the role of Eliza, since they had played together in the Broadway version.
* Stanley Holloway originated the role of Alfie Dolittle on Broadway, but it was thought that a better known actor would be more suited for the film version.
* Because of the way Rex Harrison sang/talked his musical numbers, they were unable to prerecord them and have him lip-sync, so a wireless microphone (one of the first ever developed) was rigged up and hidden under his tie. However, this meant that his mouth and words were completely in sync and everyone else’s looked off, since they were lip-syncing (when everyone is lip-syncing, it’s not that noticeable). The studio thought that this was too obvious so they altered Harrison’s soundtrack, lengthening and shortening notes in various places so that his synchronicity is slightly off like all the other actors.
* Gladys Cooper, who plays Mrs. Higgins (Henry Higgins’ mother) in this film, played the same role in the 1963 Hallmark Hall of Fame television production Pygmalion (1963) (TV), the play on which this film is based.
* Although her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon, Audrey Hepburn’s singing does actually appear in the form of the first verse of “Just You Wait, Henry Higgins”. However, when the song heads into the soprano range (76 seconds in), Nixon takes over vocals. Hepburn sings the last 30 seconds of the song as well as the brief reprise. She also sings the sing-talking parts for “The Rain in Spain”. Overall, as Hepburn reportedly said, about 90% of her singing was dubbed. That was far more than what she expected, as she was initially promised that most of her vocals would be used. According to Nixon, Hepburn was upset that she could not play the role vocally, and always blamed herself for that.
* According to actress Nancy Olson, who was married to lyricist Alan Jay Lerner at the time he was writing the musical, Lerner and Frederick Loewe had the most trouble writing the final song for Henry Higgins. The two writers had based the whole concept of the musical around the notion that Higgins was far too intellectual a character to emotionally sing outright, but should speak his songs on pitch, more as an expression of ideas. However, both composer and lyricist knew that Higgins would need a love song towards the end of the story when Eliza has abandoned him. This presented an obvious problem: how to write an emotional song for an emotionless character. Lerner suffered bouts of insomnia trying to write the lyrics. One night, Olson claims, she brought him a cup of tea to soothe his nerves. As she entered his study, Lerner thanked her and said “I guess I’ve grown accustomed to you…I’ve grown accustomed to your face.” According to Olson, his eyes suddenly lit up, and she sat down and watched him write the entire song in one sitting, based on the idea that although Higgins couldn’t “love” Eliza in the traditional sense, he would surely notice the value she represented as part of his life.
* “My Fair Lady” is the only Lerner and Loewe stage musical to have been filmed totally complete, with no omission of any songs from the stage version (or dialogue, for that matter). There are even some added lyrics to the song “You Did It”, in which Higgins goes more into detail about the speech “expert” Zoltan Karpathy’s evaluation of Eliza at the ball, that were not in the stage version. “My Fair Lady”, “West Side Story”, and the 1958 “South Pacific” may be the most complete film adaptations of a Broadway musical ever made.
* Musical theater writers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had attempted to adapt George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” as a musical long before Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, but had abandoned the project as unadaptable. Rodgers and Hammerstein felt that Shaw’s style of writing intellectual dialog and the emotionless character of Henry Higgins did not lend themselves to a musical. Lerner and Lowe overcame these problems by leaving Shaw’s dialogue largely intact, and working under the notion that Higgins must be played by a great actor, not a great singer. Thus, they wrote the role especially for Rex Harrison, and adopted the idea that Higgins should not sing outright, but talk on pitch, less an expression of emotions than ideas.
* When asked why he turned down the role of Henry Higgins, Cary Grant remarked that his original manner of speaking was much closer to Eliza Dolittle.
* According to one of Rex Harrison’s biographers, Alexander Walker, the song “I’ve grown accustomed to her face” held special memories for the actor, as during the original Broadway run he used to sing the song to his third wife Kay Kendall, who would stand in the wings watching his performance. Harrison later admitted that when he sang the song in the film he was thinking all the time about Kendall, who had died a few years before from leukemia.
* During the parts of “Wouldn’t It be Loverly” featuring Audrey Hepburn’s own singing voice, her lip-syncing does not match her own singing as well as it does Marni Nixon’s singing, even though Hepburn filmed the scene with her own track.
* Warner Bros. won the bidding war for the film rights in 1962 with an offer of $5.5 million and nearly half the profits above $20 million.
* Amusement park trams were rented to carry ballroom scene extras across the studio lot, in order to prevent their makeup and costumes from getting dirty or damaged.
