Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #15 (From MY FAIR LADY

186 posts in this topic

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 My Fair Lady and Gaslight have central female characters that are trapped in dominating circumstances, in this case, the men in their lives. The men: Rex Harrison in 'Lady' and Charles Boyer in 'Gaslight' are clearly bullies who use their power over Eliza and Alicia. They are both women closed in in oppressive surroundings that put them way out of their comfort zone.

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

This is where you could tell that Cukor was a truly an actor's director. The emotions from Hepburn are very intense. You feel her frustration and worry about what's going to happen to her. Harrison seems unfazed by what kind of future that awaits her. To him, she's nothing more than a guinea pig, and when the experiment is successful, he doesn't care afterwards. He's clearly a nonchalant jerk. Cukor gives them their moments when they need it the most, and lets them run with them. Hepburn is marvelous in the scene!

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

There is a love/hate attraction between the two of them. Eliza discovers she's in love with him, but she is angry that he doesn't feel the same way. Maybe he feels something, but he refuses to his guard down. We are obviously on her side and we feel her pain and longing. However, she does assert and defend herself. For the first time, she finds her strength to say what she feels, but she doesn't get any type of reaction from Higgins. Like I said in the second answer, Higgins uses her to feel superior, and she is nothing more than a pawn to him. Cukor brings out the realism and tension in the scene, which was one of his trademarks.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eliza and Henry Higgins have had a love/hate relationship from the beginning. Eliza is more emotional and demonstrative, while Henry Higgins is reserved, understated, using only wit and intellect to interact in an objective fashion. Eliza is an experiment, nothing more.

In this scene, however, Eliza's frustration comes into full view. She had worked hard, but they have ignored her efforts in winning their bet. In this clip, Henry Higgins's logical world is cracked, as slippers are "shied" at him. He is forced to deal with emotions now, and realizes that he and his experiment have reached the end, and, that Eliza may indeed leave. Eliza's temper, "cuts him to the quick," and rattles his world. The girl had feedings, and was not just a voice on the Grammaphone after all. 

Higgins doesn't even realize it yet, but Eliza has, in Freddie's words, "completely done him in."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On June 26, 2018 at 10:26 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

Today's Daily Dose of Delight regards George Cukor as director of My Fair Lady.

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own)

  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) 
     
  2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.
     
  3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

Gaslight= I knew that you could do it, you did it, you did it.  I knew that you could do it and, indeed you did!

(Eliza clearly had nothing to do with "it".  That's pure Gaslighting.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having seen this movie dozens of times, it's only in the last year or so I've truly come to understand the relationships between the characters.  As a young girl I thought the romantic relationship was between Eliza and Professor Higgens.  I was wrong.  While they do enjoy a loving relationship, it is not a romantic one. (Compare even to the "original" Pygmalion from 1938.). 

It has become clear to me that Higgens and Pickering are in a relationship in this version.  It's so blatant that I find it hard to believe that audiences in 1964 didn't pick up on this.  

He prefers the company of men.  I mean, Let a woman in your life?

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/19/theater/reviews/19pygm.html?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=8F96C25231647F5CAD312F094A186E5E&gwt=pay

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, ESei said:

You've got it! Lerner and Loewe used the film ending as opposed to the play's. But it's complicated. Even during the original run of the play, some of the performers played with the ending to imply that Liza and Higgins might have a relationship. Shaw actually worked on the screenplay, but the more romantic ending was inserted without his knowledge.

I believe that they used Shaw’s screenplay intact, but staged it so it had a romantic ending that Shaw did not intend.  Instead of ending with Higgins listening to a recording of Eliza, Eliza enters and delivers the last lines in person. 

