Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #15 (From MY FAIR LADY

186 posts in this topic


    Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course)

Gaslight is more hazy in the background scenes. The action is more front and center. 

In this film the background is more a character - more present - than in Gaslight.

 

    Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.

The camera angles and closeups. How Harrison moves in the scene toward Eliza, and the camera takes them both in. But the scene is very much a 4th wall situation - everything faces the front.

 

    What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

How the camera contains them both in each scene. When she is against the wall, while Higgins is extolling (before this cut) and she shrinks against the wall. He is very much the center. His ego is more important than hers.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) 

Both movies have the common theme of a controlling, domineering man. They also take place around the same time frame. There's also a good usage of shadows and light. The shadows and light often reflect the mood of the character(s). I love that in movies. 
 

2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.

Cukor gave Hepburn's character time to show how she felt before Harrison's character entered. Upon his entering, he is in a carefree mood. However, the direction Cukor took the scene shows that he sees for the first time that Eliza cares about the experiment that she is involved in. It's almost as if he notices that she does indeed have feelings. 
 

3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

They've never fought the way they did in this scene before. Each character is releasing bottled up emotions and thoughts. It's a good platform for them to continue their relationship on. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course)

Firstly, I’d like to comment on Cukor’s label as a “woman’s director.” I feel this was terribly unfair because he’s truly an actor’s director with no preference to one sex over another. As noted in the lecture notes, he won more awards for films featuring men. What Cukor did was to allow the actor (male and female) to focus on the character.

I read once that Cukor liked to watch his actors lose control and we see this in various scenes in The Women (1939), Gaslight (1944) and A Star is Born (1954), to name a few. In Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman tries terribly hard not to lose control but is being manipulated by Charles Boyer. Both Eliza Doolittle and Paula Alquist are manipulated by the men in their lives. Cukor uses close-ups to focus on the characters, but also pulls back to show the relationship of the characters.

In My Fair Lady, we often see Higgins standing, maintaining the role of the teacher. In the scene shown here, the characters don’t look at one another directly. Charles Boyer, as Gregory Anton, almost looks through Paula which we first believe is the character acting in charge but it turns more ominous as we learn he is the one behind the plot to drive her mad. Both films use sumptuous backgrounds and both female characters find themselves backed into a corner, both literally and figuratively.

In Gaslight, a black and white film, the characters blend more into their surroundings. Cukor doesn’t pull back as much as he does in My Fair Lady, but Gregory’s world is small and Higgins’s larger.

 

Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.

Eliza comes out from the shadows and is interrupted by Higgins and she explodes. Higgins is immediately on the defensive and takes control of the situation by assuming the teacher/lecturer role and tries to reason with Eliza. He does not hesitate to correct her when she uses improper grammar (“them slippers”).

Cukor begins the scene with tighter shots on Eliza but, once Higgins enters the scene, Cukor pulls back to show the characters in the environment. Even in evening dress, Higgins is comfortable in this setting while Eliza is out of place.

 

What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

In this particular scene, Eliza is uncertain of her future. She stands between her old world and the possibility of a new one, illustrated by her speeches in which she uses Cockney phrasing, but with the polish of proper English pronunciation. Higgins, on the other hand, prefers the status quo and sees no reason why anything has changed. He offers her chocolates, something that had appeased her in other situations. When Higgins feels out of control (he doesn’t quite know whether to put his hand in his pocket, he fiddles with his jacket), he immediately goes back into the role of teacher. As he decides Eliza is just overwrought, his manner becomes more typical of the way we’ve seen Higgins in the film.

Cukor has the actors together in the scene, but after Eliza tries to attack Higgins, they rarely look directly at each other. We, the audience, see Eliza’a anguish because she is facing us and, facing her back, Higgins can’t see the real Eliza, only his creation--in fancy dress and jewels to perpetuate the illusion—and there is a sense of pride in what he has created.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As in Gaslight, Cukor uses low -lighted interiors to enhance the feeling of isolation and depression.  We see the same uncertainty of self in the female characters, as they try to hang on to stability.  Note how in both films, the women face away from the antagonist, not making eye contact.  Loss of control is exhibited, as well as self-willing back to control.  The males in both films seek to subdue both the mind and body of the female character, and to distance himself from any emotion.

