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The Irony in My Fair Lady (1964), or the Triumph of the Aristocracy.


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Though Cukor, or Lerner and Loewe are not the originators, they certainly are in league with Mr. Shaw in his great celebration of snobbery and elitism.  Despite the elements of satire and send-up, the story (from Shaw's play Pygmalion) is really a subtle promoter of privileged classes and their right and proper places in society through its humanization of them.  Success and prosperity are tied to identification with the aristocracy and their mode of speech, notwithstanding Alfred P. Doolittle's reluctant induction, and it is portrayed as the goal of everyone who aspires to improve their state.  By contrast, slovenliness, carousing, filth, and dissolute behaviour are associated with the commons.  My Fair Lady (1964) adds an unjust twist to the end, having Eliza return to Henry Higgins at the end to resume her subordinate role, in accordance with proper Hollywood dictates.  Doing so robs her of all the strength of character and independence she achieved through the whole picture.  Shaw ended the play with Eliza retaining her independence and abandoning Higgins, upending expectations and the myth. 

Oh, the irony?  The cockney accent was the original London accent, spoken by all classes.  It was only some two hundred years ago the aristocracy sought ways to further separate themselves from the dirty commons, and language was one of them.  So they promoted an elite form of pronunciation in their boy-factories of Harrow and Eton and the like, now known as the accepted pronunciation, or BBC English.

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Yeah, well, snobby and effete, OR lower class Cockney, ALL of 'em over there STILL spell certain words with that OH so needless...well, you know. ;) 

And besides, sure, while the Cockneys can't pronounce the letter 'H', the snobby and effete can't seem to pronounce the letter 'R'. And so in MY book, the snobby and effete have NO reason to feel superior!

(...OH. so you'd like a glass of  "WHOA-tah" would you, Duchess?...OH, you mean a glass of "WA-ter" do you?...I'll get right on that for ya, my fair lady)

 

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Iirc in the original play she doesn't even get with him at all and there isn't even much romance between them. The film would have been better that way.

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Shaw fought a battle all his life to preserve the original ending.  The force of convention was overwhelmingly against him, even starting with the first production, where the actor playing Higgins, while not changing the text of the play, gave the impression that he and Eliza would stay together.  To preserve his ending, he refused to sell the rights to Pygmalion for the musical.  It was only after his death that the rights were sold and the final insult was delivered by the gooey sentimental ending of the musical.

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>Success and prosperity are tied to identification with the aristocracy and their mode of speech<<<

This is nothing new.  Under Roman rule, the conquered Britons learned Roman-Latin to achieve success under the new regime.

In the 500s the Anglo-Saxons brought a new language but still used the ruling Roman alphabet endorsed by the Pope.

In the 800s the King declared Winchester dialect to be the official language for documents.  So people again imitated the ruling class for success in life.

In the 1600s a different  King attempted to standardize spelling, and once again he used the language of nobility.   We still use 99% of that spelling today.

and so on.

 

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12 hours ago, Sukhov said:

Iirc in the original play she doesn't even get with him at all and there isn't even much romance between them. The film would have been better that way.

"My Fair Lady" is a remake of "Pygmalion" (1938)

pygmalion.jpg

20970_Pygmalion-02.jpg?itok=PFkmzTX0

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Henry H. needed to see Eliza as a human being.  I prefer the Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller movie to My Fair Lady (though I am a huge fan of Audrey's and hate what they did to her as far as dubbing).  There is a line Wendy Hiller delivers as Eliza about not fitting anywhere - she is no longer a mere flower girl neither does she fit with the aristocracy.  Her delivery of those lines were Oscar-worthy.  Also liked Leslie Howard's Henry a bit better than Harrison's.

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16 hours ago, slaytonf said:

Shaw fought a battle all his life to preserve the original ending.  The force of convention was overwhelmingly against him, even starting with the first production, where the actor playing Higgins, while not changing the text of the play, gave the impression that he and Eliza would stay together.  To preserve his ending, he refused to sell the rights to Pygmalion for the musical.  It was only after his death that the rights were sold and the final insult was delivered by the gooey sentimental ending of the musical.

Maybe I'm missing something or forgetting,  but I don't see where the ending of the 1938 film is that much different than MFL.     E.g.  Howard  (Higgins),  asks Eilza for his slippers in a manner that suggest, that while he might now view her as a 'equal' (on paper),  he was still going to treat her like a servant \ underling.        My wife has been very vocal about that ending.          Of course she is an Italian romantic;  so her POV was that if it was clear they were going to get married,  then a wife doing things for her husband makes sense (and vise versa of course!),  but if not,,,,  well the gal has the same status as the housekeeper.     

 

 

 

    

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3 hours ago, hamradio said:

That movie had the oldest oscilloscope I've ever seen.  Since it used TV technology, must had cost a fortune in 1938! :o

 

Pygmillion-Oscilloscope.png

I don't think this prehistoric TV was that difficult for the movie makers to get. It was featured in the 1937 World's Fair in Paris--

  The International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life.

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3 hours ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Henry H. needed to see Eliza as a human being.  I prefer the Leslie Howard and Wendy Hiller movie to My Fair Lady (though I am a huge fan of Audrey's and hate what they did to her as far as dubbing).  There is a line Wendy Hiller delivers as Eliza about not fitting anywhere - she is no longer a mere flower girl neither does she fit with the aristocracy.  Her delivery of those lines were Oscar-worthy.  Also liked Leslie Howard's Henry a bit better than Harrison's.

I grew up with Audrey Hepburn as my favorite actress and actually got to see a number of her films first run in theaters. She was a childhood Idol of mine.

But they dubbed her in this film because she wasn't qualified to sing the music as it was written, as it was expected, and as it was performed on Broadway and on other professional stages.

