Producer Jack L. Warner would not hire Dame Julie Andrews to play Eliza. He said she simply wasn't famous enough. Sir Rex Harrison, nearly refused to be in the movie as a result. Warner Brothers tried to replace him with Peter Sellers, but in the end it was Harrison and Audrey Hepburn.
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Jump to: Spoilers (3)
When Audrey Hepburn (Eliza Doolittle) was first informed that her voice wasn't strong enough and that she would have to be dubbed, she walked out. She returned the next day and, in a typically graceful Hepburn gesture, apologized to everybody for her "wicked behavior".
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Sir Rex Harrison (Professor Henry Higgins) was very disappointed when Audrey Hepburn was cast as Eliza Doolittle, since he felt she was badly miscast and he had hoped to work with Dame Julie Andrews. He told an interviewer, "Eliza Doolittle is supposed to be ill at ease in European ballrooms. Bloody Audrey has never spent a day in her life out of European ballrooms." Nevertheless, Harrison was once later asked to identify his favorite leading lady. Without hesitation, he replied, "Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964)." However, it was widely believed he made this remark because he knew her fans wanted him to say that.
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According to one of Sir Rex Harrison's biographers, Alexander Walker, the song "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" held special memories for the actor, as during the original Broadway run he used to sing the song to his third wife Kay Kendall, who would stand in the wings watching his performance. Harrison later admitted that when he sang the song in this movie, he was thinking all the time about Kendall, who had died a few years before from leukemia.
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When Sir Rex Harrison accepted his Academy Award for this movie, he dedicated it to his "two fair ladies", Audrey Hepburn and Dame Julie Andrews, both of whom had played Eliza Doolittle with him.
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Audrey Hepburn later admitted she would never have accepted the role of Eliza Dolittle if she had known that Producer Jack L. Warner intended to have nearly all of her singing dubbed. After making this movie, Hepburn resolved not to appear in another movie musical unless she could do the singing on her own.
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For the 30th Anniversary re-release in 1994, this movie was painstakingly restored by Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, the same team that restored Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Spartacus (1960), and Vertigo (1958). The restoration was called for because Warner Brothers only owned the rights to their movie for a certain period of time before the rights reverted to CBS, who discarded most of the basic materials. The digital restoration of the movie, saving it from extinction, took six months and cost six hundred thousand dollars.
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Most of Audrey Hepburn's singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon, despite Hepburn's lengthy vocal preparation for the role. A dubber was required because Eliza Doolittle's songs were not transposed down to accommodate Hepburn's "low-mezzo voice" (as Nixon referred to it), the way Guenevere's songs were transposed down to accommodate Vanessa Redgrave's limited vocal range in Camelot (1967). Hepburn sang most of "Just You Wait", as well as the reprise to the song, herself, showcasing her ability to sing perfectly at ease when the songs were set in a reasonable tessitura. Audrey also sang one or two lines, elsewhere in the score, such as 'Sleep, sleep, I couldn't sleep tonight!' in "I Could Have Danced All Night". Thus, the claim that Nixon dubbed all of Hepburn's singing (as asserted by such people as syndicated columnist Hedda Hopper) is false.
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The story takes place in 1912, although other sources place it earlier. The King in the fantasy sequence is clearly supposed to be King Edward VII and not King George V.
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Producer Jack L. Warner originally didn't want Sir Rex Harrison to reprise his stage role as Higgins for the movie version, since he had seen Cleopatra (1963) and thought the actor looked too old to be believable as Audrey Hepburn's love interest. Peter O'Toole was considered for the role of Professor Higgins, but his salary demands were too high. Harrison responded in a letter to Warner Brothers that he had only looked old as Gaio Giulio Cesare because he had been playing an epileptic at the end of his life, and after sending some publicity photographs of himself, minus his toupée, he was eventually cast.
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Audrey Hepburn apparently believed that Dame Julie Andrews should have played Eliza Doolittle in this movie, but was told by Producer Jack L. Warner that she wouldn't be cast even if Audrey turned the role down. Andrews said that she "threw a few tantrums" when she learned that she wouldn't be playing Eliza in this movie, and yet she got along very well with Hepburn without holding a grudge against her, who she knew was an innocent party in the whole thing.