The emotional transitions are supported by the furnishings of the set, providing places to hold on to as she moves about turning off lights, etc.; there is a very nice divan handy when she throws herself to the floor.  The aforementioned low light supports the depressive mood.  There is a contrast in the very nice surroundings and her absolute despair.

Cukor helps show the relationship of the characters in the way he allows Eliza the full stage as she expresses her isolation and need for recognition;  she feels she has to conceal her emotion in the dark.  The professor then joins her in the room, but they are shown together on the screen only when they are engaged in physical combat.  When he speaks, showing his disdain of emotion, he has the screen to himself.  As they seek to understand one another, they are brought together on screen, then pushed apart, together, apart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. In some ways, the background story is kind of similar to Cukor’s A Star is Born, with both dealing with women who rise to success in society, though in A Star is Born, Norman Manine is struggling more with the success as opposed to My Fair Lady where it is Eliza Doolittle.

2. The emotional transitions mainly come from Hepburn. Harrison actually acts quite the same throughout the scene, which reminds us that Doolittle is really the one struggling with the change and not Higgins. The mixture between the darker lighting and Hepburn’s performance works very well.

3. Higgins wants her to act a specific way, so in a way their relationship feels fake, at least during this scene. Once again, Cukor gives only Hepburn the emotional transitions, which reflects the division that the two seem to have in their relationship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) In Gaslight, the rooms in Bergman's and Boyer's home are equally busy with fussy, ornate wallpaper, chandeliers... and portraits and mirrors and sconces and lamps and all manner of foofaraw on the walls.  In that film and in My Fair Lady, the overall effect of this is cloistering, claustrophobic, and constricting.  Both women in the two films are slowly and methodically transformed from what they originally were by a controlling man for personal gain.  Naturally, in Gaslight, Boyer was a true villain, and Harrison is more of an antagonist turned potential romantic hero in MFL, but they both have a very smooth, suave, and calm outward persona that makes their controlling personalities all the more malevolent (in Boyer's case) and cruelly self-serving.  

2 and 3) I think in this film and in many key moments of Gaslight, we see that Eliza (and Bergman's Paula) have our sympathy through the director's camera.  They are the emotional centers of the film and of the shots they are in.  We see them more often in the foreground, with the man a bit more in the background and yet physically dominant over the woman: they are standing, the woman is sitting or in some instances bowed down or cowering.  The director wants us to sympathize with the woman, and the positioning of his actors relative to his camera seems to suggest that the man is a sort of a menacing presence, despite their debonair appearance and outward manners.  

I am loath to bring politics into all of this, but remember how the positioning of certain presidential candidates during various moments of their debates were perceived by some to suggest menace...?   🤔

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this film Professor Higgins is trying to get Eliza to calm down and she is acting like her old self.  He thinks that if she goes to bed and sleeps everything will be alright.  She tell him that it won't be alright. In Gaslight the husband is trying to make his wife think that she is crazy.  He does this by hiding things and then asking her if she knows what happened to them.

In the scene you get the feeling that Eliza has feelings for the professor but she doesn't think that he feels anything toward her other than another project.  Cukor does a very good job of moving this along by having the professor come in and talk quietly to Eliza and doesn't raise his voice to calm her down

They seem to really like one another and you almost feel like they might be in love with one another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems like this scene was shot with letterbox.  In addition to the actors, a considerable amount of background can be seen. In a sense, the trappings of wealth and high society visible in the scene becomes a character that contributes to the entire storyline.  The "wideness" of the shot allows for both characters to be visible and interact with minimal editing.  Unfortunately (in my opinion) the "wideness" does not allow for the type of closeups that were used in films like Gaslight (see clip).  The "faces" in this scene provided a considerable amount of detail and drew the viewer into the scene.  While faces in My Fair Lady are still appealing, it lacks the emotional appeal offered by the closeups in Gaslight.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) 

Ok, big leap...In both of the mentioned films, we find a younger, more than a little naive woman who chooses to be dominated, by an older, more worldly man.  In Gaslight, our leading man has nefarious reasons to manipulate his wife and is playing the long game to get her aunt's jewels.  He has her nearly convinced she is going out of her mind, but is saved by the glove.  MFL's Professor Higgins is shocked that Eliza feels angry, he, the Colonel and household had treated with consideration.  He does not have a long game, his motives, as selfish as Anton's, are not to be destructive, but as selfserving.

