Today is the anniversary of the 1956 Broadway debut of the musical “My Fair Lady“.
It was based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, I title I never understood except as a possible reference to the attitudes of the misogynistic and patronizing main character, Henry Higgins, who was both a pig, and male. At least that’s how we see him today. Shaw actually took the title from mythology and the story of a sculptor who fell in love with his own creation.
Higgins is full of himself, to believe that he can shape the guttersnipe Eliza Doolittle into something new and superior and then convince everyone that she is, in fact, well born.
The musical was a huge success, ran for years, is regularly revived, and was made into a movie that won an Oscar in 1964. The music is catchy, and the existence today of a thriving self-improvement industry confirms that the theme has enduring appeal.
Here’s my favorite moment.
After all that coaching, Audrey Hepburn, as Eliza, finally produces a “perfect” sound. From this moment on, she is cured of her Cockney background, only dropping her H’s a few times in the rest of the show. A miracle!
For the film, Hepburn was cast as an “improvement” over the Broadway star, Julie Andrews, who had never made a movie before and didn’t have the box office power of an established commodity like Hepburn. That’s OK – it freed Andrews up to do a different project that year – a film called “Mary Poppins”. Another miracle! Guess which one won the best actress Oscar? (Hint: Audrey Hepburn wasn’t nominated).
Do you have an accent? Can you do an accent?