This 30th anniversary documentary treats film fans to a behind-the-scenes look at the making of My Fair Lady, the classic musical about a poor young girl transformed into a woman of society...
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This 30th anniversary documentary treats film fans to a behind-the-scenes look at the making of My Fair Lady, the classic musical about a poor young girl transformed into a woman of society through the tutoring of Prof. Henry Higgins. Includes footage of the filming process, as well as discussion by modern film critics about the impact movie had on later films.Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I agree with another reviewer, planktonrules, who commented on this documentary on March 21, 2012. It's one of the best of its kind. A good sign of an excellent documentary about the making of a film is that it leads me to better appreciate the film. Such is the case with "The Making of My Fair Lady." Many such documentaries about films bounce around, are poorly organized, and appear to be montages of home movies shot on the set and hurriedly put together. Or, they are weak promotional pieces with some random interviews with cast members. Not so this documentary of nearly one hour in length. It gets right to the point. It's filled with information, film clips for examples, some back scene video, and interviews interspersed throughout.
It gives a history of the movie from Greek mythology, to a five-act book, to a stage play, to a stage musical and to film. Then it gives an interesting treatment of the restoration and preservation of the movie from its deterioration and near loss. Actor Jeremy Brett hosts the documentary. He played the role of Freddy Eynsford-Hill in the film. In the part about apparent secrecy over dubbing of Audrey Hepburn's songs, the film discussed the controversy that arose.
It has interviews with a number of people. Bob Harris and Jim Katz explain and show aspects of the film restoration. Marni Nixon, whose wonderful singing voice we hear for the songs of Eliza Doolittle in the movie, discusses her work. She said there was an air of secrecy about the dubbing enforced by Warner Brothers. Yet, people on the set and in production all knew about it. A news interview snippet showed Audrey Hepburn dancing around the subject in response to a reporter's question, and he concludes that it's her voice but that she may have needed a little help on a high note. She said the soprano range was difficult and that she wasn't a singer.
British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber describes the controversy over the film in England without Julie Andrews in the main role. The British thought she had nailed the music and the role when the stage musical played in England. Jeremy Brett said he knew how Hepburn felt about having her singing dumped and dubbed with a singer. He said he was now announcing that his two numbers in the film also were dubbed, although it seems to me that he said that sort of tongue-in-cheek, because he knew he wasn't a singer. He sang "On the Street Where You Live" twice in the film and was dubbed by Bill Shirley," and he and Hepburn were dubbed by Shirley and Nixon in the duet they sang, "Show Me." Other interviews included Theodore Bikel who played Zoltan Karpathy in the film, and the son of Stanley Holloway who played Alfred Doolittle.
Another person interviewed was Gene Allen who was the art director for the film. The documentary showed some backstage action with director George Cukor and with the costume and design work of Cecil Beaton. An interview snippet with Rex Harrison was enlightening. I realized that we didn't really hear Harrison singing as such. He explained that he had taken singing lessons but that didn't work. So, an instructor suggested he speak in pitch. He asked about it, and that's what we get with his musical numbers. Instead of full-throated singing, his numbers are the lyrics of the songs spoken in meter and pitch with his inflections and accompanied by the music. So, we think of him as singing when he's doing more of a dramatic recitation, conscious of his pitch and inflection. It works perfectly.
There's an interesting bit of history about Audrey Hepburn's discovery. It shows a snippet of Hepburn in small film being made in the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. The French novelist, Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), discovered her there, and apparently wanted her for the part in a movie being made from her novella, "Gigi." Hepburn didn't get that role – it went to Leslie Caron, but it opened new doors for a career in film. Randy Fehr was former head of Warner Brother post production. In his interview, he says that when they found out that Audrey Hepburn was going to play the lead, "we knew that we had to find a voice to sing for her." The documentary describes and shows the detail of the lavish sets designed and built for the film. Great detail went into the Covent Garden in London, and the elegant and contrasty black and white costuming of the Ascot racetrack scene. The construction of the Higgins house was huge, with many rooms on three floors and hallways and elaborate decorations, bookshelves, numerous props and homemade machines for recording. A "Production" piece along with this documentary gives some facts about the size of the project. Elegant materials for the costumes came from around the world (gems, plumes, silks and other items). Dozens of seamstresses worked for months to make more than 1,000 costumes. More than 250 costumes were individually designed for one scene alone – the great ball.
While the principal players were prepared in their dressing rooms, the thousands of other players were handled in the biggest makeup and costuming operation in motion picture history to that time. An entire stage was used for wardrobe and makeup in order to do 2,000 female makeup jobs and 1,500 male makeup jobs. The production crew included 17 wardrobe women, 26 makeup men and 35 hairdressers to take care of the supporting performers.
"My Fair Lady" is a wonderful musical that's sure to delight audiences for decades to come. And those who are interested in what it takes to make a film like this should enjoy this documentary as well.
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