2.  Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. 

Cukor allows the actors to be very present and represent their "true" selves, even as far as Eliza regressing to a gutter snipe while Higgins is aloof.  Cukor stages the scene like an slow elaborate dance, he allows the camera to show the confusion both of the characters are experiencing as each tries to understand where the other is coming from.

Higgins is clearly bewildered by Eliza throwing the slippers at him.  He is surprised by the way Eliza is reacting to the "triumph" at the ball. He doesn't have the capacity of feeling or life experience to empathize, you know stiff upper lip, what?  

Eliza has not known true fear and despair, but she is aware that now she has completed this experiment and the bet was done, she had not looked beyond this night.  She was caught up in the moment, had been guided by Higgins for so long, she lost track of her true self, which pops out when she is so angry at the professor. 

3.  What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

Cukor is not a women's director, he is a director's director.  He makes every film scrumptious.  This movie is as much a pygmalion story as Cukor is as a director.  He knows how to get actors to be his image and creation.  The camera loves both Hepburn and Harrison, the sets and scenery are lush, and the use of lighting is magnificent.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  Just as in Pygmalion (the basis for this musical), Eliza is Prof. Higgins' masterpiece and he treats her as such.  He created her, so he deserves the accolades.  The slight twist is that his creation has fallen in love with him, rather she is aware of her feelings long before he is aware of his own.   Gaslight is one of my favorite movies ever and there are a few similarities in the theme of a man trying to control a woman for his own benefit.  Similarly, both women decide to take control on the situation - in Gaslight the man ends up getting his just desserts, in MFL, Prof Higgins gets better than he deserves.  

2.and 3.  By using closeups for Eliza, her despair is very evident.  Higgins' tries to retain his control and reserve just as he has throughout their relationship.  The physical interaction between Eliza and Higgins is somewhat chaotic which emphasizes his seeming confusion and her near hysteria.  He tries to fall back on his old trick of calming her with chocolate but Eliza has matured and is coming into her own and won't be placated this way anymore.  She then decides to take control of her own fate by going to his mother.  The scene at his mother's has him practically throwing a fit and pouting in the corner.  I love it!  The scene at the end when he listens to her voice and is nearly in tears is so beautifully done.  I wish there was more of a reconciliation of what their relationship is.  I saw a stage version of MFL with Richard Chamberlin in the Prof Higgins role.  In an interview, he insisted the relationship ends as more of an uncle/niece type and was not romantic at all.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1 - Both of movies it's a woman who's manipulated by a bad and selfish man, there's a shadow and light contrasting in both of scenes of tension, like this one.

2 - Eliza is frustated and fed up by the Higgins's selfishness, what stands out here and impressed it's Eliza's shout, we see she's very disturbed here, meanwhile, Higgins behaves hypocritically cold to her, doesn't mind to her feelings.

3 - Cukor made a very tense scene here, one side is despair(Eliza) and the other side is coldness of Higgins, he made the same thing in Gaslight, when Gregory(Charles Boyes) is attempting to convince Paula(Ingrid's) she's insane, there's cruelty in one side and despair in another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.     Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) 

