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


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1 hour 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).

I taught English at a French provincial university and had a heck of a time with some English/ French professors--

That is, English educated French Nationals, who were professors of English. Some of them tried to denigrate my accent and pronunciation.

Of course, I held my own easily and that came as a surprise to them.

Ironically the real English native speakers from England, who were higher up in  administration, had no problem with my accent, my pronunciation or me.

Though I have to admit, my office mate sounded so much like Margaret Thatcher that there were times when I thought she must have almost been related to the woman.

Double irony, people on the BBC- TV that I've watched don't necessarily talk like Margaret Thatcher anymore.

BTW-- Where do you place Margaret Thatcher's accent  in relationship to the Queen's?

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20 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

I taught English at a French provincial university and had a heck of a time with some English/ French professors--

That is, English educated French Nationals, who were professors of English. Some of them tried to denigrate my accent and pronunciation.

Of course, I held my own easily and that came as a surprise to them.

Ironically the real English native speakers from England, who were higher up in  administration, had no problem with my accent, my pronunciation or me.

Though I have to admit, my office mate sounded so much like Margaret Thatcher that there were times when I thought she must have almost been related to the woman.

Double irony, people on the BBC- TV that I've watched don't necessarily talk like Margaret Thatcher anymore.

BTW-- Where do you place Margaret Thatcher's accent  in relationship to the Queen's?

The BBC relaxed their policies on presenter's accents years ago.  Previously it was thought a standard was needed to ensure everyone could understand what was being said.

Thatcher deliberately changed her Lincolnshire accent to an RP accent.  In the 1970s she studied with theater actors/coaches to change her delivery.

The Queen has a rather affected accent, parodied so well by Carol Burnett.  Even the Queen has softened her accent since she first ascended to the Crown.  Supposedly she mocked Thatcher's accent.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6642231/CRAIG-BROWN-reveals-dumbing-posh-accents-going-years.html

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2 hours ago, Swithin said:

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

 

So Swithin. You have a lot of knowledge about the various accents those superfluous-u spellers over there on that little grouping of islands situated off the coast of continental Europe have, and so let me ask you a question here.

When he played Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake in Dr. Strangelove, did Peter Sellers use the very same regional accent Mr. Rees-Mogg exhibits above?

(...because they sure sound a lot alike to me, anyway)

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1 hour ago, txfilmfan said:

The BBC relaxed their policies on presenter's accents years ago.  Previously it was thought a standard was needed to ensure everyone could understand what was being said.

Thatcher deliberately changed her Lincolnshire accent to an RP accent.  In the 1970s she studied with theater actors/coaches to change her delivery.

The Queen has a rather affected accent, parodied so well by Carol Burnett.  Even the Queen has softened her accent since she first ascended to the Crown.  Supposedly she mocked Thatcher's accent.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-6642231/CRAIG-BROWN-reveals-dumbing-posh-accents-going-years.html

And after reading the above, I suppose I could also ask you here Tex  my earlier question, as you also seem to know your stuff when it comes to this subject.

(...btw, and as you also probably know, for years the standard for American broadcast news announcers was the midwestern accent, and for the very same reason you mentioned above in your second sentence in regard to British broadcasts)

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15 hours ago, Davehat said:

>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.

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 that 99% of that spelling today.

and so on.

 

My point wasn't that this was an insidious invention by the nineteenth century Brits.  It was that all the noise that Higgins and others made about the nobility and the purity of the variety of English they spoke, and the disparagement of Eliza's speech as low and degraded was wrong.  It turns out that she actually spoke the uncorrupted variety all her life.  So to speak English properly like a loidy, she didn't have to do anything.

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8 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

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.

It's NOT a TV, only use associated tech.  acquiring one was not my point, just the cost.

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11 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.     

 

 

 

    

Pygmalion (1938) ends the same way as My Fair Lady (1964).  In fact, L & L probably stole the last line of the movie.  Shaw strongly objected to the romanticized ending and continually worked to maintain Eliza''s independence.  But he had no control over the movie, even though it was his play and he wrote the screenplay!  Can you imagine it?  An author, during his lifetime, owning the copyright, not having control over his own creation.  Gives you an idea how powerful the force of convention is.  There are other productions, mostly made-for-TV.  You can find them on YouTube.  One has Peter O'Toole, and one has Twiggy.  And no, all you jokesters, O'Toole played Higgins in one, and Twiggy played Eliza in another.  The ending of those have Eliza tell Higgins she's going to marry Freddy and walk out, leaving Higgins exclaiming: "She's going to marry Freddy!", and laughing more or less futilely. 