In my opinion, Audrey Hepburn was not wise to accept a role which was 50% semi operatic singing, which the American public was already quite acquainted with in terms of the music.

I'm trying to say that the expectations were high.

 By her accepting the role, they did well at the box office, as Jack Warner demanded. But it robbed the American public and posterity of seeing the person who originated the role, the artist who actually was qualified and commendable in that role with the other two original and brilliant cast members from Broadway.

That's why Cary Grant had the sense  and the humility to turn down the role of Henry Higgins when Jack Warner offered it to him.

Jack Warner was only concerned about the box office because he has such a big investment understandably. But Cary Grant knew he wasn't qualified to do the role and he would ruin the whole project of this great musical for posterity.

I well remember Oscar night 1965 when the two top winners for the best acting Oscar Awards were Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews.

For One Brief Shining Moment I could just imagine that Julie had won  for the movie role that she deserved and had originally created.

Still, it was sweet poetic justice to see them both oh, the original Henry Higgins and the original Eliza Doolittle from Broadway's"My Fair Lady" smiling on the front page the next morning.

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3 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

Maybe I'm missing something or forgetting,  but I don't see where the ending of the 1938 film is that much different than MFL.     E.g.  Howard  (Higgins),  asks Eilza for his slippers in a manner that suggest, that while he might now view her as a 'equal' (on paper),  he was still going to treat her like a servant \ underling.        My wife has been very vocal about that ending.          Of course she is an Italian romantic;  so her POV was that if it was clear they were going to get married,  then a wife doing things for her husband makes sense (and vise versa of course!),  but if not,,,,  well the gal has the same status as the housekeeper.     

 

 

 

    

James, you should listen to your wife more often.

She is absolutely right, what a romantic ending!

They didn't call him Sexy Rexy for nothing.:D

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5 hours ago, txfilmfan said:

Interesting that Pygmalion in 1938 was deemed "not suitable for children", at least in Australia.

And I'd guess primarily due to Wendy Hiller's closing line in it, which included the word "bloody". Note how that word is just implied in that movie poster up there? 

(...cultured and refined English speaking people didn't dare utter THAT word in polite company back in 1938, ya know...it was similar to how the "F-word" is regarded today)

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I think Julie Andrews said that she and Audrey were friends and that what happened had nothing to do with her.  Personally, I love Mary Poppins but did not think the role was Oscar worthy (however, she was also in The Americanization of Emily that year, so she showed she could do Disney and D Day).

 

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6 minutes ago, Dargo said:

And I'd guess primarily due to Wendy Hiller's closing line in it, which included the word "bloody". Note how that word is just implied in that movie poster up there? 

(...cultured and refined English speaking people didn't dare utter THAT word in polite company back in 1938, ya know...it was similar to how the "F-word" is regarded today)

You're probably correct.  The play caused a sensation earlier in the century for that very reason.  IMDb trivia states this is the first use of it in the "vulgar" sense.

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1 hour ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

I think Julie Andrews said that she and Audrey were friends and that what happened had nothing to do with her.  Personally, I love Mary Poppins but did not think the role was Oscar worthy (however, she was also in The Americanization of Emily that year, so she showed she could do Disney and D Day).

 

I think the Academy  wanted to make up  for the Grievous casting error.

And personally, I love Audrey Hepburn--" Bonjour Paris!"

But we're strictly talking about the American musical comedy theater here and popular art.

I was extremely disappointed and posterity, in my opinion, will be eternally disappointed.

But as Bette Davis said in her AFI tribute--

Jack Warner was an obstreperous man. :)

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8 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

I think the Academy  wanted to make up  for the Grievous casting error.

And personally, I love Audrey Hepburn--" Bonjour Paris!"

But we're strictly talking about the American musical comedy theater here and popular art.

I was extremely disappointed and posterity, in my opinion, will be eternally disappointed.

But as Bette Davis said in her AFI tribute--

Jack Warner was an obstreperous man. :)

Funny Face was the perfect musical vehicle for her.

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21 hours ago, slaytonf said:

Oh, the irony?  The cockney accent was the original London accent, spoken by all classes.  It was only some two hundred years ago the aristocracy sought ways to further separate themselves from the dirty commons, and language was one of them.  So they promoted an elite form of pronunciation in their boy-factories of Harrow and Eton and the like, now known as the accepted pronunciation, or BBC English.

Actually it's known as RP, or Received Pronunciation.

There are several different accents that have existed in England for centuries, including the West Country accent, which has always been quite distinct.

 

 

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Just now, Swithin said:

Actually it's known as RP, or Received Pronunciation.

 

As though it is a gift.  🙂

I worked in London many years ago on a multinational project, and there were people from all over the globe.  The Brits used to tease us Americans, Canadians and Aussies about our accents, with the implication that theirs was the only true English.  When these good-natured debates occurred, I pointed out there's hundreds of dialects and accents in the British Isles, it's a wonder anyone can mutually understand all the varieties of English, and that their own accents and usages have shifted over the centuries (and continue to do so).  Only one or two Brits spoke with an RP accent (the project had over 500 people working on it).

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23 minutes ago, txfilmfan said:

 

As though it is a gift.  🙂

I worked in London many years ago on a multinational project, and there were people from all over the globe.  The Brits used to tease us Americans, Canadians and Aussies about our accents, with the implication that theirs was the only true English.  When these good-natured debates occurred, I pointed out there's hundreds of dialects and accents in the British Isles, it's a wonder anyone can mutually understand all the varieties of English, and that their own accents and usages have shifted over the centuries (and continue to do so).  Only one or two Brits spoke with an RP accent (the project had over 500 people working on it).

RP and British aristocracy speak are not exactly the same. Here is Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is in a class of his own:

 

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