I have not seen Gaslight.  However, I have seen The Wizard of Oz several times, a film that Cukor also contributed to, as I am assuming no one taking this course needs for me to mention.  I discovered that Cukor was hired as a “stopgap” director at one point after Richard Thorpe was fired? According to one Wiki page dedicated to The Wizard of Oz, “Nonetheless, Cukor had a significant impact on the production. Given his reputation as a "woman's director," it is unsurprising that that impact centered on Judy Garland and her role as Dorothy Gale. Cukor jettisoned the blonde wig and heavy makeup of Thorpe's Dorothy; more importantly, he changed the interpretation of the character. Thorpe's Dorothy had been a fantasy figure among other fantasy figures; Cukor returned her to a much more naturalistic and down-to-earth persona, one who could serve as the emotional center and psychological anchor of the film.”  And it seems that this is how Cukor has Hepburn play the part of Eliza.  She assumes a down-to-earth persona, and she is clearly the emotional center of this scene.  Just like Dorothy in Oz, she exhibits vulnerability and strength.  She is upset with Higgins but does not back down when confronting him.  Also—and I realize this is a very disparate comparison—I was reminded of the scene from Gigi when they sing “The Night They Invented Champagne.”  I first noticed a similar lush setting in both rooms.  Although Cukor seems to use a more muted palette than Minelli does, both rooms are still very rich shows of color and even wealth.  The one thing that I find very refreshing about the musicals from the eras we have studied is that the directors use a nice wide focus and deep focus regularly, unlike the frenetic, rapid jump-cuts and quick-cuts that too many contemporary “innovative” directors use today.  With all due respect to Baz Luhrmann, my usual example and biggest irritation is his remake of The Great Gatsby, which at times contains more than 300 images in a span of no more than 10 minutes.  Instead, Cukor and Minelli allow the audience to view the entire set and different images for more than 2-3 seconds at a time, so we can truly appreciate the story and the characters they are trying to develop.  And even though the tone and storylines were drastically different in both scenes, they were very similar visually and aesthetically.

2.     Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.

Eliza is very upset with Higgins at the beginning of this scene, realizing she was a bet that he has won.  She now fears that she will be cast back into the streets, wondering what will happen to her now.  This anger comes to a head when she throws his slippers at him and shows her displeasure with his teaching when she screams “those slippers” after he corrects her use of the word them.  We also see this anger when she tries to attack him and he tells her to put her claws away.  However, it seems her displeasure and anger are a result of her true feelings of love for Higgins because of how her behavior changes about two minutes into the scene.  When he asks her about her time with him, she quietly concedes that no one has mistreated her.  Even when he suggests that she is just “tired from the strain of the day” and offers her a chocolate, initially she yells “No!” but then more softly says “thank you,” showing her true feelings and why she is upset when she thinks he does not feel the same.

3.     What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

I will try to keep this response a bit more succinct.  In this scene, at least, it seems that Eliza has stronger feelings for Higgins than he does for her.  I say this because she is very upset by what she has overheard about the bet and his prayers that he is glad it is all over.  At one point he calls her a “presumptuous insect,” a “creature,” and a “cat.”  He even asks why he should care what becomes of her.  At the same time, he does seem to have some feelings for her, especially when he asks about her treatment, finally asking if he himself has mistreated her.  However, overall, he does not really know why she is upset, nor does he really know how to console her, at one point even trying to offer her a chocolate and telling her to go to bed, say her prayers, and have a little cry.  Perhaps this is a general insensitivity to her feelings, or perhaps this is the way men generally perceived women and their behaviors at this time.  Either way, having accomplished his goal, the teacher has no more interest in the student?  But Cukor’s direction tells us this is not the case as Higgins slowly moves closer to Eliza and she allows him to as she finally calms down by the end of the scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.  Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar withGaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) 

     I saw GASLIGHT almost twenty years ago and both that and MY FAIR LADY have become two of my all-time favorite films. One theme I’ve noticed about both these films is that both Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn are playing women who have become dependent of the dominant male in their lives, played by Charles Boyer and Rex Harrison, respectively. However, by the end of both films, both ladies have reached the point where they’re no longer dependent and have become fully self-assured and independent, particularly Ingrid Bergman as she confronts Boyer with a passionate venegance in one of the final scenes in GASLIGHT. Audrey Hepburn confronts Harrison with a more subtle yet obvious determination as she wants him to realize that she is her own woman and has always had the ability within her to stand on her own, to which Harrison acknowledges with his words but it isn’t until later when he’s alone that he realizes how much she means to him.
 

2.  Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.

     The scene begins with Audrey being very quiet and introverted. Within thirty seconds she’s goes to the extreme, falling to her knees in an emotional breakdown and then almost immediately throws Harrison’s slippers at him in a violent rage. This is followed by a very passionate exchange of words about wanting to kill him for using and exploiting her all for his own gain and the expansion of his already overwhelming ego. What follows is a brief moment of attempted physical violence and then she breaks down on the couch in deep anxiety and almost despair. She then begins to calm down little by little with a pensive attitude which then ends in a more controlled, ladylike behavior. Audrey conveys this roller-coaster of emotions very effectively within five to eight minutes and is the brilliant, consummate actress she’s become famous and loved for. 
 