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5 hours ago, Swithin said:

Actually it's known as RP, or Received Pronunciation

Yes, that's the term.  It slipped from my mind.  There are other terms.  They have also slipped.  For all those interested in the subtleties and fine distinctions within even RP English, I recommend an old PBS TV series by Robert MacNeil, called The Story of English.  You can find all of it on YouTube, with a little diligence.

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1 hour ago, slaytonf said:

Yes, that's the term.  It slipped from my mind.  There are other terms.  They have also slipped.  For all those interested in the subtleties and fine distinctions within even RP English, I recommend an old PBS TV series by Robert MacNeil, called The Story of English.  You can find all of it on YouTube, with a little diligence.

That WAS a great series, slayton. I remember watching it when it was first broadcast on PBS, and being hooked from the very beginning.

(...might be time to re-watch it again...thanks for the idea)

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The first time I ever saw MY FAIR LADY: When I saw Eliza bring HH's slippers to him...kneeling - I let out an audible gasp! I was shocked and dismayed by the ending.

I do think HH's homosexuality was implied in the story (& movie) making a romantic/marriage angle unlikely.

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TRIVIA: The studio CEO that made “My Fair Lady” later admitted it was a mistake to replace Julie Andrews in the lead role.  In the next musical, he kept the original Broadway cast.

TRIVIA 2: Neither Americans nor Brits speak the “true English” of Anglo-Saxons and Beowulf because that died out after the French invasion of 1066 when it became a polyglot language (Emglish and French words mixing).   The famous Shakespeare spoke early modern. Linguists say Appalachian Mountain accent is closest to his accent (due to isolation). Of course Shakespeare’s actual accent used more rolling R’s

 

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The most recent production of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center Theater "adjusted"  the ending a bit. Eliza does goes back to Higgins, more or less to confront him; he pleads with her to stay, then she storms out in defiance.

Here's an article that discusses the problematic endings of My Fair Lady and Carousel, and the history of discussion about those endings.

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/07/my-fair-lady-carousel-review/563102/

 

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On 7/23/2020 at 3:23 PM, Princess of Tap said:

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.

It wasn't an either or proposition. Warner wanted a box office star in one of the roles, once he settled on Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews was out for the role. So regardless if Audrey turned down the role, Andrews would not have been cast. Audrey said in a later interview had she turned down the role (Audrey was Warner's first choice due to her bringing in big box office for The Nun's Story for Warners) he was going to offer it to another actress. Audrey felt she had as much right to do the part as the other actress, so she accepted the offer. She didn't say who the other actress was, but I'm assuming it was Elizabeth Taylor, the only other female star at the time who was a big box office draw as Audrey at the time. So we we would have had Elizabeth Taylor dubbed by Marni Nixon!

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17 hours ago, Swithin said:

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

 

Swithin, this is priceless. What a character! He should have his own reality show. Oh, basically, he does, doesn't he?

His accent is easy to understand. However, I particularly dislike the upper crust accent, not far from Elmer Fudd's "wascally wabbit" speech, where the word "role" would be pronounced like "wole" except that the lips aren't brought together and the vowel is elongated and rolled (or "wolled") a bit.

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28 minutes ago, kingrat said:

Swithin, this is priceless. What a character! He should have his own reality show. Oh, basically, he does, doesn't he?

His accent is easy to understand. However, I particularly dislike the upper crust accent, not far from Elmer Fudd's "wascally wabbit" speech, where the word "role" would be pronounced like "wole" except that the lips aren't brought together and the vowel is elongated and rolled (or "wolled") a bit.

That rolled r was not uncommon in boys' prep schools in the North East and New England at one time, when it was said that boys learned to pronounce words properly by holding a pencil between their teeth.

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1 hour ago, Hibi said:

It wasn't an either or proposition. Warner wanted a box office star in one of the roles, once he settled on Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews was out for the role. So regardless if Audrey turned down the role, Andrews would not have been cast. Audrey said in a later interview had she turned down the role (Audrey was Warner's first choice due to her bringing in big box office for The Nun's Story for Warners) he was going to offer it to another actress. Audrey felt she had as much right to do the part as the other actress, so she accepted the offer. She didn't say who the other actress was, but I'm assuming it was Elizabeth Taylor, the only other female star at the at the time who was a big box office draw as Audrey at the time. So we we would have had Elizabeth Taylor dubbed by Marni Nixon!