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Sir Rex Harrison's microphone (hidden in his neckties) would occasionally pick up police broadcasts from passing police cars.
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Because of the way Sir Rex Harrison talked his way through the musical numbers, they were unable to pre-record them and have him lip-sync, so a wireless microphone (one of the first ever developed) was rigged up and hidden under his tie. However, this meant that his mouth and words were completely in sync and everyone else's looked off, since they were lip-synching (when everyone is lip-synching, it's not that noticeable). The studio thought that this was too obvious so they altered Harrison's soundtrack, lengthening and shortening notes in various places so that his synchronicity is slightly off like all of the other actors and actresses.
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When asked why he turned down the role of Professor Henry Higgins, Cary Grant remarked that his original manner of speaking was much closer to Eliza Doolittle.
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Although playing a nineteen-year-old, Audrey Hepburn was actually thirty-five in real-life. Jeremy Brett (who turned thirty during filming) was cast as twenty-year-old Freddy Eynsford-Hill so Hepburn would not seem too old in comparison.
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Cary Grant told Producer Jack L. Warner that not only would he not play Professor Henry Higgins, but if Sir Rex Harrison was not cast in the role, he wouldn't even go see the movie. The same Hollywood legend is told about The Music Man (1962), that Cary Grant was offered the role of Harold Hill and told the producer that if Robert Preston wasn't cast he wouldn't even go see the movie.
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Despite extensive vocal training after landing the part of Professor Henry Higgins in this movie, Sir Rex Harrison was unable to sing a note. In the end, Director George Cukor gave up and told him to quasi-speak the whole thing as he had done in the stage version.
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This is Henry Daniell's final movie. He appears, unbilled, as The Ambassador. He died of a heart attack on October 31, 1963, just a few hours after completing the dress ball sequences. Alan Napier took over in subsequent scenes.
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Walt Disney offered to delay filming on Mary Poppins (1964) until the summer of 1964 if Dame Julie Andrews was cast as Eliza Doolittle. Andrews ended up winning Best Actress at the 37th Academy Awards for Mary Poppins (1964), while Audrey Hepburn wasn't even nominated for this movie.
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Dame Julie Andrews got her revenge on Producer Jack L. Warner three years later when she wasn't cast as Guinevere in the movie version of Camelot (1967), a part which she had made her own on Broadway. Her Great White Way co-stars Richard Burton and Robert Goulet were also not cast in the movie, which went on to flop so badly for Warner Brothers that the company ousted Jack L. Warner as its President.
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The role of Eliza Doolittle was originally played on Broadway by Dame Julie Andrews. However, she was denied the role because Producer Jack L. Warner didn't think she was "known" enough as a movie actress. Many felt that this snub, as well as Audrey Hepburn's singing being dubbed, led to Hepburn's not being nominated for the Best Actress Oscar nomination.
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The "marbles" Professor Henry Higgins (Sir Rex Harrison) puts in Eliza Doolittle's (Audrey Hepburn's) mouth are actually grapes.
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In the scene where Eliza is practicing her "H's", she sits down in front of a spinning mirror attached to a flame. Every time she says her "H's" correctly, the flame jumps. If you look closely at the paper she is holding in her hand when it catches fire, you will see handwritten upon it the dialogue that she and Professor Higgins have been saying previous to this. "Of course, you can't expect her to get it right the first time", is the first line written on the paper.
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Jeremy Brett, who celebrated his 30th birthday during filming, was very surprised to learn that all of his singing was to be dubbed by a forty-three-year-old American named Bill Shirley, especially since his own singing voice at that time was remarkably good.
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When Audrey Hepburn entered the set for the first time in Eliza's gown for the ball, she was so beautiful the crew and the rest of the cast stood silently gaping at her, then broke out with applause and cheers.
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Audrey Hepburn announced the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the devastated cast and crew on November 22, 1963, immediately after filming "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?" on the Covent Garden set.
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Audrey Hepburn revealed many years later that had she turned down the role of Eliza, the next actress to be offered it would not have been Dame Julie Andrews, but Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who wanted it desperately.
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When Eliza Doolittle demands to see what Professor Henry Higgins has been writing about her, in the beginning of the movie, he shows her his notebook, which she cannot read. The notation in the notebook is "Visible Speech", a phonetic notation invented by Alexander Melville Bell (father of Alexander Graham Bell) and extended and used heavily by Henry Sweet, a real-life phonetician and apparently the basis of the Professor Henry Higgins character.