3.  What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

     Harrison, being another brilliant actor, conveys his character’s coldness and seemingly unattached manner while still trying to console and encourage Eliza with a friendly attitude, but obviously it’s a shallow approach, as Higgins is determined to keep all women emotionally at bay. Audrey shows an Eliza who has obviously matured into not only a grown woman but one who is able to handle herself with more grace and dignity, despite her brief lapse into behaving like a guttersnipe with her physical confrontations at the beginning of the scene. How she behaves later in the parlour scene shows an even more dignified and mature Eliza as she proves once and for all how she has learned not only to behave like a lady but also to show to Higgins how she is no longer a frightened young girl in need of guidance from someone else.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. The main theme tying those two films together is oppressiveness. Higgins treats Eliza rather poorly throughout the movie, even after she succeeds in what he set her out to do. Afterwards, when she finally breaks down due to her underappreciative situation, Higgins tries to convince her (and himself, most likely) that she's in fine sorts and shouldn't have any problems at all. Later in the scene, he even suggests that her outburst is nothing more than the strain of the day and that all she needs to do is sleep off her troubles. Similarly, the husband in Gaslight is constantly giving his wife grief while also brushing it off as nothing (albeit for more malicious reasons). The two male figures in both movies have a monopoly on the female leads' emotions.

2. This scene is an emotional roller coaster! Eliza starts off in the shadows, both literally and figuratively, as her efforts have just been shunted by Higgins. The frustration she's been feeling up to this point finally surfaces, and she expresses it with tears and a flurry of thrown slippers. Higgins' attempts to quell this through manipulative reasoning are fruitless; although Eliza sheathes her sword for a brief time, she is nonetheless still upset, and her justified anger rushes back once more towards the end. While Eliza is, of course, all over the place emotionally, Higgins remains unmoving in his temperament. It shows how oblivious he is to what's transpiring - that being Eliza's desire to be needed for something other than someone else's gain.

3. To me, the most evident portrayal of Eliza and Higgins' relationship is when the professor is trying to convince her that she's being treated well. Higgins looms over Eliza while she's on the couch, literally talking down to her as he has throughout the film. After their initial encounter, Eliza is always turning away from him, visualizing her need to distance herself from this oppressive life. He tries drawing her back with the oh-so-coveted chocolates, representative of her former goal of living luxuriously, but she's grown past such trivial things. It's a brilliant bit of staging that enhances the exchange between the two characters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just another bully of a man pushing around a woman who, rather than kick him in the XXX, falls in love with him. BTW, look up the way Rex Harrison treated the women in his life. Not a nice person. 

At the time this movie was made, many people thought Julie Andrews should have gotten the part (as she had done it on Broadway.) Julie being cast in Camelot would have made it a better film, also. After SOM, she became a big star. I thought Audrey was totally miscast, nasal voice and all. And that hairdo looks like a big brown pile of mulch. To me, this film is way too glossy. Like others, I prefer Pygmalion. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Q1) While I haven't seen Gaslight in a long time, what strikes me somewhat is the use of light and dark.  Eliza, while dressed up is definitely down in the dumps and at first look the light in the room appears dark near her.  She starts crying and stops once Higgins appears.  Higgins, in the meantime, is in a great mood almost as if waking on air since he won his bet. In fact the cheeriness in his voice acts as an insult to Eliza.  In Gaslight, Charles Boyer drives his wife, poor Ingrid Bergman, to question her very sanity.  It's as if she is being sent from the light into the dark.

Q2) This is a highly emotional scene, more so for Hepburn than Harrison.  She must go from mad, sad, angry, hurt, to every other emotion she can express in that scene and in the end translates how desperate she feels. Cukor provides her the whole room for her emotions to expand in as she approaches Harrison, yet he is still providing Harrison the chance to say, yes, things may be changed for you, but I feel no different and you'll soon see life is fine.

