Saturday, March 13, 2010
'My Fair Lady' Did It
Let’s set the record — or DVD — straight.
“My Fair Lady” is the heavyweight champ of musical comedies.
The melodies hit the ears with snappy jabs.
The dialogue deals the senses uproarious uppercuts.
The lyrics clinch the performance with one killer knockout.
Left standing: Rex Harrison, who put the pro in professor Henry Higgins.
Harrison’s depiction of the speech fusspot properly led to his 1964 Oscar along with the film’s.
Movie viewers can kiss the Ascot turf that Harrison carried his Broadway act to the big screen. Hollywood blew it on the distaff side, passing on Broadway babe Julie Andrews in favor of Audrey Hepburn.
Talk bout a wayward punch. In Andrews, Warner Bros. had the top singing talent in the stable. No one could touch her voice.
Tough to fathom, but Julie didn’t have the star power of Audrey back then. So the movie “My Fair Lady” is stuck with a pouty player who can’t sing. The dubbed-in music voice belongs to Marni Nixon.
Enough of the nitpicking. “My Fair Lady” rocks because of its superior content. The song package alone stands octaves above any other in musical history.
Let’s strike up the winning strains:
1. “Why Can’t the English”
2. ”With a Little Bit of Luck”
3. “The Rain in Spain”
4. “I Could Have Danced All Night”
5. “On the Street Where You Live”
6. “You Did It”
7. “Just You Wait”
8. “Show Me”
9. “Get Me to the Church on Time”
10. “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”
This could be a top 10 on the song list of musical comedies. And we’re talking about one show.
Even the atmospheric tune at the embassy ball has one fine flow.
This is pure prolificacy from melody maven Frederick Loewe and word whiz Alan Jay Lerner, who should’ve won the screenplay Oscar.
What did Lerner do? Simply produce stinging verse:
Higgins: By right she should be taken out and hung,
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue.
Alfred Doolittle: 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!
Higgins: I'd be equally as willing for a dentist to be drilling
than to ever let a woman in my life.
Eliza Doolittle: Never do I ever want to hear another word.
There isn't one I haven't heard.
Higgins: One man in a million may shout a bit.
Now and then there's one with slight defects;
One, perhaps, whose truthfulness you doubt a bit.
But by and large we are a marvelous sex!
Eliza: You, dear friend, who taught so well,
You can go to Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire.
Put that humor and depth up against more modern productions such as “The Phantom of the Opera.” It has, what, one memorable song?
Even musicals in the running for the showtime trophy — “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music” — can’t compete in the sophistication ring.
Maybe I was brainwashed with “My Fair Lady.” While growing up, I’d wake up on Sundays to a tape of the show’s music that my dad habitually played.
He’d then pay the ultimate compliment to Lerner by using “jawohl” in his vernacular.
Now I do it. Does this bring back memories of Higgins’ landing “you did it” plaudits for his climactic triumph? And put the crowning touch on this all-time smash hit?
Bucky Fox is an author and editor in Southern California who runs BuckyFox.com.