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Sir Rex Harrison had given up smoking after suffering from pains in his legs. He did not like the fact that Audrey Hepburn smoked three packs of cigarettes a day.
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The musical was to have been called "Lady Liza", but Sir Rex Harrison refused to countenance a title based on the name of the female lead.
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Although her singing was dubbed by Marni Nixon, Audrey Hepburn's singing does actually appear in the form of the first verse of "Just You Wait, Henry Higgins". However, when the song heads into the soprano range (one minute and sixteen seconds in), Nixon takes over vocals. Hepburn sings the last thirty seconds of the song as well as the brief reprise. She also sings the sing-talking parts for "The Rain in Spain". Overall, as Hepburn reportedly said, about ninety percent of her singing was dubbed. That was far more than what she expected, as she was initially promised that most of her vocals would be used. According to Nixon, Hepburn was upset that she could not play the role vocally, and always blamed herself for that.
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Musical theater writers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had attempted to adapt George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalion" as a musical long before Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, but had abandoned the project as unadaptable. Rodgers and Hammerstein felt that Shaw's style of writing intellectual dialogue and the emotionless character of Professor Henry Higgins did not lend themselves to a musical. Lerner and Lowe overcame these problems by leaving Shaw's dialogue largely intact, and working under the notion that Higgins must be played by a great actor, not a great singer. Thus, they wrote the role especially for Sir Rex Harrison, and adopted the idea that Higgins should not sing outright, but talk on pitch, less an expression of emotions than ideas.
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Audrey Hepburn's failure to win an Oscar nomination was considered a major upset, triggering protests from Warner Brothers and Director George Cukor. She rose above the snub, however, when the Academy invited her to present the Best Actor award, which went to co-star Sir Rex Harrison. In accepting the award, he thanked "two fair ladies".
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Of the main cast, only Stanley Holloway (Alfred P. Doolittle) actually sang. The others were either dubbed or just talked their way through the songs.
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The title is derived from a line in a traditional rhyme: 'London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady.'
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Alan Jay Lerner was very annoyed by Producer Jack L. Warner's decision to have the entire movie filmed on soundstages in Hollywood, even for outdoor scenes.
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Costume Designer Cecil Beaton reputedly created one thousand five hundred costumes for this movie.
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American Marni Nixon had to practice a Cockney accent before she could dub all of Audrey Hepburn's singing in the movie.
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While the movie received generally favorable reviews, critics were divided on Audrey Hepburn's performance as Eliza. While some were critical of the fact that she was dubbed, others such as esteemed British dramatist Sir John Gielgud went on record as saying that Audrey Hepburn was "better than (Dame) Julie Andrews!" in the role.
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The suggestion that Nancy Olsen inspired Alan Jay Lerner to come up with "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" is unlikely, given that George Bernard Shaw's Higgins uses precisely that line when speaking of Eliza at precisely the same point, in the original "Pygmalion" of 1912, and indeed many of Shaw's lines make it into the musical's script. Regarding the assertion that "My Fair Lady" is derived from the children's nursery rhyme, "London Bridge Is Falling Down", a story circulated years ago suggested it was, in fact, a clever in-joke: Higgins proposes to make Eliza into a "Mayfair lady" (no, he doesn't say this in the script, more's the pity), but Eliza's Cockney accent would contort that to sound like "Myfair Lydy". The story further claimed that Higgins did say as much in an early draft of the play's script, to which Eliza retorted, "I down wanna be no Myfair lydy!" For some reason the line was dropped, but the title stayed. Or so the rumor goes.
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At seventeen million dollars, this was the most expensive Warner Brothers movie produced at the time. Nevertheless, it went on to become one of the biggest grossing movies of 1964.
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At one stage , Warner Brothers was in negotiations with Peter O'Toole, extremely hot after his Lawrence of Arabia (1962) success, but his agents were looking for four hundred thousand dollars. Producer Jack L. Warner hadn't been keen on casting Sir Rex Harrison, but it was able to get him for just two hundred thousand dollars. This greatly annoyed Harrison, particularly since Audrey Hepburn was being paid one million dollars, and especially since Harrison eventually won an Oscar for his efforts, and Hepburn most famously didn't.