Considering the requirements of the role in terms of singing, I thought it was very naive that Audrey Hepburn actually thought she was going to sing this part.

And, from what I've read, Natalie Wood also believed she was going to sing the West Side Story music as well.

I can only guess it's the ego of the actresses or their ignorance of music that would lead either one of them to think that they would be up to that kind of singing.

The King and I was written for Gertrude Lawrence and the music is much more simplistic than the music either for My Fair Lady or West Side Story for the leading lady.

However, Marni Nixon ended up doing all three. And I think she did the first two rather well, but the public was so accustomed to hearing not just Julie Andrews Sing My Fair Lady music but also Sally Ann Howes and others on television that the movie Eliza singing could only be left leaving the audience disappointed.

Not to mention the record-breaking recording sales of the original Broadway cast and the recording sales of the London original cast albums, both on Columbia Records.

The Broadway album was number one on Billboard 15 weeks at different times from 1956 through 1959 with 8 consecutive weeks at number one in 1956.

This was a high fidelity record. The Broadway cast went to London to perform and there they created in 1959 a stereo version of the show which also is a bestseller.

Those were the days when Broadway musicals were indeed mainstream and as popular in Kansas City, as they were in New York City.

So undoubtably the public  knew what the singing role of Eliza sounded like and people had expectations that could not be reached by Marni Nixon trying to sound like Audrey Hepburn.

But I do think if Marni Nixon was singing as Marni Nixon, she might have then been more acceptable.

When it comes to the parts where Eliza sings in the movie I just fast forward and remember the way the Columbia recordings preserved Julie Andrews in the role for posterity.

However, Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway were superb on the recordings, and superb in the movie entirely.

Two-thirds of a great leading cast is better than nothing.

And why they dubbed Jeremy Brett as Freddy Eynsford-Hill or Russ Tamblyn in West Side Story is a story for another day. LOL

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Some of the movies where the singing is dubbed now don't work for me.  Never knew Russ T. was dubbed.  I think Ms. Nixon also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story (and Chita R. was replaced with Rita Moreno - who did a great job).  The songs in the movie were different from the Broadway version (Officer Krupke is switched).  Deborah Kerr was also dubbed in The King and I.  I don't think Rosalind Russell did her own singing in Gypsy (my Mom saw Merman on Broadway).

As far as the play's conclusion, as long as Henry would fetch Eliza's slippers, it would be okay with me.  In the beginning, he is starving her until she makes strides in her lessons.  As for the accent, I look to Michael Caine (I believe he is cockney or whatever the term in and I like how his name comes from The Caine Mutiny).

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23 minutes ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Some of the movies where the singing is dubbed now don't work for me.  Never knew Russ T. was dubbed.  I think Ms. Nixon also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story (and Chita R. was replaced with Rita Moreno - who did a great job).  The songs in the movie were different from the Broadway version (Officer Krupke is switched).  Deborah Kerr was also dubbed in The King and I.  I don't think Rosalind Russell did her own singing in Gypsy (my Mom saw Merman on Broadway).

As far as the play's conclusion, as long as Henry would fetch Eliza's slippers, it would be okay with me.  In the beginning, he is starving her until she makes strides in her lessons.  As for the accent, I look to Michael Caine (I believe he is cockney or whatever the term in and I like how his name comes from The Caine Mutiny).

Lisa Kirk dubbed Roz in Gypsy, maybe not all the songs, definitely Rose's Turn.

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27 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Lisa Kirk dubbed Roz in Gypsy, maybe not all the songs, definitely Rose's Turn.

I have to get back on my soapbox about the mess that became Gypsy.

What was probably Ethel Merman's greatest performance on Broadway was ripped off by Rosalind Russell, whose husband reportedly bought this property for her.

Then Things changed rapidly.

And by 1968 they actually let a person--

who was not Hollywood beautiful

 who was not a sure thing Hollywood box-office --

have a shot at her own  Broadway Smash Hit  starring role.

And the result was Barbra Streisand won the Oscar  for Funny Girl.

 But it's not so funny how Julie Andrews and Ethel Merman got shut out.

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1 hour ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Some of the movies where the singing is dubbed now don't work for me.  Never knew Russ T. was dubbed.  I think Ms. Nixon also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story (and Chita R. was replaced with Rita Moreno - who did a great job).  The songs in the movie were different from the Broadway version (Officer Krupke is switched).  Deborah Kerr was also dubbed in The King and I.  I don't think Rosalind Russell did her own singing in Gypsy (my Mom saw Merman on Broadway).

