Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #15 (From MY FAIR LADY

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I adore Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, but I could never buy them as a couple at the end of this film. On his part, I get no attraction to her whatsoever, not even in the upper class British "we seem to get along all right; what say we make it official?" sort of way. 

As far as an auteur link with Gaslight, I notice the way the camera follows Hepburn in her emotional collapse in a similar manner that it followed Bergman during at least one of hers. Both are beautiful, feminine, and emotionally fragile women, being manipulated by men.  They flit through several mental attitudes and emotions in short spaces of time and need the focus to be strictly on them with no distraction. I recall some medium close-ups on Bergman's confused face and a lingering camera.  

In our clip here, even when Harrison comes into the scene, he remains framed in the door for some of it until she gets to her feet.  In the shot I clipped below, even though it is Higgins doing 90% of the talking, and even though he moves toward the camera and back again more than once, the camera remains stationary, focused on Eliza's emotions. 

MFL snip.JPG

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After learning of Cukor's homosexuality and how he had to hide his true self, it helps me understand why he made this scene so powerful. I can well imagine Cukor empathizing with Eliza not knowing what is to become of her now that she's become a cultured lady, although she's really still just a lower class flower girl. She doesn't fit in either world, just as Cukor didn't fit in the heterosexual world he was forced to work in.

Like Cukor, Eliza finds her strength and shows Professor Higgins that she can make it on her own. She doesn't need to marry (sell herself) nor does she need to depend on Higgins. So when she returns to Higgins' home, it is as an equal--although it may take Higgins a while to figure this out. He seems a bit slow deciphering human emotions and interactions that fall outside of his very narrow notion of normality.

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1) In both movies, Cukor uses period costumes, shadowy lighting (at times) and detailed scenery. In My Fair Lady, he uses Audrey's bold colored dress to frame and enhance her climactic moment. Cukor re-used the theme of the man using a woman for his benefit. He kept the idea of the manipulative man hovering over and controlling the female. In Gaslight though, Bergman stands bravely over him during her emotional scene. I agree that in both movies the women are made to feel out of place.

2) Cukor uses long shots to help viewers focus on the different temperaments of each character as they spoke. The camera pans to where Higgins is leisurely searching for his slippers then it moves to Audrey crouched on the floor sobbing. An effective shot I liked is when the camera focuses on her still sobbing on the sofa with his body barely visible hovering behind her. The scene transitions when she calms down and they both become a bit reflective and begin to listen to each other.

3)Cukor's direction is focused on the nuances of their interaction. After she throws the slippers at him, Higgins chooses to stay with her instead of retreating. During the entire scene he seems to be mocking her (and he is) but his  soft voice, the offering of candy and the suggestion to sleep on it is the start of his transition. Cukor wants us to believe that Higgins is beginning to understand that she is lost, ashamed, has no where to go, is confused about the change in her lifestyle and perhaps experiencing feelings of love.

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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) 

  • If you look at the ending confrontation between Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in "Gaslight" you get the same dynamic as the example from "My Fair Lady." In both cases Cukor keeps both characters in the frame and lets the emotions spill out in one long take.

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

  • The transition in emotions seems to be between the characters: SHE is an emotional wreck; HE is cavalier and can't figure out what her problem is. Again, Cukor just lets it all flow onto the screen.

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

  • It seems at the point captured in the clip, they don't really know anything about each other -- or how the other feels even though they have been working together for weeks and have taken this transformative journey together. Having the two of them constantly in the same frame allows you to see how out of sync they really are. SHE is tense and teary; HE is holding a dish of chocolates and hoping that will be enough to resolve the matter. 

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In both Gaslight and MFL we are looking at the females controlled by males. Going in and out of frame and shadow shows changes in thought and emotion between the characters.

In the scene Eliza is becoming more anxious because all of a sudden she is a new version of herself.  Now what!?  It seems Higgins has no answers and could care less.  He feels that a good nights sleep will fix everything.  Instead, she packs up and leaves.