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Although Sir Rex Harrison was desperate to be cast as Professor Henry Higgins, he refused to do a screentest since he felt this was beneath his dignity. He did, however, promise to Producer Jack L. Warner that he would not simply repeat his stage performance, but would instead adapt his performance accordingly for the movie.
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During the parts of "Wouldn't It be Loverly" featuring Audrey Hepburn's own singing voice, her lip-synching does not match her own singing as well as it does Marni Nixon's singing, even though Hepburn filmed the scene with her own track. This shouldn't be surprising considering that Nixon "looped" her vocals to the song after the number was already filmed, and was given multiple attempts to match Hepburn's lip movements precisely (as was the case when she dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961)). Nixon discusses this in her autobiography, where she actually praises Hepburn for lip-synching very well to her own track. Also, according to the DVD commentary, instead of using the vocal track that was used during filming, a new vocal track had to be created for use on the "Audrey dub".
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Amusement park trams were rented to carry ballroom scene extras across the studio lot, in order to prevent their make-up and costumes from getting dirty or damaged.
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One of only four productions to win the Best Play Tony (1957) and the Best Picture Oscar (1964). The other three are The Sound of Music (1965) (1960/1965), A Man for All Seasons (1966) (1962/1966), and Amadeus (1984) (1981/1984).
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Warner Brothers had tried to keep the dubbing of Audrey Hepburn's singing a secret, but when the movie opened it was hard not to notice it. The Publicity Department then issued a statement that Marni Nixon had only done half the singing, which triggered an angry denial from the dubber's husband. The secrecy triggered a backlash against Hepburn's performance, with gossip columnist Hedda Hopper writing, "With Marni Nixon doing the singing, Audrey Hepburn gives only half a performance." Warner Brothers countered, "I don't know what all the fuss is about. We've been doing it for years. We even dubbed the barking of Rin Tin Tin."
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The shoot was unusually exhausting for Audrey Hepburn, who lost eight pounds during filming. Her work was intensified by domestic problems with husband Mel Ferrer, who was playing a supporting role in Sex and the Single Girl (1964) on the Warner Brothers' lot. Finally, Director George Cukor had to shoot around her for a week so she could get her health back.
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Producer Jack L. Warner paid five and a half million dollars for the movie rights in February 1962. This set a record for the amount of money paid for the movie rights to any intellectual property, broken only in 1978 when Columbia Pictures paid nine and a half million dollars for the movie rights to Annie (1982)
Production Designer Gene Allen was never given a budget with which to work. He just designed and had built all of the sets without having to worry about how much they cost.
Most roadshow movie presentations made at that time had an overture recorded especially for the movie, meant to be heard while the lights in the theater were still up and the movie screen curtains were still closed. Then, at the end of the overture, the lights would go down and the movie would start with what was known as its Main Title music. The overture to the stage version of "My Fair Lady" was longer than the movie's opening credits, but Lerner and Loewe apparently still wanted to use it. So, rather than using the typical roadshow format of Overture and Main Title music to get around this, the filmmakers shot the movie so that half of the Overture is heard against shots of flowers appearing on the screen; then halfway through the Overture, the lights go down and the opening credits begin.
James Cagney was originally offered the role of Alfred P. Doolittle. When he pulled out at the last minute, it went to the man who played it on Broadway, Stanley Holloway. Peter O'Toole, Cary Grant, Noël Coward, Rock Hudson, Sir Michael Redgrave, and George Sanders were all considered for the role of Professor Henry Higgins before Sir Rex Harrison was finally chosen to reprise his Broadway role.
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At Audrey Hepburn's insistence, Director George Cukor shot all of her scenes in sequence so that she could grow into the role and hold her own against Sir Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway, who had both done the play for several years. It also allowed her to do the most difficult scenes first, those before Eliza's transformation, while she was still fresh.
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Dame Julie Andrews was the first choice for the role of Eliza Doolittle, but Warner Brothers, which had paid five and a half million dollars for the rights to the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe musical, didn't want to risk a stage actress in the central role of a seventeen million dollar movie, despite lobbying from Lerner himself. However, this reason has been strongly doubted by those who believe audiences would have flocked to see the movie regardless of who played the leading role. It is also reported that Producer Jack L. Warner didn't think Andrews would be photogenic enough. He invited her to do a screentest, but she refused, so he forgot about her altogether.