  • Thanks 1

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) 

I haven't watched 'Gaslight' in a while so I'll pick 'A Star is Born'. In supporting Judy Garland with set design and staging I'll start with the nightclub scene where she sings 'The Man That Got Away'. The lighting is darker and we have Judy in the middle of musicians. It is an intimate staging played down a little. Judy moves into the song and before you know what hit you realize you are in a big number. The camera moves in on her as the song becomes more emotional,

Another interesting scene is the 'Born in a Trunk' number. The costume stands out here. Judy in top hat and tails. She takes of the hat and we see a short slick hair style. Behind her is an arrangement of flowers roses or carnations but a sea of red. The stage light is on her as the camera moves in. She is sitting as if to tell a story again intimate. Once in the song the reflections back on the experiences transform into transitional scenes. Each scene vivid with color and costume. Cukor played with the sets sometimes interchanging colors with background and costume. As Judy goes through doors pitching her talent to studios she may have a red dress with a gray background. In the next door her dress is now gray and the background is red. This also occurs in the scene when she joins the chorus line moving colors around.  

I don't know if there was anything to the scene in which Judy's character discusses her husbands alcohol problem that was drawing out some personal demons that Judy herself battled with. Her addiction lead to being fired on previous films and oddly enough to this film and this scene. Was this by design from Cukor?    

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

If I were a fly on the wall on the set I would have liked to hear Cukor and Hepburn going over the scene. If we go with the premise that he was a director for women I'm thinking he made them feel comfortable enough to open up emotionally. Many directors had tricks that they used to draw more out of an actor. If he could get them to open up and maybe even confide in him he had a trigger mechanism.

I can only support what the lecture notes state about costume and props. The elegant dress and the jewelry and wrapped around Eliza who underneath is another person. Now caught in between two worlds she anguishes over the awakening of what she could be and what she has been. Throwing the shoes is symbolic of revolt. Like the dutch throwing their sabots into the machinery to sabotage the works. The machine in this case is the cold Henry Higgens who cares little for her personal feelings.   
 

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

They reverse their roles at the end of the film and quietly settle together. At first Eliza is the more vulnerable. She starts out with little confidence or self worth. She has a good heart though. Henry is cocky and sure completely absorbed in his work. All appearances are that it is Eliza that is be transformed by Henry. Henry over time begins to exhibit bothersome feelings. Henry shrugs them off at first as an inconvenience. 'Why can't a woman be more like a man Pickering?'. Up to the point of his 'Damn! Damn! Damn!' and leading into 'I've grown accustomed to her face'. We realize that Henry has been controlling his feelings and has to learn how to open himself up. Eliza loves with a true heart and has to deal with the strength she needs to become more. Its a drag out emotional prize fight. The final scene of a slow walk into the room by Eliza and putting on Henry's slippers is a sort of calm and promise of new beginnings for both. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Definitely noticing the thematic similarities with Gaslight. Eliza is upset and Higgins is basically trying to convince her that it is all in her head and that there is something wrong with her for being upset.

I don't really understand the question about Cukor supporting them and emotional transition moments. I notice that while Eliza gets upset, Higgins tone remains the same.

As far as their relationship and how it is enhanced by Cukor's direction, one thing I noticed is how elements of set and costuming suggested an oppressive household and relationship. The house is stuffed with with belongings and that necklace she wears looks like it is choking her.

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) 

In both movies, Cukor used lighting to highlight the emotional states of the characters.  He moves the actors in and out of shadows as their characters' emotions change.

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

Moving Eliza in and out of the light as her emotions cycle between sadness, anger and confusion, re-enforces the emotional struggle she is facing.  Meanwhile Higgins roams around the room fidgeting with his waistcoat and the chocolates betraying his nerves.  He isn't used to dealing with raw emotions, and this leads him to fluctuate between falsely positive and cheerful, to angry and short tempered.  Both of these reactions only serve to anger Eliza more.