Q3) It is a paternalistic relationship.  He treats her as the child he found wandering the streets.  She is a little lost girl who he now has managed to save from her sad life, but he holds all the power as Eliza can really never go back to the streets.  Her words, "What is to become of me," says it all.  She is asking him, what now.  You've created me, (in a sense as Frankenstein created his monster), and now what is Eliza to do.  She continues to need direction about what to do as he given her the tools, but not the way to sustain their use.  Much like giving a brain to the monster, but not guiding him how to use it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The masks are starting to come off, as he allows the characters' true emotions to show themselves. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.      I have not seen Gaslight, but I watched A Star is Born during this class.  One common theme is the focus on the actor. Both actors, James Mason and Judy Garland were largely featured, there were closeups and moments when both could shine and emote what they were feeling at that moment. You felt their triumph or anguish, it was evident. There were moments where the actors could really act out their part. Many musicals simply skimmed that piece, not all, but many did. So many also had more happy-go-lucky themes.  In My Fair Lady, there are many of the same shots, you see the light and darkness reflected on the actor’s faces.  You see what they are feeling. Even with completely unaware Professor Higgins. You see Eliza’s realization of her place in his world.  

2.      There are many moments in the Daily Dose scene that demonstrates Cukor’s care for the actors.  The use of lighting on Eliza and the professor. Their movement in the room, how they interact with the furniture and more mundane, yet symbolic objects, like the Professor’s slippers. The clothing they are in, and the emotions they are sharing that are carefully framed. The use of close ups at pivotal points and having both actors in the frame to show the very different way they are reacting to specific phrases. How statements made by the Professor cause Eliza to react one way, and further shows the Professor’s indifference.

3.      I mentioned this in #2, but truly contrasting Eliza and the Professor’s reactions.  Letting us view their acting skills while also making it visually obvious as to each other’s character. You see the big differences visually through the actors themselves, as well as with the lighting, setting and actor’s placement to set the tone.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In my recollection of "Gaslight", Cukor used similar camera moves helped to enhance the viewers focus on the face of the actor to enhance the sinister controlling of the husband over his wife as he tried to drive her mad. He uses the same technique in "My Fair Lady" in key scenes between Henry and Eliza. Film allows the director to support the actor and focus on his/her changing emotions as can't be done easily in the theater. 

Eliza realized she is only a "project" completed and to be filed. away. She has fallen in love with Henry and now realizes she doesn't have a place to belong or fit in fully. Cukor seems to move his actors' position, front and rear in rhythm with these emotions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites


The emotional transitions are given adequate screen time for us to enjoy/partake in the given emotion.  Eliza's heartfelt cry- one could feel her pain and feel she's been used for the bet.  Her wonderful "No!" and then a quiet, polite "thank you" pure genius.

I think through Mr. Cukor's direction both Eliza and Higgins really care about each other.  She is scared about what is going to happen to her with her new "education" and Higgins seems to be nonplussed about the situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. the scene starts with Eliza in the shadows, which is a big part of Gaslight (the shadows from the gas lamps, the light fading and getting stronger). Obviously, this is both a literal and non-literal take on the term gaslight. Throughout the scene Eliza is upset and Higgins fails to understand why. In Gaslight the husband takes opportunities to make it seem as if his wife is imagining situations/feelings. In this case Eliza's feelings are on target, Higgins is just obtuse. 

2. As Eliza begins to let her frustration out by crying, screaming, hitting the couch, the camera stays with her, at a respectful distance. We see her and her surroundings. Cukor doesn't try to cut in for a close-up to focus on her face, because her feelings take over her body - shaking, etc. We are simply able to watch her emote - we're not so close that we're invading her space, but we're not so far away that it feels distant to us either.  Throughout the scene both actors are almost always in the frame, even if can't always see both faces. They are doing a dance, but a very different dance than the joyous one they did during The Rain in Spain. The camera continues to keep its distance. We see the room, we see the actors. We aren't forced into unnecessary close-ups, forcing us to understand they're feelings. 