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An entire soundstage was used for doing hair and make-up for the Ascot race scene.
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Cinematographer Harry Stradling, Sr., who shot this movie, also shot Pygmalion (1938) based on the same play, "Pygmalion", upon which this movie was based.
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The 1994 restoration by Robert A. Harris used a variety of methods to return the film to its original condition. The opening credits were digitally re-created using pieces of surviving frames. A few shots were digitally restored by scanning the 65mm negative or separation masters and output back to VistaVision (and enlarged back to 65mm). Some shots were simply re-composited via separation masters. Despite this, most of the film was able to be restored directly from the camera negative. For the sound, only the six-track magnetic print master (used to add sound to 70mm prints) survived. This was digitally restored and used to create a new six-track mix (faithful to the original version), as well as new Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes for modern sound systems.
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"My Fair Lady" is the only Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe stage musical to have been filmed totally complete, with no omission of any songs from the stage version (or dialogue, for that matter). There are even some added lyrics to the song "You Did It", in which Professor Henry Higgins goes more into detail about the speech "expert" Zoltan Karpathy's evaluation of Eliza Doolittle at the ball, that were not in the stage version. This movie, West Side Story (1961), and South Pacific (1958) may be the most complete movie adaptations of Broadway musicals ever made.
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In the scene where Professor Henry Higgins knocks a record player that is playing a recording of vowel sounds, the voice on the record is that of Dr. Peter Ladefoged, a linguist who worked as a consultant on this movie.
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Many of the Ascot Gavotte fashionable ladies of the chorus also were barmaids and pub customers in the "I'm Getting Married in the Morning" number.
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On average, Sir Rex Harrison nailed his vocal performance of each song on the first take.
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The movie was advertised as the most eagerly anticipated production since Gone with the Wind (1939).
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After screening the rough cut, Producer Jack L. Warner, who had not wanted to cast Sir Rex Harrison, rose in silence, turned to the actor and bowed.
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Director George Cukor and Production Designer Cecil Beaton, who were good friends beforehand, had a big falling-out during the production. This is generally thought to be due to Beaton taking too much time photographing Audrey Hepburn when Cukor wanted her for rehearsals or filming. These were in fact the only times that Beaton ever showed up on-set.
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The original Broadway production of "My Fair Lady" opened at the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York on March 15, 1956, and ran for two thousand seven hundred seventeen performances, which was, at the time, the longest run a Broadway show had ever had. In February 2013, the original production is still the twentieth-longest-running production in Broadway history. Sir Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway re-created their roles in the movie. Harrison won the 1957 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and Hollaway was nominated for Best Featured Actor in a Musical. The show won the 1957 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Musical.
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The play had first been staged on Broadway in March 1956, and opened in London in 1958. A clause in the contract stated that the movie version could not be made until the play had finished running, which finally took place in September 1962.
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The title of the movie appears nowhere in the dialogue nor any of the song lyrics.
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Shirley Jones was one of the actresses to whom Jack L. Warner planned to offer the role of Eliza Doolittle if Audrey Hepburn turned it down.
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Family Guy Creator Seth MacFarlane said on multiple occasions that the voice of Stewie was based on Sir Rex Harrison's performance as Professor Henry Higgins.
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Henry Daniell shot his last scene as the Ambassador on October 31, 1963, at Warner Brothers escorting the Queen of Transylvania. Director and friend George Cukor thought that Daniell, acting in his seventh Cukor movie, looked unwell, and the sixty-nine-year-old actor died from a heart attack a few hours later on Halloween night at his house in Santa Monica, California.
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The controversy over Audrey Hepburn being cast as Eliza Doolittle over Dame Julie Andrews, who originated the role on Broadway, went as far as journalists claiming there was a feud between the two actresses. This, of course, was untrue, as Hepburn and Andrews were friends in real-life and had great respect for one-another. The feud was debunked at The 37th Annual Academy Awards (1965) where Andrews recalled Hepburn telling her, "Julie, you should have done it, but I didn't have the guts to turn it down."
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Audrey Hepburn was generally felt to be too old for her character.