 

 

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1) I have not seen the movie Gaslight, so I will compare and contrast My Fair Lady with Meet Me in St. Louis. Both My Fair Lady and Meet Me in St. Louis take place during the Edwardian era (1900s), so the costumes for women are full-covered dresses paired with hats, and the men wear tuxedos. The mise-en-scene is different for both films. When Judy Garland is at the dinner table with her family we can see how the wall décor complements the wall paper and dinning table. The colors are bright and blend well with the outfits of everyone at the table. In My Fair Lady everything in the room seems to be a dark green representing money and the color brown/bronze. It adds to the darkness of the scene and there are too many items and furniture in the room, which could represent the unfamiliar and suffocating mental state that Hepburn's character is in. Her red cape and white dress, and her expressions serve as a contradiction to the scene. The scene is mostly shot in medium or wide shot. We never get to see a full close up of Eliza and Higgins like we are familiar with earlier musicals to fully understand a character.

2) This clip from My Fair Lady is dramatic and emotional compared to previous musicals. We can see Audrey Hepburn's character feel trapped inside the crowded room. She is in shadow and then moves next to the lamp to turn it off as if to not reveal her facial expressions and feelings. When Eliza throws the slippers the camera is focused on her and it quickly changes to Higgins being hit by them. Cukor focuses the camera on her to show her crying and angry. It is not until Eliza and Higgins are in the same shot that we can see them interact with each other.

3) The relationship of Higgins and Eliza is different. Eliza seems to be the main character in the scene. She is always in focus and in front whereas Higgins always appears behind her. She shows more sentiment and emotion while he doesn't seem to care. She yells and cries and gives an explanation of how she feels as the camera pans to her movements. Higgins' character is inexpressive and absent just like he is in the scene.

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1. The use of light and shadow enhance the scene, and it has very similar themes to Gaslight.

2. He gives Eliza time to entrance the audience with true feelings to being used a betting tool.

3. It's a love hate relationship. Eliza has grown to love Higgins, but she hates that she loves him because of how he used her.

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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 Gaslight and MFL deal with a man manipulating a woman for their own ends.  Boyer's role in Gaslight in more malevolent than that of Henry Higgens, who doesn't really see what he is doing.  Both have confrontational scenes, save that the woman has the upper hand in Gaslight.

2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them.
 The scenes' emotional moments are carried by Audrey Hepburn. Beginning of scene, she is crying, wondering what will become of her. Enter befuddled Harrison. He wonders where his slippers are.  She throws the slippers, angerly.  He tries to calm her down, saying things that just infuriate her, which causes the 2nd bout of crying. He doesn't understand, and she cannot make him see the problem. He puts her off, leading to the third set of crying. End scene.

So - Eliza, emotional, distraught. Higgens - befuddled, off-putting, not understanding.

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

There is a male domination sense to the direction, often Eliza is pictured as being below Higgens, subservient. Higgens is the master of his domain, a man who let this waif enter it for an experiment, and doesn't understand why can't things just go along as they always have?

"Now listen to me, Eliza, all this trepidation is purely subjective." "I don't understand", sums it up nicely. Eliza is all nervousness, Higgins is calm, cool, collective. He is in control, she has veered out of it.

 

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I can see the torment in Eliza's face as she is pretending to be something she is.not. I have never heard of Cukor, nor did I know of his work. I can see how he would make this scene as powerful as it is seeing his own sexuality being "creativity " hidden from the wagging tongues of Hollywood. Pretending to be something he was.not comfortable 

The lighting in the room with its shading, always seem to enhance Eliza. The camera following her every move, from walking along to collapsing to the floor in heavy sobs. Even though Rex Harrison is standing there doing most of the talking it feels he is just another prop in the room. Must have been that gorgeous red gown and diamonds ??

I got the feeling when I saw Eliza fall to the ground crying, that she would emerge a new woman. She makes it quite clear when she throws the shoes at Higgins, she is done with the charade, and she is coming into her own. He seems to,patronize her with chocolates. Also, they don't really know each other, this scene is a telling account of how far apart they actually are... she was a stunning woman that's for sure . 

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1. Both Gaslight and My Fair Lady are stories about women who are controlled by men. 

