My Fair Lady

Director: George Cukor

Cast: Rex Harrison, Audrey Hepburn, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett, Theodore Bikel, Mona Washbourne, Isobel Elsom, John Holland, Marni Nixon, Bill Shirley, John Alderson, Moyna MacGill, Colin Campbell, Olive Reeves-Smith, Jack Greening, Oscar Beregi Jr.

The film is a beguiling, romantic musical, more pleasing than the play from which it was derived. On a rainy evening, Professor Henry Higgins (Harrison), an authority in phonetics and linguistics, is strolling outside London’s Covent Garden when he notices the dreadful speech of an unkempt flower girl. Higgins brags that, by teaching her to speak beautiful English, he can make over the flower girl with the appalling cockney accent into an admirable person. He makes a wager with his friend Colonel Hugh Pickering (Hyde-White) that within six months he can pass her off as an upper class lady. Higgins entices the poor flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn), into an arrangement that makes her a willing participant in a project devised to transform her. Eliza wishes to rise above her situation. By improving her speech she may someday find employment at a smart shop. Higgins overcomes the misgivings of his housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce (Washbourne), about the way in which he and Pickering propose to entertain themselves without regard for the poor girl. Eliza’s transformation begins with a thorough cleansing at the hands of Higgins’ female servants. She is given new clean clothes and is immersed in daylong speech training. Higgins is a hard taskmaster, and Eliza resents his rudeness and selfishness. But her speech improves gradually, and as Higgins and Pickering become engrossed in the challenges of their experiment, she learns to live in their upper class world. Eliza's father, Alfred Doolittle (Holloway), protests the wickedness of Higgins and Pickering’s treatment of his daughter, but he is only out to gain something for himself, and is won over by Higgins’ charming words. Higgins constantly drills Eliza, sharply correcting every error. In the song “Just You Wait, ‘Enry ‘Iggins” she looks forward to his comeuppance. One day, Eliza faultlessly pronounces “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain,” and she and Higgins enjoy their triumph together. Just before the six month deadline, Higgins judges that Eliza is ready for the public display of her new abilities. Dressed in a splendid gown, Eliza is introduced in society, in a test not only of her speech, but of her elegance and poise. It is a new world for her. It brings admiration, a suitor, Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Brett), and the scrutiny of Zoltan Karpathy (Bikel), Higgins’ rival phonetics expert. Eliza’s exhilaration is captured in the song “I Could Have Danced All Night.” The situation brings a new challenge with the realization that, as well as Eliza’s, the project has changed Higgins’ life. Screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner. Music by Frederick Loewe. Based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw.

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