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Robert Coote was nominated for the 1962 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Musical for "My Fair Lady" for his role as Colonel Hugh Pickering and re-created that role in the 1976 Broadway revival.
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When Director George Cukor asked to do expensive re-takes of the Ascot sequence, Warner Brothers refused. When Cukor persisted, the company had the set torn down.
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In her 2004 autobiography "Tis Herself", Maureen O'Hara claimed that Producer Jack L. Warner asked her to dub Audrey Hepburn's singing voice in this movie. The story is hard to believe, as O'Hara wasn't noted for her singing, and the decision would have been the musical director's in the first place.
Audrey Hepburn had signed for the movie with the understanding that she would do her own singing. She arrived in Hollywood six weeks before shooting began to work with a vocal coach and Musical Director André Previn and actually recorded her tracks for the musical numbers.
This was Warner Brothers' first Best Picture Oscar winner since Casablanca (1942). It would be another twenty-five years before it had another Best Picture statuette with Driving Miss Daisy (1989).
Connie Stevens, then a Warner Brothers contract player, campaigned for the role of Eliza Doolittle.
Alfred P. Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) said he's been left four thousand pounds sterling per year. Assuming that this movie is set in 1912, this is equivalent to four hundred forty-eight thousand eight hundred eight pounds sterling in 2018, or approximately five hundred seventy-two thousand three hundred twenty dollars at the end of 2018.
When Sir Rex Harrison had problems performing his final song, "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", out of sequence (claiming he needed the weight of the show behind him to do it justice), Director George Cukor let him move anywhere he wanted on the large street set. Since it would be impossible to follow him with a microphone boom, he wore one of the first wireless microphones. He also shot with two cameras simultaneously, one for the long shot and one close up, so they would have fewer problems matching shots.
Most costumers and make-up artists had to camouflage Audrey Hepburn's square jaw, but for her early scenes, Production Designer Cecil Beaton actually emphasized it by putting her in a straw hat. That allowed for a more dramatic transformation, accentuated by the upswept hairdos he designed for her later in the movie to show off her bone structure.
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The entire Ascot Gavotte sequence was shot with all of the characters dressed in shades of black, white, and gray (with one light yellow hat and one small red flower). One of the reasons Audrey Hepburn's entrance to the scene is so striking is the total contrast of her dress, pure white with green stripes, lilac and red decorations, to the relatively bland coloration of the musical number preceding it.
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The only surviving audio element from the movie is the production master, which is actually one generation down from the original recording.
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Although most of the art direction and costume designing credit went to Cecil Beaton, Art Director Gene Allen went on record to say that Beaton only designed the women's clothes and had no part in the actual designs of the sets, though he insisted on taking the credit for them. In fact, Beaton had it written into his contract that he receive sole credit for Production Designer.
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Jeremy Brett (Freddy Eynsford-Hill), during his stint on this movie, was never able to visit the beach or stay out too long in the sun because Producer Jack L. Warner wanted him to remain pale like his character in the movie.
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For the early part of Eliza's transformation, Cecil Beaton insisted that Audrey Hepburn wear weights around her lower legs so that she would keep some of the flower girl's early gawkiness.
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This movie is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
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George Cukor and Cecil Beaton did not get along during filming. Cukor complained that Beaton tried to take credit for other people's work. He also resented the fact that Beaton's presence prevented him from hiring his usual color consultant, Photographer George Hoyningen-Huene. For his part, Beaton considered Cukor vulgar and resented his domineering character. Some observers suggested that the closeted Cukor was put off by Beaton's more flamboyant homosexuality. There were even rumors that Beaton had once stolen a man from Cukor. Their biggest on-set argument was over Beaton's assignment to photograph the cast. Cukor felt that his photography was slowing down production and told him to stop taking shots on the set. Then he complained that posing for the portraits was overworking the actors and actresses. Yet Beaton persisted in taking pictures. After some on-set blow-ups, Cukor complained to Warner Brothers, and Beaton stopped coming to the set.
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Thanks to Director George Cukor's efficiency, shooting was completed in less than four months. Shooting started in August 1963 and ended in December.
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Joshua Logan wrote in his autobiography that he was offered the chance to direct this movie, but the offer was withdrawn when he suggested that some scenes be shot on-location in London.
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The original choice to direct this movie was Vincente Minnelli, but when his salary demands were too high, the job went to George Cukor.