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

They both seem to be unsure of how to act with each other in this scene.  She bounces back and forth between anger, disappear, and confusion.  He fidgets around with his waistcoat and the chocolates trying to figure out what is suddenly wrong, and how to deal with it.  Cukor has them both moving around the scene confronting and retreating.  It creates a tension between the to that could be a result of anger, but it can also be the result of two people not used to expressing deeper emotions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will just say that My Fair Lady reminded me of Gigi! The music was glorious and the costumes divine. You saw the growth of the main character through her interaction of the father figure. These were two of my favorite musicals. The directors, George Cukor and Vincent Minnelli, knew how to tell stories in the most lavish ways. The costumes, the lighting and the sets as well as the well chosen cast made theses movieswork from start to finish.

George Cukor used his immense talents of paying attention to details in the film, The Women. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

       In both "Gaslight" (1944) and "My Fair Lady" (1964), director George Cukor used the camera to probe the depths of emotional turmoil experienced by two different women who were each manipulated by domineering men. In "Gaslight," Gregory (Charles Boyer) Marries Paula (Ingrid Bergman) to gain access to the house where he had killed her aunt and misplaced her jewels. To achieve his end, he must get Paula out of the house. He manipulates and torments her, in an effort to convince her that she is insane and should be institutionalized. In "My Fair Lady,"  Higgins (Rex Harrison), on a bet, plucks Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) "out of the gutter" in hopes of training her to pass as a lady of the upper class. To achieve his end, He must tear her down and retrain her in both manners and diction.  While Paula is an impediment that must be destroyed for Gregory to achieve his nefarious goal, Eliza is a pawn that must be used to achieve Higgins' goal. Gregory is criminally cruel, but Higgins is just insufferable and insensitive. Both women try to be accommodating of the demands of their tormentors but reach the breaking point in confrontation scenes. These scenes play out differently, though. Paula displays controlled anger, directed towards Gregory, whom she wants to be rid of, but Eliza bursts out in uncontrolled hysteria, directed at Higgins, whom she fears she cannot keep. In both cases, Cukor shows great directoral patience; he allows the psychological turmoil to build slowly. The viewer has time to read the distress expressed on the face of the "victim," as the drama builds to its climax.   

        

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) 

The framing of the actor, particularly Audrey Hepburn, can stand alone as a portrait. The camera serves the actor and not the other way around. From the fast tracking of Hepburn as she sits upright on the couch to the slow dolly move of her as she gets up off of the couch, to the different areas of light, shadow and marks, Cukor is conscious of just exactly where the actor should be.

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

Again, the camera serves the movements of the character. Anxious and confused is a fast pan while contemplation calls for slower camera/dolly movements.

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

Higgins from his introduction into the scene is stable, calm and like the camera movements during his coverage within the scene and very smooth…while Eliza’s coverage is more rigid and tends to switch as much as her emotions do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Both My Fair Lady and Gaslight have caring, open women being manipulated by powerful, overbearing men for the entertainment of the men.  The sets were built with a lot of props and those wide camera angles so you feel like you are walking into the room yourself and the massive view of the films are done to make the women feel even smaller and more insignificant.

The emotions ran the gambit in this scene of MFL.  Eliza was deep in thought and then flew down onto the floor sobbing.  The camera shooting her from above makes you realized how low she actually felt and was brilliant.  She moans as she drops to the floor and you feel it in your gut when she does.  If you weren't already deep into the movie....this act just brought you in.

The use of the entire room to shoot the scene was great.  They are both moving around as their emotions swing from one direction to another so as they move, the mood shifts and it happens over and over again and carries the viewer with them all around the room as the emotions are poured out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. This scene is compared to 'Singin' In The Rain' where Eliza's red dress contrasts and stands out next to Higgins black suit. This scene is also compared to 'An American in Paris' where there is little colour in the background to show being more realistic. 

2. Eliza is upset because she loves him but he doesn't share the same feelings. Cukor shows this by not having her in the shadow and the room not having much light and Eliza showing a lot of emotions. 