* Audrey Hepburn announced the assassination of Pres. John F. Kennedy to the devastated cast and crew immediately after filming the number “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” on the Covent Garden set on 22 November 1963.
* 27A Wimpole Street in London (Higgins’ address) does not exist (there is a 27 Wimpole Street).
* The role of Eliza Doolittle was originally played on Broadway by Julie Andrews. However, she was denied the role because the film’s producers didn’t think she was “known” enough as a film actress. Many felt that this snub as well as Audrey Hepburn’s singing being dubbed led to Hepburn’s not being nominated for the Best Actress Oscar nomination.
* Cary Grant told Jack L. Warner that not only would he not play Henry Higgins, but if Rex Harrison was not cast in the role, he wouldn’t even go see the picture.
* When Eliza Dolittle demands to see what Henry Higgins has been writing about her, in the beginning of the film, he shows her his notebook, which she cannot read. The notation in the notebook is “Visible Speech”, a phonetic notation invented by Alexander Melville Bell (father of Alexander Graham Bell) and extended and used heavily by Henry Sweet, a real-life phonetician and apparently the basis of the Henry Higgins character.
* Audrey Hepburn herself revealed years later that had she turned down the role of Eliza, the next actress to be offered it would not have been Julie Andrews but Elizabeth Taylor, who wanted it desperately.
* Apparently, Shirley Jones was one of the actresses to whom Jack L. Warner planned to offer the role of Eliza Dolittle if Audrey Hepburn turned it down.
* Veteran actor Henry Daniell, who is unbilled as The Ambassador, died of a heart attack on 31 October 1963 just hours after completing the dress ball sequences.
* About twenty minutes before the end of the film, Colonel Pickering offers to go off and find the missing Eliza. He exits the library set – and is never seen in the movie again!
* The 1994 restoration by Robert A. Harris used a variety of methods to return the film to its original condition. The opening credits were digitally re-created using pieces of surviving frames. A few shots were digitally restored by scanning the 65mm negative or separation masters and output back to VistaVision (and enlarged back to 65mm). Some shots were simply re-composited via separation masters. Despite this, most of the film was able to be restored directly from the camera negative. For the sound, only the six-track magnetic print master (used to add sound to 70mm prints) survived. This was digitally restored and used to create a new six-track mix (faithful to the original version), as well as new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes for modern sound systems.
* Despite intensive vocal training during pre-production, and constant practicing until her final re-recording during the post-production, Audrey Hepburn was never able to sing “Without You” properly. That song is far beyond her vocal range. However, some of her fans think that her renditions of “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” and “Show Me” were good enough to be left undubbed.
* In the scene where Eliza is practicing her “H’s”, she sits down in front of a spinning mirror attached to a flame. Every time she says her “H’s” correctly, the flame jumps. If you look closely at the paper she is holding in her hand when it catches fire, you will see handwritten upon it the dialog that she and Professor Higgins have been saying previous to this. “Of course, you can’t expect her to get it right the first time,” is the first line written on the paper.
* Average Shot Length = 10 seconds
* The original choice to direct the film was Vincente Minnelli but when his salary demands were too high, the job went to George Cukor.
* Connie Stevens, then a Warners contract player, campaigned for the role of Eliza Doolittle.
* In the scene where Henry Higgins knocks a record player that is playing a recording of vowel sounds, the voice on the record is that of Dr. Peter Ladefoged, a linguist who worked as a consultant on the film.
* Joshua Logan wrote in his autobiography that he was offered the chance to direct the film, but the offer was withdrawn when he suggested that some scenes be shot on location in London.
* The play had first been staged on Broadway in March 1956, and opened in London in 1958. A clause in the contract stated that the film version could not be made until the play had finished in September 1962.
* An entire sound stage was used for doing hair and makeup for the Ascot race scene.
* “My Fair Lady” opened at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York on March 15, 1956, and ran for 2717 performances, which was at the time the longest run a Broadway show had ever had. To date (May 2008), the original production is still the eighteenth-longest-running production in Broadway history. Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway reprised their roles in the movie.
* Alan Jay Lerner was very annoyed by Jack L. Warner’s decision to have the entire movie filmed on sound stages in Hollywood, even for outdoor scenes.
* The movie was advertised as the most eagerly anticipated production since Gone with the Wind (1939).
* There was considerable controversy over the casting of Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle. Not only did newspapers ask how a major musical could have a non-singer as its star, but in addition she was felt to be too old at 34 to play a 21-year-old.
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