2. The emotion build with Eliza first looking around wistfully then become increasingly upset and angry about the way she has been treated emotionally by Mr. Higgins. Higgins as usual is completely baffled by Eliza's emotional outburst thinking that she should be greatful to him for his help and hospitality.

3. Eliza is definitely in a subordinate position to Higgins. Eliza realizes she's in love with him but feels as though he will never truly love her or anyone for that matter.

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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 don’t recall watching any other Cukor movie, but you can definitely see traits of Gigi and maybe Gypsy in terms of colors, design and atmosphere. Of course this particular scene is pure drama, but the feeling of musicals alike is there. 
 

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

The camera work relates directly to what the actors are portraying. The handling of movements are really well done. 

 

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

Again, the camera and movement work that was used to shoot this scene helped bring about what the relationship between Eliza and Higgins is about and what kind of possible feelings they might have for each other.

 

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Both Gaslight and My Fair Lady have the same plot basically. Professor Higgins's house is full of patterns, furniture, and props arranged, which reflects Eliza emotionally. She is dressed in a beautiful red dress, which shows off her charms. He is dressed in a regular tuxedo. The relationship between the two is like they are boyfriend and girlfriend. They argue but yet they appreciate one another.

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23 hours ago, ameliajc said:

My understanding is that those voice-over scenes are attempts at reconstructing the original version. It had been cut, and they lost the visual but had the audio track, so they laid in the still photos they had from elsewhere. (I know I heard that on TCM at some point.)  Whenever I watch A Star is Born, I keep trying to "unsee" those additions. I agree a little bit of cutting might have been helpful to that one. 

Sorry about the aside, we're supposed to be talking about My Fair Lady. I appreciated this scene, in which Audrey goes through such emotional transitions, but nothing can beat Ingrid Bergman when it comes to the fluidity of facial expressions. I think Cukor was trying to do something similar here. I just find this scene so frustrating in that Eliza can't seem to find any way of expressing the feelings that we can all see that she has. I think this scene is also great at underscoring that she is an Object, and Henry Higgins is the alpha male who controls everything, starting with verbally.

I wish those scenes and most of the rest were "lost" too! ?

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Daily dose #15

1) The common theme I can see with My Fair Lady and Gaslight is this idea of being controlled by someone else and a sense of oppression. How lightening is used in this scene also enhances the mood.

2) As l mentioned with the lightening, it enhances the emotion in the scene in terms of how low Eliza feels. In addition, the way Cukor stages Eliza to be low physically while Higgins is upright and haughty definitely heights the emotion in the scene as well.

3) Cukor enhances the relationship between the two characters with how he positions them to each other and the actions they take towards each other. 

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On 6/26/2018 at 9:26 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:
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  • What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction?

To Henry Higgins, he feels their relationship is the same, Eliza Dolittle is the "creature" he help create. He still corrects her grammar and offers a chocolate to calm her down. Thinking her outburst sily and that she'll feel better in the morning. Eliza on the other hand, felt like their relationship had changed, she'd started to feel closer to Higgins but then was hurt when he proclaimed "thank God it's over". She's afraid of being tossed out again because with her new grammar and etiquette she knows she wont fit in plus she wont get to be surrounded by all these people she's grown close with.

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Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight.

I ADORE the movie Gaslight! Bergman and Boyer are amazing! This particular scene in My Fair Lady is extremely reminiscent of Gaslight in the attitudes of the men toward the women. 

SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN GASLIGHT. (And if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?)

In both films the men use emotional and mental manipulation to make themselves out as the put-upon benefactor and the women over-reacting, emotionally unstable lunatics. Both Henry Higgins and Gregory Anton treat Eliza and Paula (respectively) as children who must be controlled and talked down to, with no agency of their own. Everything the women do “wrong” is blamed on their low mental faculties, everything they do “right” is taken credit for by the men. This becomes so ingrained in Paula and Eliza that they second guess every single thing they do and know, or think they know. The women barely even speak without the nod, literal and metaphorical, from the men. They’re completely broken down by the men in order to be recreated into what Henry and Gregory want, which is a completely blank slate to be dominated and puppeted about however they please. 

