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 Posted:   May 14, 2013 - 8:13 AM   
 By:   Gordon Reeves   (Member)



After "1776", our all-tyme favorite. Comments, musical conneisseurs (yeah, U2 - not the group wink - PhillyJay, there's absolutmundo NOOOOO way this thread will evolve without your non-peeveish perspective smile - 'specially since you're among those blessed enuff to have actually seen the original Broadway version.)

The curtain's up, you've all got yer cues so ... whaddaya waitin' fer?!? smilewinkbig grin

 
 Posted:   May 14, 2013 - 8:46 AM   
 By:   Eric Paddon   (Member)

I've never seen a stage production and thus, I can not be in the camp of those who will view the film through the lens of comparisons to the original Broadway and London productions. As a film I have always appreciated the fact that it did manage to transfer almost the entire libretto and score intact with minimial changes in contrast to how so many other film adaptations of shows from this golden age of Broadway (of which MFL remains the gold standard) were not done justice.

Given the realities of Hollywood box office demands of the day, I can't unfortunately envision a realistic scenario where Jack Warner would have been persuaded to have both Rex and Julie in the film. Maybe he casts Julie if he gets some big box office leading male for Higgins instead of Rex, but truthfully I think we would have lost more if we'd not had Rex be the one who got to have his role preserved on film for all time. So if the choice was one but not the other, I think ultimately the right decision was made because Audrey I think manages to do fine overall, and I also think she should have been allowed to keep her own vocal track for "Loverly" where her version fits more the unrefined flower girl of the scene. If she'd been able to have one full number that was unquestionably her voice, it might have helped dampen the controversy that erupted and maybe would have allowed her to get the nomination she was wrongly snubbed of (I'm not saying she should have won the Award, but she should have been nominated).

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 9:27 AM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

There is nothing positive for me to say about this film. I hate it, on every conceivable level. My least-favorite musical film. It is, my favorite musical play, however. It is that rare case where the show, in every respect, is grander than the film. The film is small, the show (at least the production I saw), was big. That alone, ruins it, for me. We won't even get into how horribly I think the film is directed (he simply doesn't have a clue), nor how horrendous I find Hepburn's acting (never mind her inability to sing). She is simply Audrey Hepburn, and never, ever Eliza. I saw Alec Clunes on stage, and found him brilliant; but, the star was Eliza, not Higgins. In the film, it is the other way round; but even Harrison is rather staid, imo, compared to what I saw on the stage. Plagued, no doubt, by the awful direction. It's as if they pickled or embalmed the entire piece. As I've stated many times before, no matter how much they kept the same, the film barely resembles what I saw on stage. Neo, I saw the London production, not Broadway. For the most part, the people who were on the London cast album (stereo), sans Harrison, who was already gone.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 10:02 AM   
 By:   Eric Paddon   (Member)

PhillyJay, there's absolutmundo NOOOOO way this thread will evolve without your non-peeveish perspective smile - 'specially since you're among those blessed enuff to have actually seen the original Broadway version.)


You were right, Neo! smile

I respect the perspective that if you saw one of the original stage productions, the film is always going to seem a letdown. But it's hard for me to envision how MFL can overall seem a worse translation of the material compared to "Man Of La Mancha" which IMO is the worst way to introduce one to the greatness of that production when the film was as bad as it was there. MFL the movie version at least makes me aware that we are seeing what was a triumphant Broadway show get the big screen presentation it deserved.

