Saturday, January 30, 2010


Some have called My Fair Lady the greatest musical of all time. *

Lerner and Loewe’s musical adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, about an arrogant phonetics instructor named Henry Higgins who makes a lady out of lower class Eliza Doolittle, is certainly one of the best known musicals of all-time.

George Cukor’s 1964 film features Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, Wilfred-Hyde White as Pickering and Stanley Holloway as Alfred Doolittle. And of course, there was much controversy (which apparently still festers in the hearts of many according to internet blogs) over the non-casting of Julie Andrews as Eliza, a role she created on stage. I agree it would have been nice to see her in the screen adaptation, but Audrey Hepburn (with a little help from Marni Nixon) is a more than adequate replacement.

As I was watching My Fair Lady, I was thinking about what to say about it and just decided to list my ten favorite songs from it in descending order.

10 On the Street Where You Live- One of My Fair Lady’s many songs that would be regarded as a “standard” now. Though I guess my definition of standard is what an over-the-hill lounge lizard might sing to a group of drunks in an overpriced piano bar on a Saturday night (Definition may not be 100 percent accurate). Sung by My Fair Lady’s somewhat incidental character Freddy who has to be the happiest stalker I’ve ever seen depicted in any film.

And I never saw a more enchanting farce
Than that moment when she shouted
"move your bloomin' "....

9 Wouldn’t It Be Loverly- Eliza’s opening song... A plead from the lower class just for a little necessity here and there. And Audrey Hepburn…I mean Marni Nixon is in good voice here.

All I want is a room somewhere,
Far away from the cold night air.
With one enormous chair,
Aow, wouldn't it be loverly?

8 Ascot Gavotte- The aristocracy recite this song as a group and with complete lack of emotion. Damn aristocratic morality. It’s pretty funny though.

Moment at the Ascot op'ning day.
Pulses rushing! Faces flushing!
Heartbeats speed up! I have never been so keyed up!

7 You Did It-Mostly fun because it’s really the only song where Pickering gets to sing, as he and Henry Higgins revel in their achievement of making a lady out of Eliza without giving her any of the credit.

There he was, that hairy hound From Budapest.
Never leaving us alone, Never have I ever known
A ruder pest Fin'lly I decided it was foolish
Not to let him have his chance with her.
So I stepped aside and let him dance with her.
Oozing charm from ev'ry pore
He oiled his way around the floor.
Ev'ry trick that he could play,
He used to strip her mask away.

6 I’m an Ordinary Man (Let a Woman in Your Life) My Fair Lady/Pygamalion seems ripe for picking as an obvious subject for feminist film criticism. Henry is undeniably misogynistic. But is he Henry Heterosexual ('eterosexaul)? Homosexual ('omosexual)? Asexual (Ah-sexual)? If Henry had only sung “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Ass,” we’d have less doubt about his preference in this matter. (And of course he would pronounce ‘ass’ with an ‘ah’ sound.

Let the others of my sex, tie the knot around their necks,
I prefer a new edition of the Spanish Inquisition
than to ever let a woman in my life

5 Hymn to Him (Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man) –A kind of reprise of I’m an Ordinary Man. More misogyny, but it really does seem you can get away with things when you talk and sing with a firm grasp of the King’s English. (Clever songwriting doesn’t hurt either.)

What can’t a woman be like you?
Women are irrational, that's all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They're nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags! Funny, but he has issues.

4 Just You Wait-I love the look from Audrey Hepburn after she wishes for ‘enry ‘iggins ‘ead. (And who can blame her really?) Nice duet from the king and Audrey…I mean Marnie Nixon. Acutally, Audrey does some of her own singing this time.

All the people will celebrate the glory of you
And whatever you wish and want I gladly will do.
"Thanks a lot, King" says I, in a manner well-bred;
But all I want is 'enry 'iggins 'ead!"

3 With a Little Bit of Luck-Sung by my favorite character: Alfred Doolittle. His philosophy of just getting by and just getting away with whatever he can is shown humorously here. He’s a man who wants none of middle class morality…until later. This song later became the theme to a mayonnaise commercial which I can’t seem to totally shake…Damn Madison Avenue morality.

Oh, it's a crime for man to go philandrin’
And fill his wife's poor heart with grief and doubt.
Oh, it's a crime for man to go philanderin'-but
With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
You can see the bloodhound don't find out!

2 Why Can’t the English-Snappy introduction to Henry Higgins’s worldview. And pretty much sets the pattern for the rest of the movie. Can elocution lessons make the man (or lady)? Of course, Professor Higgins thinks so.

Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?
Norwegians learn Norwegian; the Greeks have taught their
Greek. In France every Frenchman knows
his language fro "A" to "Zed"
Arabians learn Arabian with the speed of summer lightning.
And Hebrews learn it backwards,
which is absolutely frightening

1. Get Me to the Church on Time (I’m Getting Married in the Morning) –Just about my favorite performance of any song from any movie. Alfred Doolittle gets money, respectability, his girl friend wants to marry him…and he couldn’t be more unhappy. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but this song is loads of fun.
Damn middle class morality.

I'm gettin' married in the mornin'
Ding dong! the bells are gonna chime.
Kick up an rumpus But don't lost the compass;
And get me to the church, Get me to the church,
For Gawd's sake, get me to the church on time!

* Felton & Fowler's Best, Worst, and Most Unusual was one if memory serves, though I haven’t looked at the book in thirty years.

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