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George Cukor's elegant, colorful adaptation of the beloved stage play is elevated to new heights thanks to winning performances by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

In this beloved musical, pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject turns out to be the lovely Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), who agrees to speech lessons to improve her job prospects. Higgins and Eliza clash, then form an unlikely bond -- one that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor (Jeremy Brett).

Cast & Crew

Audrey Hepburn
Eliza Doolittle
Rex Harrison
Professor Henry Higgins
Stanley Holloway
Alfred P. Doolittle
Wilfrid Hyde-White
Colonel Hugh Pickering
Gladys Cooper
Mrs. Higgins
Jeremy Brett
Freddie Eynsford-Hill
Theodore Bikel
Zoltan Karpathy
Isobel Elsom
Mrs. Eynsford-Hill
John Alderson
Jamie (uncredited)
Alan Jay Lerner
Writer (Screenplay)
Frederick Loewe
Original Music
Harry Stradling Sr.
Cinematographer
Cecil Beaton
Production Design
Gene Allen
Art Direction
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Critic Reviews for My Fair Lady

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (55) | Rotten (3)

Audience Reviews for My Fair Lady

  • Aug 22, 2014
    Lerner and Loewe tried to turn Gigi into a proper Frenchwoman, and now they're trying to turn some Cockney gal into a proper Englishwoman, so they seemed to be as into formal gals as George Cukor was into glamorous gals, though not exactly to be attracted to. Cukor saw the birth of a star, and now he's back with "A Proper Lady is Born", and if that's not good enough news for you, well, it's even longer! Seriously though, sorry, Cukor, but in 1964, Billy Taylor beat you to an adaptation of "My Fair Lady", although your interpretation quickly drove the "My Fair Lady Loves Jazz" album into obscurity. I better remember this film if it's going to take three hours to try and burn into my brain, so it's a good thing that these songs are so catchy, because this isn't exactly a complex epic. Well, this story at least feels kind of thin, because it's so much less convoluted than this film's origin as an adaptation of a musical that is an adaptation of a film that is an adaptation of a play, although we can at least take comfort in the fact that this chain of adaptations is still less confusing than the original property's title, "Pygmalion". For the record, that title is referring to the Pygmalion effect, which states that the greater the challenge, the greater the reactive performance is, although I may only know that because my watching this film and, well, looking into jazz deeply enough to know about Billy Taylor's "A Proper Lady is Born" reflect that I have a lot of time on my hands to look up inconsequential stuff. So yeah, "A Proper Lady is Born" is plenty decent and all, but it's no more compelling than "A Star is Born", even in concept. The film does so many things well, to where it might have achieved the reward value of such epic musicals of its time as "The Sound of Music", or "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (Forget "West Side Story"! I just had to get that out), or of the delightful "Gigi", but what challenges it right away is the natural shortcomings to its simple premise of good-hearted street trash receiving an education on formality for the potential of a more respectable, better life, because as interesting as this story is, it's thin, like certain areas of the characterization which needs to carry plenty of depth to make up for the lack of depth to make up for the lack of depth to the plot. Well, the leading Eliza Doolittle character is very layered, albeit not entirely convincingly, but certain more so than her peers, particularly Doolittle's random romantic admirer, and the thin Henry Higgins character whose background is slim, and whose gradual exposition comes much too late to feel the humanity within the often, maybe mostly unlikable role, which still isn't too much more obnoxious than the extremes in either grating informality and pompous class which exacerbate subtlety issues. Frankly, I don't know how much subtlety there is at any point in this melodrama, as its plot is driven by histrionics, and its script is heavy-handed, particularly with fluffier aspects of humor and lively set piece drawing which have become dated and just had to have always been some prominent degree of cheesy. I suppose there's no way around some prominent degree of cheese if this film is going to be celebratory of musical theatrics, forcing in more than a few numbers which are plenty entertaining, but not always, for there are some lyrical shortcomings, formulaic touches and draggings in a few numbers which remind you of just how expendable the musical aspects of the film are. Honestly, I'll take them, for their liveliness does a better job of coloring up the storytelling than the excess narrative material, because with all of my going on about how inconsequential this story concept kind of is, the final product still flirts with a whopping runtime of three hours which is simply not reasonable, reached at a brisk directorial pace, and with script that goes aimlessly bloated. The film kicks off with a hook, and it's not long before momentum settles too much for the final product to transcend underwhelmingness, because as fun and aesthetically competent as this epic of a glamorous musical is, it's too thin, too unsubtle and, of course, too blasted long to truly reward. Nevertheless, the final product entertains thoroughly enough to hold one's patience, and prove aesthetically