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Stanley Holloway originated the role of Alfred P. Doolittle on Broadway, but it was thought that a better known actor would be more suited for the movie version.
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In truth, ten percent of Eliza Doolittle's singing in this movie is Audrey Hepburn. She sings and talks the first verse of "Just You Wait", as well as the number's conclusion and a reprise. She also performs parts of "The Rain in Spain".
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Cecil Beaton's inspiration for the library in Professor Henry Higgins' home, where much of the action takes place, was a room at the Château de Groussay, Montfort-l'Amaury, in France, which had been decorated opulently by its owner Carlos de Beistegui.
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All of the songs in this movie were performed nearly complete. However, there were some verse omissions, as there sometimes are in movie versions of Broadway musicals. For example, in the song "With a Little Bit of Luck", the verse "He does not have a Tuppence in his pocket", which was sung with a chorus, was omitted, due to space and its length. The original verse in "Show Me" was used instead.
Included amongst the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The original Broadway production of "Pygmalion", on which "My Fair Lady" was based, opened at the Park Theater opening October 12, 1914, ran for seventy-two performances and was revived in 1927, 1938, 1945, 1987, and 2007. The play premiered in a German translation at the Hofburg Theatre in Vienna, Austria on October 16, 1913 and in English at His Majesty's Theatre in London, England on April 11, 1914 and starred Mrs. Patrick Campbell.
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The picture on the wall of Professor Henry Higgins' library (profile, facing left) is of the famous explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat (not the actor) Richard Burton.
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27A Wimpole Street in London (Professor Henry Higgins' address) does not exist (there is a 27 Wimpole Street).
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The instrumental "Busker Sequence", which opens the play immediately after the Overture, is the only musical number from the play omitted in the movie version. However, there are several measures from this piece that can be heard as we see Eliza in the rain, making her way through the cars and carriages in Covent Garden.
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Average Shot Length = 10 seconds
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The butler's solo line in the final servants' chorus of "You Did It" was dubbed by Bill Lee.
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Was selected for preservation, in National Film Registy by the Library of Congress in 2018, for being culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.
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Producer Jack L. Warner considered this movie to be one of his finest achievements.
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Stanley Holloway was nominated for the 1957 Tony Award (New York City) for Supporting or Features Actor in a Musical for "My Fair Lady" for the role of Alfred P. Doolittle and re-created the role in the movie version.
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According to the "The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw" book, Rock Hudson was considered for the role of Professor Henry Higgins and James Cagney for Alfred P. Doolittle.
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During lunch breaks, Cecil Beaton would sneak onto the soundstage set being filmed, set up an easel and board, sketching the standing set (scenery), adding color with time permitting, or adding watercolor washes and painting details in his studio lot office. Producer Jack L. Warner and Director George Cukor had Beaton banned from the daily filming stage, as well as from any Warner Brothers stage on which set construction, painting, set green, and set decorating was in progress. After the movie was finished, Beaton had an exhibition with his costume sketches, including these set illustrations, providing some evidence that he had designed the scenery as well. In fact, Jack L. Warner had originally signed a contract with Beaton granting him costume and art direction screen credits. The original New York City, London, Chicago, and roadshow tour-stage scenery had been designed by Oliver Smith. George Cukor and Gene Allen (as Production Designer and Second Unit Director) had teamed on A Star Is Born (1954). Cukor insisted Allen would design all this movie's sets when he accepted the directorial assignment. In fact, Beaton was never allowed in nor near the movie's Art Department.
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Jeremy Brett (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) admitted in 1994 that his singing in this movie was dubbed by Bill Shirley, although it seems he sang the introduction to "On the Street Where you Love" himself.
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U.S. television viewers had something of a Sir Rex Harrison film-fest on Thanksgiving week, 1973. Doctor Dolittle (1967) aired on Thanksgiving Eve on ABC, followed by this movie on NBC on Thanksgiving Day. This was the U.S. commercial television premiere of both movies, and was probably not a coincidence.
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One of eleven American musicals to win Best Picture: 1) The Broadway Melody (1929), 2) The Great Ziegfeld (1936), 3) Going My Way (1944), 4) An American in Paris (1951), 5) Gigi (1958), 6) West Side Story (1961), 7) this movie, 8) The Sound of Music (1965), 9) Oliver! (1968), 10) Amadeus (1984), and 11) Chicago (2002).
