Friday, February 4, 2011

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady (1964) is a classic musical, and one of the best.  I was lucky enough to see it at Radio City Music Hall in New York when it was released, on 70mm film with six track RCA sound.  That is the way to see a movie!

As everyone knows, the play My Fair Lady (1956) was made into the movie, and they are the musical remake of Pygmalion (1938, the film starring Leslie Howard), which is adapted from the 1912 George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950) play by the same name.  In fact, Shaw worked on the screenplay for the 1938 film.

Music is by Lerner and Loewe, and it doesn't get much better than that.  A great many of the songs went on to become hits by artists like Nat King Cole and others.  And as everyone knows, Marni Nixon (b. 1930) dubbed the signing voice of Eliza Doolittle due to the good, but untrained voice of Hepburn.  It is curious that Nixon did not receive screen credit, but I am sure she was well paid.

I don't need to go into the stars of My Fair LadyAudrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfred Hyde-White and Stanley Holloway are easy to remember.  Enough has been said of the movie and their parts in it. 

Let's just take a quick look at a few of the smaller parts.  This was a big movie with a big cast, many of whom are just extras.  I just noticed that Grady Sutton (1906 - 1995) was one of those extras.  Grady has a huge filmography with 230 titles, including W. C. FieldsThe Bank Dick (1940) where he played Og Oggilby.  Fields said it sounded like a bubble in a bathtub.

Alan Napier (1903 - 1988) was a gentleman who escorted Eliza to the queen at the ball.  Napier is most famous as the television butler, Alfred, to Adam West's "Batman."  Napier's career of 145 titles spans more than 50 years.

Some other wonderful names include stunt man Clyde Howdy (1919 - 1969) and Queenie Leonard (1905 - 2002).  I know nothing about those two, but they had great names. 

Betty Blythe (1893 - 1972) is also an extra.  Her career of 158 titles started in 1916, and My Fair Lady was her last film.  You can see Blythe in such great movies at Anna Karenina (1935) and Topper (1937). 

Lastly I want to mention Theodore Bikel (b. 1924) who played Zoltan Karpathy, the Count who tried to figure out where Eliza came from and got it all wrong.  Bikel is a wonderful character actor with 152 titles on IMDb, starting in 1949.  His third film was The African Queen in 1951.  You can also see him in The Enemy Below (1957) and he did a lot of TV work starting in the 1960s.  His versatile voice and command of dialects is impressive.

My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor (1899 - 1983), is a classic and should be in every collection.

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