3. Eliza is not happy that Higgins has changed her into something she is not. She feels like a slave to him. She is not happy but will do what he says and will never leave or disobey him. She loves him but is upset because he doesn't share the same feelings. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. The similar structure of a woman totally under a man’s control appears in both Gaslight and My Fair Lady. Of course, the cold detachment in Gaslight is so infused with evil intent whereas Professor Higgins is simply ignorant of his effect on Liza and his lack of consideration for her future. Anton’s manipulation of Paula is so insidious its difficult to compare the relationship it has to The one in My Fair Lady except that its tsken to an e treme level. The other thing and I love this about Gaslight is the way the scenes are lit! B&W is such a wonderful thing. You see Cukor manage to do this in technicolor in the scene BUT Gaslight’s use of light and shadow is simply genius!

2. Eliza’s realization of where her life has been lead and where she stands with Higgins - her final awakening - it’s illuminated (pun intended) but her movements from darkness to light. Higgins is always well-lit. Her explosion with the slippers and his reaction of shock - a good bit - gives the audience another clue as to how clueless he is at the situation he’s created. His reaction is to calm her with cool logic with his questions! Even now that works on her! Its positively cruel almost as evil as Anton approach to Zpaula.

3. As above, the swing of emotions and realizations to Liza and even possibly Highins in his shock are orchestrated so well by Cukor its like a dance!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to admit I'm a little lost when trying to compare My Fair Lady to Gaslight except for the fact that both leading ladies were being taken advantage of by a well-to-do male lead.  Boyer is evil and Harrison so level-headed and almost unaware of Eliza's feelings.

Eliza lashes out at Higgins because she feels used and certainly hurt that he shows no feelings for her at all.

Not sure how to answer part 3 - you just get the feeling that Higgins will realize he does have feelings for Eliza.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is one of the final scenes in My Fair Lady.  Eliza has become emotional because she realizes that the fairy tale is over and she is caught between being a lady and being a flower girl, plus she realizes that she is in love with Dr. Higgins.  Higgins on the other hand is being logical not realizing that he has fallen for Eliza.  Cukor plays off of those emotions.  

Both Gaslight and My Fair Lady are set in Victorian London.  Very prim, very proper and definite class divisions.  The male is always in control and women are given to hysterics.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Response to #1. (I'm drifting a bit on this one.)

I've never seen Gaslight, so I can't compare the two films. I will mention that Cukor does a good job at reproducing the cloying sensibilities of the Edwardian era - the stiff collars, the tight chokers, the enormous hats, the wall-to-wall patterns on everything in homes. In this scene, you have one human who is a strict conformist about his home and his personal style, but his private life is all about nonconformity - a confirmed bachelor (although it is much more allowable for a man to be a bachelor than for a woman to be a spinster). On the other hand, we have another human - the wildcard, aka Eliza - who was taken from nonconformity and taught how to conform as a "party piece" - something you learn to show off to people at parties. Once she has done her "party piece," she is set aside and belongs neither in the conformist world nor in the nonconformist world. It's up to her to decide where she belongs and to make it work. In a real sense, Eliza is a modern woman figuring out for herself where she is going to belong - at home, in the business world, doing something entirely different from what she has been programmed to do. 

I would point out that this theme of nonconforming women started a earlier in the musicals, ex. Calamity JaneAnnie Oakley (and even before then, ex. Top Hat). So, in a real sense, Eliza is the natural progression of the modern woman played out in character in film musical. In the musical, the ending is left ambiguous . . . we see Prof. Higgins falling apart without Eliza, but Eliza doesn't fall apart without him. When she returns to Prof. Higgins' home, it's on her own terms, not his. 

Response to #2.