3.Higgins always stands over Eliza. She is crouched down on the couch, she reaches out to attack him, and he grabs her arms to stop her. He is still the teacher, still the dominant member of the relationship. She's trying to figure out how to dominate, how to be in charge, but hasn't gotten there yet. He talks down to her, both literally and figuratively. He fails to understand her feelings, basically trying to tell her what she's feeling and thinking in wrong (also a la Gaslight). At all times he holds himself upright, he is proper - in her anger Eliza forgets all the proper etiquette she's been taught about how to behave, which leads to her crying and cowering on the couch. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In comparing this scene to those in Gaslight I see the similarities.  Charles Boyer is deliberately deceiving his wife into believing what is real isn't and visa versa, she in turn becomes confused, agitated and doubts her own reality.  In My Fair Lady, it is not clear that Professor Higgins is as oblivious to Eliza's feeling as it appears but more a consequence of  class and upbringing.  He dismisses her value compares her to an insect, a cat when she is seeking validation, respect and love; to be seen as more than an experiment.  The common theme here is that the women are being exploited are pawns in a sense, to satisfy a whim in one case and more nefarious intentions in the other.

In My Fair Lady, we first see Eliza quietly enter the room, moving slowly to the light, turns it off, all very deliberate and then suddenly she drops to her knees weeping uncontrollably.  The contrast from the beginning of the action here makes the scene all the more effective.  Enter Higgins, unplussed, oblivious to her pain, asking/demanding his slippers.  When she physically confronts him he becomes all the more staid and proper, straightening his jacket which emphasizes the difference in their worlds. He appears arrogant and lacks empathy; a product of his class perhaps, or a personal character flaw.  The staging, the lighting, the costumes, the red dress symbolizing Eliza's anguish and frustration, and Higgins looking so proper in his dinner jacket and his posture/body language further illustrates the barriers between them. All created by George Cukor and his fine actors.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1)  Ingrid Bergmann and Charles Boyer are amazing in "Gaslight".  Charles takes a wonderful young lady and slowly tries to drive her mad with his insinuations, innuendoes, stealing her belongings and then hiding them up in the attic so that she thinks she is losing her mind.  In "My Fair Lady" Professor Higgins takes Eliza from her lower class life and reverses the process by bringing her status up in the world, to be a well-spoken and polite young lady.  During the time she is with him, she starts to fall in love with him, and he is obtuse to her feelings.  Higgins takes Eliza from the shadows where the lights are burning and she is trying to sell flowers.  In "Gaslight" there are tons of shadows caused by the gaslights that were used in that time period. Both movies deal with major frustration: wondering if Ingrid will realize what a jerk her husband is, and the way the professor treats Eliza as if she is a huge experiment is annoying as well.

2)  Eliza realizes that she gets no credit for pulling off the role of a fine lady during the ball.  Higgins and Col. Pikkering take all the credit and give none of it to her.  She has worked and worked to change who she was to who she is and gets completely ignored.  They are both so full of themselves.  She gets angry, upset, and frustrated.  He tries to tell her she will be o.k. and is just tired from all the strain.  Eliza feels she had become just a piece of furniture in the room - you know it is there but you really don't "see" it.  It is just taken for granted.  I really wish that instead of just throwing the slippers in his direction, she would have bopped him in the head instead.  Eliza asks what is hers to keep, packs her bag and heads out with Freddie who is a spoiled rich boy with no money of his own.  

3)  Higgins is completely oblivious to Eliza's feelings about him.  I don't think he treats her like a dad, but as a teacher and a student.  In order to be of use in the household, she takes over the responsibility of so many little things that when he realizes she has packed her bags and gone, he realizes how used to her he is and how much she means to him.  She has gained so much, but does not know what to do with her new life.  "What is to become of me" she says.  By the end they realize what they have come to mean to each other and how their relationship completes them.  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It has been a long since I’ve seen Gaslight, but my memory of it is of dark shadowy sets and a husband manipulating his wife for his own gain.  So there is a similarity in set and lighting.  Higgins is definitely manipulating Eliza for his own reward. However, Higgins has none of the malevolence of the husband in Gaslight despite Higgins’ tones and word choice.  While Eliza is truly hurt by all that has happened to her, Higgins seems totally surprised that she is so angry/upset.  Both characters react strongly, but neither character has understood the force behind the others’ action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When the camera closes in on the facial expression you see the aha moment. Use of color and lighting to signify a crucial moment. 

Lovely acting and direction make this truly enjoyable movie.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us