solid. As celebratory of musical style as this film is, its visual style is one of the most outstanding aspects, for Harry Stradling's Oscar-winning cinematography plays with lighting in a manner which ranges from handsomely heavy in its coloration, to crisply dreamy, and with a scope which all but justifies the length of an epic through a fine balance between sweep and intimacy which immerses you into Edwardian England, with a great deal of help from Gene Allen's, Cecil Beaton's and Malcolm C. Bert's outstandingly diverse and, with the help of Beaton's and Michael Neuwirth's costume designs, lavish art direction. The film looks plenty grand, and, of course, it also sounds plenty grand, with André Previn delivering on a formulaic, but either sweeping or tender, and consistently lovely score which keeps musical liveliness up in between the musical numbers by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, more than a few of which are simply forced and exhaustingly overlong, with a couple feeling under-inspired and conventional, only to be far outweighed by thoroughly catchy, near-symphonically well-orchestrated tunes whose being backed by often simple, but always somewhat energetic choreography make some genuinely memorable and very fun cinematic theatrics. The film is a beauty, both visually and musically, and I wish the substance was up to par with the style, although the style is still so solid that it carries the film a fair distance, at least before it loses a good bit of momentum that George Cukor never really allows to fall all that much. As director, Cukor can get overstylized, and rarely puts all that much of an effort into making up for scripting shortcomings through thoughtful storytelling, but it's as if Cukor has a better understanding of what kind of film this is than Lerner and George Bernard Shaw, as writers, keeping pacing smooth and pacing lively in order to establish an entertainment value and charm which endears throughout this film's challenging course. The onscreen charmers also do a better job with their duties than the writing, which draws thin characters who are hard to buy into and even rather obnoxious, if not unlikable, yet are, in fact, endearing, thanks to the thorough grounded charm of Wilfrid Hyde-White and Rex Harrison, and to the theatrical, if cheesily overdramatic charm of the lovely Audrey Hepburn. The performers entertain and charm about as much as Cukor does, and it helps that Lerner and Shaw are never terribly flat with their writing material for the onscreen and offscreen talents, bloating the film's structure and thinning developmental depth, to where engagement value gradually slips, but keeping consistent with witty dialogue and plenty of amusing comic set pieces which, at the very least, hold the potential to entertain. The film stands to hold more potential in other areas, but when it comes to that potential for fun, it is thoroughly fulfilled by solid style, lively storytelling and colorful performers, who hold your attention, even if they can't firmly secure your investment. When the rain finally passes over Spain, the natural shortcomings of this thin story go too intensely stressed by thin characterization, obnoxious aspects, serious subtlety issues, cheesy spots, some forced musical numbers, and, of course, an excessive length to transcend underwhelmingness, but your patience ought to be secured firmly enough by beautiful cinematography and art direction, grand score work and musical numbers, lively directorial storytelling, charming performances, and clever, if overblown writing to make George Cukor's "My Fair Lady" a fun affair of limited consequence and great excess. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 14, 2014
    I prefer the non musical version but Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn breathe life into the tale of Eliza Doolittle. You would love to have these characters in your own day to day life.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2013
    Henry Higgins bets that he can turn cockney Eliza Doolittle into a lady. The play on which this musical is based and the film are profoundly interesting. The conception of rhetoric and its relationship to identity are thoroughly explored. By changing Eliza's language does Higgins change who she is? Is that form of education robbing her of her independence and identity? Is that even what we mean by "education?" Should language be changed to fit societal norms? The film and play poses these questions and answers very few. Audrey Hepburn is delightful as always, and Rex Harrison is the perfect conceited intellectual. The love plot is charming and made me smile more than once. The only problem I had with the film's performances is Harrison's singing. He more spoke his words in rhythm than sang them, but after a while, this delivery grew on me. *Spoiler Alert* I wish the story ended differently. There wasn't enough humility on the part of the love-vanquished Professor Higgins, and the final shot of Eliza getting his slippers made me think that neither of these characters learned enough. Overall, this film is very good, a fine representation of its source material.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 04, 2013
    Pygmalion is a great film but not as charming as this My Fair Lady, an adorable musical version of the same play with delightful songs and a splendid cast - but even so, Doolittle's change doesn't seem as gradual here, and the film ends with a rather vexing, sexist conclusion.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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