Eliza (Hepburn) begins the scene by taking care of the home details - turning off the lamp, etc. It's ritual, and ritual can be highly comforting when your world is falling apart. She eventually breaks down, only to respond to Higgins (Harrison) in anger when he interrupts her. Is she upset because he is going to find her crying, or is she upset because he has verbally abandoned her earlier in the evening ("Thank God that's over")? Both, I would hazard to say. As they move through the scene, Higgins knows she's upset, but he never quite gets the real reason why she's upset. He attempts to ameliorate the situation with candy and pat phrases, but she wants reassurance, which he can't offer because his emotional depth doesn't quite match hers in this moment (he will catch up, eventually). I notice how still Hepburn is in most of this scene. Harrison moves around her, but she actually moves very little. From the corner to the floor to the sofa then to the foreground. Harrison is all over the place. To me that signifies she is in full possession of her emotions, even as she is emoting, whereas he is feeling unrest and cannot settle. They don't look at each other much, except when she attempts to attack him. Cukor gives them the full expanse of the room in which to move around each other, and they have plenty of props to work with and from to set up the scene. This scene is really very domestic, when I think about it. It's the quintessential couple scene - with the woman knowing why she's upset, the man being completely clueless about it, and the resolution coming later, after one of them has done something to awaken the other. 

Response to #3.

The attention is on Eliza (Hepburn). She is in the foreground the most. This scene is about her, her feelings, the way she is reacting to a tremendous event in her life and to her future. Higgins (Harrison) is there, but this scene is NOT about him. The next couple of scenes are his to own and chew up as he wants. But this scene is all Hepburn's. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I remember about ‘Gaslight’ was the use of light and shadows to drive mad the elegant lady portrayed by Ingrid Bergman.  A great use of light by Cukor in “My Fair Lady’ is when a shadow crosses Eliza’s face as she wishes she were dead.  Jewels figure prominently in both films – in ‘Gaslight’ as the treasure sought by Bergman’s duplicitous husband, and, in ‘My Fair Lady’, as the sign of status Eliza wears in the role of a refined lady.  Both women are involved in a relationship with a gentleman, and both are living under false realities, being used by these men in their lives. Both men are callous as they pursue their goals, with Charles Boyer in “Gaslight’ as a dangerous murderer, and Professor Higgins as someone unaware of the kind of lives people not “in society” lead.

Eliza is first seen in the clip standing in a darkened corner. And as she moves toward the chair, she turns off the elegant lamp on the table, symbolic of the end of her life as a lady.  Her entire mood is dark and she wants to immerse herself in the shadows, where she feels most at home.  Her time with the Professor has been a trying journey into a bright, beautiful world that has now come to an abrupt end, as she sees her role with the Professor was built on a bet.  During the clip, the sparkling jewels she wears are prominent until the professor pushes her to the couch, and her cloak covers them - again, symbolic of her fall from society.  Even their light is put out.  Hepburn is able to move from the lady to her true nature with ease, using her body movements to express herself.  She is very physical throughout the scene.  As she starts to cry, I can see the emotion moving up from her throat to her face.  She shows real anger when throwing the shoes at Harrison, and when jumping at him with her “claws” out.  Harrison maintains his gentlemanly stiff carriage throughout the clip, and has a befuddled look on his face, as he viewed Eliza as a project, oblivious to the fact she is a real person.  He remains the authoritative Professor throughout the scene, scolding Eliza “the cat” (the only time he seems to show real emotion), correcting her grammar, and explaining how she can remedy this ill-tempered outburst.  I love how Higgins is sure that chocolate will soothe the feelings of any “out of sorts” woman.  Actually, it does help - temporarily.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Your question about Cukor's direction, focus on individual identities, and comparing to Gaslight, has me intrigued. It's like a lightbulb for me.  Perhaps my film education needed a knock in the head. Looking at Cukor's movies now, I see the clear thread of identity and what one is compared to what one is asked to be woven throughout. 

Starting with the comparison requested, in Gaslight, both leads' identities are in question.  Boyer's is an assumed identity concealing his real intentions while Bergman's is one he projects upon her despite her sanity. Boyer's masterful deceit in playing his wife off as crazy and attempting to make her believe it about herself has us absolutely transfixed. Bergman's resistance and ultimate victory is fraught with the anxiety of someone on the verge. Putting these depictions as parallels to Harrison and Hepburn is quite interesting. 

