Musical Monday: My Fair Lady
Yes, it’s My Fair Lady, that fluffy, candy-colored musical about class distinction and prostitution for people too polite to call it prostitution!
Our story opens in turn of the century Covent Garden in London, where Audrey Hepburn attempts to pass herself off as dirty, poor Eliza Doolittle by wearing a ratty wig and shitty clothes.
As her betters stream out into the street after the opera, she encounters Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins, an expert on language and phonetics who, to the crowd’s delight, berates the ignorant girl for her poor language skills and ridicules her to his heart’s content. The asshole’s hat costs more than she makes in a year.
Higgins meets Colonel Pickering, another language expert who has a slight touch of conscience and mildly rebukes Higgins for treating Eliza badly. Higgins laughs him off, boasts that he could pass her off as a duchess in 6 months and invites Pickering back to his place to listen to his vowel sounds.
They’re not gay; they’re English. It’s easy to confuse the two.
Eliza’s all “Whatever, assholes.” Her dirty drunken father shows up and scams her out of some beer money. At this point Eliza has a moment and decides there’s probably more to life than picking flowers out of the street and enabling your alcoholic father.
Follow along with the bouncing ball! “Wouldn’t it be Loverly” is a catchy, sweet, hum-along kind of tune that Audrey lip-synchs to near-perfection.
Higgins and Pickering are basically a couple of frat boys.
While Eliza is locked in a closet, forced to yell out her vowels, her father shows up and tries to scam Higgins out of a little money in exchange for his daughter. Higgins is delighted by the man’s complete lack of morals and sends him on his way with a couple of speaking engagements. No, really.
Not wanting to share any of their stash, the men head upstairs to smoke in piece and the servants try and get the starry-eyed Eliza to bed.
“I Could Have Danced All Night” is another of the film’s highly sing-able and memorable tunes that Eliza once again lip-synch’s beautifully. This film has one overriding message: It doesn’t matter if you’re poor, uneducated and untalented. If you’re pretty and have money, you can fake the rest.
Henry fills her in on their little scam and asks her help in passing off a streetwalker as a member of the gentry. Always up for a good game of Fuck With The Poor, she’s all for it, which tells you why Higgins turned out to be such an asshole.
Here’s the thing about Audrey Hepburn: she couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag, and as this film proves, she couldn’t sing; she wasn’t a sexpot and she had the body of a 12-year-old boy, but the bitch could wear clothes like nobody’s business and had the kind of personality and face that overrode any of her shortcomings in the talent area. She was, in short, the perfect movie star. All looks and personality, not so much talent.
Outside, Freddy demonstrates that he’s Eliza’s soul mate by proving that he can lip-synch just as impeccably as she can.
Just a word of advice: you haven’t really heard “On the Street Where You Live” until you sing it in a gay piano bar with a roomful of queens desperately straining to hit the high notes.
So, the night of the ball comes soon enough.
You know, everyone considers the Breakfast at Tiffany’s black gown with a string of pearls to be her signature look, but these two queens always though that this was the most stunning thing she ever wore on film – and that’s really saying something since plenty of top name designers scratched each other’s eyes out to get a chance to dress her.
Outside, she runs into Freddy, who must really smell at this point since he’s been living on the street for at least a couple weeks. He sings sweetly to her and she almost melts.
Then she remembers that he’s another of those rich English assholes who just likes to fuck with her. If she’d had a knife on her, this would have been a very different movie.
Higgins wakes up the next day completely flabbergasted that Eliza would leave. It was all in good fun! Now strap yourself into that machine like a good girl and say your vowel sounds. He finds her at his mother’s house where she is wearing what has to be one of the ugliest dresses she ever wore. This thing is irritating, it’s so ugly.
Anyway, he begs her to come back and basically wait on him hand and foot and she tells him to go fuck himself. Politely.
So he goes off to pout and talk/sing the most damning-her-with-faint-praise song ever: “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” Seriously, that’s the best he could say about her? This song is not high on the list of most common Prom themes or wedding songs.