A man named George Bernard Shaw wrote a successful play called Pygmalion in 1912 or 1913. (I actually have no idea which year it actually premiered—when Wikipedia and IMDB disagree with each other my whole world collapses.)In 1938 it was turned into a film, to which he made significant contributions. In fact, his work on that film won him an Oscar.
In 1956, after Shaw died, it was turned into a Broadway musical and given the title My Fair Lady. This musical version of the story was wildly popular (not unlike my 6th grade production of Alice in Wonderland in which I played the white rabbit — I’m still fighting off the paparazzi.)
The producers of the stage musical chose Rex Harrison and Mary Martin for the lead roles. (FYI, Mary Martin was the grown woman who did a little too good of a job playing a young boy named Peter Pan.) Unfortunately, Mary Martin turned down the role and they went with a young actress named Julie Andrews instead. And in case you’re not familiar with Andrews, she’s the one who went on to become a household name and starred in films like this one, that one, and [cough] The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.)
After an additional run in London, it was time for a movie musical in 1964. This is where the real-life drama comes in. Jack Warner (aka Warner Brothers) paid a record $5.5 million for the film rights, but he didn’t want Rex Harrison to reprise his role as Prof. Henry Higgins until he was turned down by famous actors like Peter O’Toole and Cary Grant. In fact, Grant supposedly told Jack Warner that not only would he not play Higgins, but if Rex Harrison wasn’t chosen for the role, Grant wouldn’t even go see the movie. Harrison was hired.
This is where things get really sticky. Warner snubbed Julie Andrews for the film version and wanted Audrey Hepburn to play Eliza Doolittle instead. And while My Fair Lady won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year, I’m sure Julie Andrews probably smirked a little at Jack Warner when she walked up to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in Mary Poppins that same year.
By the time production of the film ended, Audrey Hepburn wasn’t exactly thrilled with Warner, either. When she accepted the role, she assumed she’d be doing all or most of her own singing, but ended up being dubbed by Marni Nixon for all but a very small portion of the singing. (Hepburn sang most of “Just You Wait” herself, but that was about it.)
All in all, My Fair Lady is a great film, but if you just want to listen to the songs, definitely go with the soundtrack to the Harrison-Andrews play version. No comparison.
By the way, there’s a mild amount of cursing, but I’m personally not bothered by it due to the lighthearted context. I only bring it up as a warning in case you decide to watch it with your kids, become offended, and then decide to send me hate mail.
OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: There’s a character named Freddy who just sort of disappears without explanation. I’m not sure where he goes or what happens to him. I can only assume he forever wanders aimlessly on the street where Hepburn lives.
One of the most famous lines from Eliza Doolittle perfectly encapsulates the larger message of this film: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”
This reminds me of a wonderful sermon given by Thomas S. Monson, in which he teaches the following:
“During the 1940s and 1950s, an American prison warden, Clinton Duffy, was well known for his efforts to rehabilitate the men in his prison. Said one critic, ‘You should know that leopards don’t change their spots!’ Replied Warden Duffy, ‘You should know I don’t work with leopards. I work with men, and men change every day.’… We have the responsibility to see individuals not as they are but rather as they can become.”
Jesus Christ was that way. When He was here on the earth He treated everyone the same, whether they were a high priest or a publican. This is one meaning of the phrase “God is no respecter of persons.”
As Walter F. Gonzalez simply stated: “The way we treat others reflects to what extent we follow our Savior.”
Whether it’s in person, on the road, or in online comments and forums, we can all do better at treating men and women as ladies and gentlemen.
“Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly…” — Psalm 138:6