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George Cukor and Cecil Beaton took a lavish approach to this movie's set design. In a departure from standard Hollywood practice, rather than building cobblestones for the Covent Garden streets from a single mold, they had each stone made individually. Art Director Gene Allen, a frequent Cukor collaborator, used several coats of paint on the buildings to create the illusion that they were hundreds of years old.
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The order of the songs in the show was followed faithfully, except for "With a Little Bit of Luck". The song is listed as being the third musical number in the play; in the movie, it is the fourth. On-stage, the song is split into two parts sung in two different scenes. Part of the song is sung by Doolittle and his cronies just after Eliza gives him part of her earnings, immediately before she makes the decision to go to Professor Henry Higgins' house to ask for speech lessons. The second half of the song is sung by Doolittle just after he discovers that Eliza is now living with Professor Henry Higgins. In the movie, the entire song is sung in one scene that takes place just after Professor Henry Higgins has sung "I'm an Ordinary Man". However, the song does have a dialogue scene (Doolittle's conversation with Eliza's landlady) between verses.
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Features Stanley Holloway's only Oscar nominated performance.
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The only movie to be nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscars that year.
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Included amongst the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Audrey Hepburn's character's name is Eliza Doolittle. Three years after this movie came out, Sir Rex Harrison played the title character in Doctor Dolittle (1967).
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Included amongst the American Film Institute's 2000 list of the five hundred movies nominated for the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
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Racehorses race around English tracks in a clockwise direction and would have been running past Eliza and her startled Ascot acquaintances heading the opposite way. Incorrect, English racecourses go clockwise and counter-clockwise. They happen to go clockwise at Ascot, so I'll give you that. The movie still has it wrong.
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When Professor Henry Higgins (Sir Rex Harrison) and Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilford Hyde-White) are working together for the first time, Higgins hits a tuning fork. It sounds, but it shouldn't. He's holding it by the tines.
The opera that was playing the night Professor Henry Higgins (Sir Rex Harrison) and Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) meet in Convent Gardens was "Faust", which in 1912 would have been fifty-three-years-old.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw adamantly opposed any notion that Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle had fallen in love and would marry at the end of the play, as he felt it would betray the character of Eliza who, as in the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, would "come to life" and emancipate herself from the male domination of Higgins and her father. He even went so far as to include a lengthy essay to be published with copies of the script explaining precisely why Higgins and Eliza would never marry, and what "actually happened" after the curtain fell: Eliza married Freddy Eynsford-Hill and opened a flower shop with funds from Colonel Hugh Pickering. Also, as Shaw biographers have noted, Higgins is meant to be an analogue of the playwright himself, thus suggesting Higgins was actually a homosexual. Under heavy pressure from producers, for Pygmalion (1938), Shaw wrote a compromise ending, in which Eliza and Henry reconcile, but Eliza still leaves to marry Freddy. This was later changed without Shaw's knowledge nor permission to a conclusion in which Eliza returns to Higgins and supposedly marries him. It is that ending that is used in this movie.
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According to Nancy Olson, who was married to lyricist Alan Jay Lerner at the time he was writing the musical, Lerner and Frederick Loewe had the most trouble writing the final song for Professor Henry Higgins. The two writers had based the whole concept of the musical around the notion that Henry was far too intellectual a character to emotionally sing outright, but should speak his songs on pitch, more as an expression of ideas. However, both composer and lyricist knew that Henry would need a love song towards the end of the story when Eliza Doolittle has abandoned him. This presented an obvious problem: how to write an emotional song for an emotionless character. Lerner suffered bouts of insomnia trying to write the lyrics. One night, Olson claims, she brought him a cup of tea to soothe his nerves. As she entered his study, Lerner thanked her and said, "I guess I've grown accustomed to you . . . I've grown accustomed to your face." According to Olson, his eyes suddenly lit up, and she sat down and watched him write the entire song in one sitting, based on the idea that although Henry couldn't "love" Eliza in the traditional sense, he would surely notice the value she represented as part of his life.
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About twenty minutes before the end of the movie, Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilford Hyde-White) offers to go off and find the missing Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn). He exits the library set, and is never seen in the movie again.
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