The only difference between Gregory and Henry is their motivations. Gregory does what he does in order to destroy Paula so that he can gain control and access to all of her possessions - specifically her aunt’s jewels. Henry acts the way he does partially because he doesn’t realize what he’s doing is wrong (he professes to treat everyone rudely equally) and partially because he is incredibly self-absorbed. One is evil, the other is just a jerk. 

By the end of both movies Paula and Eliza take back their lives in very different ways. Paula, disillusioned about her husband, boldly leaves Gregory to be arrested for his crimes. But Eliza realizes she cares about Henry (not romantically but enough to need him) and makes the choice to return to him, fully aware that he’ll continue to treat her the same as before, but with the confidence now to fight back when necessary. 

I honestly can’t believe I’ve missed the glaringly obvious connections between these films for so long. I’m ashamed. 

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In Gaslight, when Bergman finds the truth to Boyar scheme, she begins to trap him and questions him, the way he did to her previously in the film. Keeping her composure throughout the whole conduct til she gets Boyar to confess his con. While in My Fair Lady, when Higgin's bet is won and Eliza must go back to her old ways, Hepburn throws  tantrum and cries like a child, which Higgin's calls her out on her behavior, but his quick snap makes him look petty and hurtful, and Eliza is innocent (which in a way yes).

Hepburn is fending for herself, while Bergman has a few companions helping her out. Unlike Hepburn, Bergman never looses her cool or let her emotion get the best of her. She keeps her wit in check and goes so far with Boyar investigation and stopping before she goes too far. Hepburn is angered at Higgins who seems to show no interest in Miss Doolittle and looks at her a a game, it isn't til she leaves him that he realize how much he actually loves her. And then he realize he was wrong in his ways, but the way Eliza gets her point across, instead of holding her wit and acting ladylike, she goes back to her old ways and throws a tantrum which is hard to take her serious. 

Eliza who is struggling with Higgins strict lessons to turn her into a proper lady. She tries her best, but still can't peel away her past as easily as what Higgins hopes for. He treats her at first like a pet, a project before she becomes the model he envisions her to be and finds himself in love and hard to break away from his stubborn character to show her how he really feels for her.

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     This is a fantastic example of mise-en-scene Doolittle is gloating in his win, still not understanding Eliza's concerns or needs.  The shadowing on her face, where the real her, and language at time, comes through.  Especially though the background, the chests and furniture blonde and dark, the tools of his trade and win, and the tools that tortured Eliza, the phonographs, the flame for "Hereford, Hampshire...", the piano.  All are there, supporting them and reminding us of her anguish.

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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).

A common theme that I see in My Fair Lady, and Gaslight both directed by George Cukor is the beautiful and detailed Victorian era set, which supports the actors and the story. The meticulous placement of furniture and paintings, represent tradition and control.  Both Audrey Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight) are straining under these controls that are being placed upon them. In contrast, Cukor seems to direct the male actors, Charles Boyer (Gaslight) and Rex Harrison to coolly and blandly rise above the control of the setting, thus creating a tension that drives Bergman to the brink of madness and drives Hepburn into spilling over into rage.

 

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

 As mentioned earlier, Higgins is bland and in control, he is even smug, his mood transitions to indignation only after Eliza’s anger boils over and she is screaming at him. In contrast,  Eliza is struggling to maintain her composure until she can no longer hold her temper in check.  It is masterful that Cukor directs both actors who are coming from totally different viewpoints and as their emotions transition, they mesh and the scene is very effective.

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

The relationship between Eliza and Higgins is one of mutual admiration and need. However, the tension between them does not allow either to truly express how they feel, until their relationship is on the brink on collapse.

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  1. Wow, this scene points out how sexist both of these movies are. Higgins is really despicable here, treating Eliza with such contempt and disrespect for her feelings, with little more than token empathy. In neither film are the men worthy of any trust nor love bestowed upon them. While reflective of the time of both films, it's still hard to reconcile today. Additionally, both movies are melodramatic. And both use the tight confines of a stuffed and stuffy room as settings that showcase how trapped the women feel in the space. 
  2. The best is the switch from sadness and suffering to hot anger by Eliza. And while I still can't quite align myself to see how this scene eventually leads to a happy ending, I do appreciate the way Higgins is portrayed as a brute throughout. Unfortunately (although again, likely in keeping more with the norms of the day), Eliza does start to feel silly for her being angry and frustrated, while he seems nonchalant to the end. 
  3. There is a smart sense of staging and framing, so that the two are apart and come closer together in the scene. Eliza remains emotional;Higgins cold. It enhances their emotional distance. 