Shaw wrote the Harrison character with no sympathy whatsoever whereas Hepburn's character is the one caught in society's web of definitions, stations, and projections of propriety. She is the one, like Bergman's character, in jeopardy of losing her desired life. The fragility with which both characters' opportunity for happiness is dangling at the whim of the male leads gives Cukor's depiction of each tremendous empathy. His direction is entirely with the women. However, he directs Harrison's absolute dominance of power in the societal roles superbly. He makes it as light as one can make Pygmalion without losing the poignance of the circumstances for Eliza.

If we expand to The Women, Born Yesterday, It Should Happen to You, A Star is Born, Adam's Rib, Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Camille, Philadelphia Story, even Lust for Life, there is a direction very much focused on identity. What is vs. what one wants to be vs. what society demands of one. Cukor's direction has the audience empathizing with the protagonist/lead as well as many supporting characters. Pygmalion is, perhaps, the most overt exploration of this question fo making someone over to conform to what society requires, but each of the movies listed above, as directed by Cukor, shows the physiological devastation or personal price/sacrifice exacted when one deviates. There is also the assumption imposed on society based on what one is.  Fighting against those assumptions is equally distressing even when characters triumph, as Cukor reveals the challenges to be what one is.

I really thank you for asking this question and allowing me to put the pieces together in a major way in the filmography of Cukor. While it by no means encompasses all that Cukor does, it most certainly gives his work an exceptionally important psychological, sociological, and hegemonic continuity.  His contribution to our cultural exploration of this aspect of reality is tremendous. His direction of this issue also brought out the best in the likes of Judy Holiday, Shearer, Garland, Hepburn(s), Leigh, Garbo, Douglas, Mason, Lemon, Holden, Tracey, Grant, and Harrison although Harrison is given a terribly one dimensional character whose one note is brutal.  Harrison plays him to perfection despite the musical redeeming him in the end (I always have to ask if the musical actually does redeem him or if it simply has Eliza come back to him like a dog with his slippers...). Anyway, bravo, Mr. Cukor.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of the themes that struck me as I re-watched this scene is shadowy luxury of Hepburn’s surrounding and her rich clothing of lace, velvet and diamonds contrast with her realization that she has no where to go, no hope of a future. She is a person without a place in the middle of very richly feathered nest.  

Hepburns character realizes that she has collaborated with Higgins and the Colonel in cutting herself off her own sense of belonging.  The full measure of that hits home.  Harrison’s Higgins is still blissfully unaware that the basis of their relationship has changed irrevocably. And even when he comes to understand she has concern over her future, he tried to play into their old roles:  offer her chocolate, distract her with talk of working in a flower shop.  

What he starts to grasp, but not yet fully comprehend is that their relationship, and balance of power in that relationship has not just changed, but went they a seismic upheaval.  She is no longer dependent on him, but understands that she needs to forge a new future for herself. He still expects to see her in the same role she has played in the household come the next morning. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Comparing this scene to Gaslight, one can see how the use of lights is similar. Both movies take place in upper class Victorian London society. As in Gaslight, shadows are immensely important to conveying the mental anguish of Bergman and Hepburn respectively. Both movies have sumptuous, safe settings that negate the nervous, agitated mental states of the actresses. Both have lead actors who belittle their counterparts concerns. However, while Gaslight’s lead actor is purely evil, Harrison is thoughtless and deals only in what he understands, rather than attempting to be sympathetic and truly involved.

2. While we do not see the previous scenes, we do get a sense of what has occurred. The bet that Higgins made at the beginning has been won. Eliza masterful hard won performance is shunted to the side as Harrison heralds it as his great achievement. Over the months that the two work together, both have come to rely on and have feelings for each other. Eliza is aware of this, but Harrison treats her like an old glove to be tossed aside when it is not needed any more. The wide shots permit the audience to see Higgins befuddlement and Eliza’s breakdown clearly, as they talk at cross purposes. Neither one clearly conveys their meaning to the other.