As far as the play's conclusion, as long as Henry would fetch Eliza's slippers, it would be okay with me.  In the beginning, he is starving her until she makes strides in her lessons.  As for the accent, I look to Michael Caine (I believe he is cockney or whatever the term in and I like how his name comes from The Caine Mutiny).

I only recently found out that Rita Moreno was dubbed in A Boy Like That 

And Russ Tamblyn is still pissedoff about Tucker Smith dubbing him in The Jet Song.

I personally have no problem with them dubbing dancers or people who actually have some extraordinary talent to display that is specific to a musical.

But  things really didn't change fast enough for me to get to see Angela Lansbury in  Mame either. :huh:

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1 hour ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Some of the movies where the singing is dubbed now don't work for me.  Never knew Russ T. was dubbed.  I think Ms. Nixon also dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story (and Chita R. was replaced with Rita Moreno - who did a great job).  The songs in the movie were different from the Broadway version (Officer Krupke is switched).  Deborah Kerr was also dubbed in The King and I.  I don't think Rosalind Russell did her own singing in Gypsy (my Mom saw Merman on Broadway).

As far as the play's conclusion, as long as Henry would fetch Eliza's slippers, it would be okay with me.  In the beginning, he is starving her until she makes strides in her lessons.  As for the accent, I look to Michael Caine (I believe he is cockney or whatever the term in and I like how his name comes from The Caine Mutiny).

Some of Rita Moreno's singing was dubbed in West Side Story as well.  Particularly the more operatic style of "A Boy Like That" was dubbed by Betty Wand.  There might be a couple of other places where the notes are a bit too high for Miss Moreno's range, and parts of songs are dubbed.  Sorry if it burst any bubbles.

Has there ever been a Broadway musical that survived the transition to screen fully intact?  I can't think of one (this excludes things like the recent Hamilton, which was a recording of the stage play).  Almost all of them add and/or delete songs, change the plot, even change the characters.  There were complaints when The Sound of Music was done live (and not just about Carrie Underwood) on NBC several years back that it was different from the movie.  That's because it was largely following the stage version, though they also veered away from the original there too.

But, it's also common for revivals of stage productions to tweak the original as well.  The current version of Chicago on Broadway, for example, is different from the Gwen Verdon/Chita Rivera version, and more successful.

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2 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

I only recently found out that Rita Moreno was dubbed in A Boy Like That 

And Russ Tamblyn is still pissedoff about Tucker Smith dubbing him in The Jet Song.

I personally have no problem with them dubbing dancers or people who actually have some extraordinary talent to display that is specific to a musical.

But  things really didn't change fast enough for me to get to see Angela Lansbury in  Mame either. :huh:

That's another case of the people with the money call the shots.  Lucille Ball (or one of her companies) purchased the film rights to it, as I understand, just as Brisson had done for Roz.

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On 7/22/2020 at 9:08 PM, 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.

That's really interesting, I've never heard that before.  However, I do have to ask - -  how do you know that?  How could anyone living today know that?  Since there were no recordings of any kind two hundred years ago, how can anyone know how people spoke then??

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9 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

The first time I ever saw MY FAIR LADY: When I saw Eliza bring HH's slippers to him...kneeling - I let out an audible gasp! I was shocked and dismayed by the ending.

I do think HH's homosexuality was implied in the story (& movie) making a romantic/marriage angle unlikely.

Interesting....I've never heard that before,  that Henry Higgins was gay !  However, it might explain the absolute lack of chemistry between him and Eliza; and I mean whoever is playing those parts, not just the "My Fair Lady" version. *   It's impossible to imagine Henry and Eliza kissing, let alone anything else.

*  Of course, neither Leslie Howard nor Rex Harrison were gay, as far as I've ever heard.  No, it's the character of H.H. you're talking about, I know.  Still, did you read that somewhere, or do you infer it from the story itself?

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3 minutes ago, misswonderly3 said:

Interesting....I've never heard that before,  that Henry Higgins was gay !  However, it might explain the absolute lack of chemistry between him and Eliza; and I mean whoever is playing those parts, not just the "My Fair Lady" version. *   It's impossible to imagine Henry and Eliza kissing, let alone anything else.

*  Of course, neither Leslie Howard nor Rex Harrison were gay, as far as I've ever heard.  No, it's the character of H.H. you're talking about, I know.  Still, did you read that somewhere, or do you infer it from the story itself?

 

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