One more thought... it seems neither Cukor nor the cinematographer really knew what to do with the ultra widescreen format, as the characters very much end up either in the center of frame with a bunch of stuff to the sides, or off to one side in most of the scenes. The extra space is just that--extra and unneeded--in this scene.  

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As I try to recall Gaslight (it's been a long time), I think both films have women with an uncertain fate, under very rocky circumstances. It is the man who seems to be in control, placating and manipulating the woman, to varying degrees. She is supposedly ignorant, but "outsmarts" the man in the end. The set props and especially furniture are used to good effect in both films, almost as a separate character in Gaslight. Both films have wide scenes with space for interaction of the characters.

Eliza turns out the light, and the lighting becomes softer and darker, she falls to the floor and hides her face from the gaze of the viewers. After her emotional outburst, Higgins throws her down; she is nothing more than a piece of furniture to him. Revisiting the chocolates, as if nothing has changed and she is the same flower girl he met on the street, Eliza of today is repulsed and turns away. His condescending, unemotional attitude makes her despair look all the more real and heartbreaking. Here there are no closeups or harsh lighting, giving them the space and respect to display all the feels and range of emotions. Higgins holds in his emotions, showing a restraint that enables Eliza to gain composure at the end of this scene. 

As a "presumptuous insect," Eliza feels used by Higgins and lost now. Repressed passion comes out as anger. She feels less important than the furniture itself. Higgins is complacent, not realizing yet that Eliza is to leave him now, leaving his fine home empty and quiet. And he will return to being alone. The implications of being "free," as it begins to dawn on him, include his own loneliness and suppressed feelings for Eliza. 

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1. The settings of both Cukor films, "Gaslight" (1944) and "My Fair Lady" (1964) look similar, except "Gaslight" has more of a "Hitchcock-style" look to it (due in part to the black and white cinematography, as opposed to Technicolor cinematography).  As both films are set in England, the difference between "Gaslight" and "My Fair Lady" is that the preceding film was set in the Victorian era, while the succeeding Cukor film was set in the Edwardian era.

2. The emphasis is focused on Audrey Hepburn's characterization of Eliza Doolittle rather than Rex Harrison's characterization of Henry Higgins, where Higgins is a shill, cold, controlling character that has tormented Eliza with his deceiving ways.  This would put George Cukor's nickname as a "women's director" into play, as the focus is on Eliza instead of Henry.

3. Cukor has showcased that the two were never mutually compatible or admirable in terms of loving each other.

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1) I am not familiar with any of his works so I can't really say anything on this. But I can say that the emotion and how they use it in this scene is beautiful.

2)  I would say this supports them by the mood and how it seems dark in this scene light wise, and how very light is in the room and how the background fits also well with this scene and how the strong emotion of anger and then sadness fits well into frame.

3) She seems very upset and angry but then breaks down and sobs on the couch as he tries to talk to her, again it fits well in this scene, there is no music just this strong dramatic sense of emotions and just how the background and the scene contrast to it. 

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I'll do my best to answer these questions so here it goes 

What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? i think at the end they become the best of friends. Higgins saw Eliza when she was at her low point when he picked her up on the street then at the end transforming her to beauty. And thru out they count on each other.  This movie is a fish out of water film. The ugly duckling turn into the swan.

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In this scene displays Eliza's treatment by Higgins of her as a low class "pet" project. Staying down near the floor and always below the high class Higgins who has been trying to control her. Higgins referring to her in animalistic terms,  followed by her anilmalistic outburst. The intense emotion shows that Eliza is fed up with this treatment. We also see Higgins' oblivious reaction as not realizing he has been treating her badly/ not as an equal.

 

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