3. Cukor allows the characters vulnerability to shine through. They have never opened up to each other in this way before. Eliza speaks to Higgins as her equally. He retreats to what he knows- calm, professional, educated reasoning, because he does not know nor understands how to handle the situation with which he is faced. Eliza’s outburst is initially done in close ups, yet when Higgins enters the room, the shots are wider, allowing the characters to fully interact with a wider range of emotions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I adore this film, and was very pleased to perform in a production of My Fair Lady on stage last year. Many happy memories.

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 am not as familiar with Gaslight. However, I note Cukor's use of lighting and shadows to emphasize moods. Eliza is cast in darkness at the beginning of the scene, and she seems to fade away, as if invisible, thus reflecting visibly her feelings of having been cast aside now that Higgins has won his bet.

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

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

Higgins is unaware of Eliza's true feelings, despite her obviously being extremely upset. She's angry at him for taking her for granted, but he's too clueless to catch on that it's his own fault. Typical man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, jawz63 said:

I will just say that My Fair Lady reminded me of Gigi! The music was glorious and the costumes divine. You saw the growth of the main character through her interaction of the father figure. These were two of my favorite musicals. The directors, George Cukor and Vincent Minnelli, knew how to tell stories in the most lavish ways. The costumes, the lighting and the sets as well as the well chosen cast made theses movieswork from start to finish.

George Cukor used his immense talents of paying attention to details in the film, The Women. 

I would agree in comparing the two musicals.  Both have such lush setting.  The sets are characters that inform the actors' performances.  Cukor becoming this most fully in this movie.  Minnelli having this throughout his career. Yes, The Women also uses setting and props to perfection for the various characters.  Love your observations.

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).  Cukor’s attention to set detail is on full display in both movies.  As stated in Mr. Rydstrom’s article, the set is filled to capacity with period-appropriate items in “My Fair Lady” which is overwhelming and meant to “reflect the oppression being felt by Eliza”.  He does the very same thing in “Gaslight” to reflect the oppression felt by Ingrid Bergman.  An article I read about Cukor stated that he “treated the past as if were the present.”  What a brilliant summation.  No wonder his sets felt so alive with character.  Cukor also allows the camera to settle on his actors’ faces, especially the female leads, in an almost loving manor.  His female leads always look exceptionally stunning.

2.     Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.  The actors both show their skills as they navigate the scene:  Rex Harrison with bemused dismissiveness and a touch of arrogance and Audrey Hepburn with emotional devastation while working to maintain her elegant poise, though she slips in and out of her character’s “old ways”.  Both are complicated and nuanced performances that ring very true to the characters.  Cukor doesn’t use any extreme close-ups here.  Instead, he chooses to show the interaction as a whole between the two characters.  Though I had noticed the shadows and lighting in the clip, this escaped me in earlier viewings.  Cukor plays with light and shadows as the emotions hit peaks and valleys, which is fascinating.  He uses this technique to enhance the drama, which is genius!

3.      What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?  I think Cukor captures the emotional intimacy of the characters.  In addition, the arrogance and puzzlement of Professor Higgins feels real and the anguish of Eliza feels exceptionally raw.  That has to be because of George Cukor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/27/2018 at 1:41 AM, chillyfillyinak said:

 First, Cukor was called a woman's director because that was code to signal others that he was gay, not that he was better at working with women than men.

 

Thanks for another great post!    There is no doubt that Cukor did shine directing all the leading ladies of the decades, including those with difficult reputations.  Did his POV favor women in a way that didn't bring out the same in his leading men? (Real or imagined by the men?)  On the one hand, being called "a woman's director" is a compliment, and on the other, a career disadvantage, not because of any so-called "vice" of being gay, but because leading men might be worried about being upstaged by the women under Cukor's direction. Cukor's homosexuality didn't need much coding since it really was no secret, though of course not publicly discussed. 

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