I first saw MFL the movie and by extension the first time I ever saw the property period on "film night" my freshman year of college. The songs and orchestrations won me over that night and for one who was born in 1969, it's hard for me to see how else I could have been introduced properly to the material to appreciate what kind of a classic the material itself is.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 10:08 AM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

Not true. I saw THE SOUND OF MUSIC, BYE BYE BIRDIE, HELLO, DOLLY! and THE MUSIC MAN all on stage before they were films, and I prefer the movie version of every one of them.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 10:23 AM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

As to it being worse than MAN OF LA MANCHA, I rate that on the basis of its source. The source of MY FAIR LADY is far superior to the source of MOLM. The degradation from stage source to film, is greater for MFL, than MOLM, imo. I don't find MOLM all that great, on stage. Kiley was great, for sure; but for me, he was it. There were things about the film, I preferred. Loren, for instance. In the case of MFL, everything about the show was better than the film. Simply, everything. As I said, it was bigger on stage. The only case of a film transfer where that is true, that I can recall. The numbers were bigger, the sets more impressive, the overall production more exuberant, and the performances far more exciting. It was exciting, from start to finish. There isn't a single exciting moment in the film. Just three plodding hours of who gives a sh*t.

 
 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 10:23 AM   
 By:   Ralph   (Member)

There is nothing positive for me to say about this film. I hate it, on every conceivable level. My least-favorite musical film. It is, my favorite musical play, however. It is that rare case where the show, in every respect, is grander than the film. The film is small, the show (at least the production I saw), was big. That alone, ruins it, for me. We won't even get into how horribly I think the film is directed (he simply doesn't have a clue), nor how horrendous I find Hepburn's acting (never mind her inability to sing). She is simply Audrey Hepburn, and never, ever Eliza. I saw Alec Clunes on stage, and found him brilliant; but, the star was Eliza, not Higgins. In the film, it is the other way round; but even Harrison is rather staid, imo, compared to what I saw on the stage. Plagued, no doubt, by the awful direction. It's as if they pickled or embalmed the entire piece. As I've stated many times before, no matter how much they kept the same, the film barely resembles what I saw on stage. Neo, I saw the London production, not Broadway. For the most part, the people who were on the London cast album (stereo), sans Harrison, who was already gone.

Agree about the movie version. Here’s my take:

Cukor became so entangled in his snooty conception of “My Fair Lady” that he neglected to see how its excessive superficiality became an undertaker’s parlor. The performers are like fossilized corpses, the decorations and appointments are overly mahoganized, most of the coloring — in spite of Robert Harris’ expensive enhancement — a dingy trifecta of browns, grays and whites. Brought into view by taxidermist Harry Stradling, the real flowers look fake and the cast stiffly asexual. That Lerner’s lyrics and Loewe’s music survive are testament to the score’s fool-proof power, not by anything vital from the cast, suffering as it does from moribund staging. (At least in the nincompoop “Gigi” we could breathe some air. And who could imagine “The Sound of Music” filmed only on sound stages?) The “energy” of Rex’s Higgins is also bogus — so rehearsed as to be minus any spontaneity. As with Rosalind’s “Auntie Mame,” every line, every inflection, intonation, wave of an arm, adjustment of hair or coat, every raised eyebrow are fixed for posterity; it’s not acting, it’s mechanics. Audrey is a dream of royalty and Beaton creates two masterpieces to hasten the coronation: the “Ascot Gavotte” jobbie (which includes a Gainsborough-inspired Duchess of Devonshire mushroomed chapeau, borrowed by Seth MacFarlane for Stewie) and the other for the ball. However, we first have to get through her screechy cockney baggage, and never have I wanted to wallop an actress out of shrillness as much as when Audrey keeps repeating “I’m a good girl I am.” (None too soon, her daffy elongation during the “Ascot Gavotte” sequence, recalling Edith Evans out of “The Importance of Being Ernest,” is reprieve.) In “The Making of ‘My Fair Lady’” Audrey’s “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?” is included and when hearing it, we all know how much more sensible if aesthetically less pleasing her own voice (or some truly anonymous one) would have been for the characterization than the immaculate dubbing by Marni Nixon, who, God bless her, works valiantly to try to match Audrey’s vocalism and still be competitive with the Broadway originator. If there was never an excuse for not using Ava’s own singing in 1951’s “Showboat,” there’s no doubt that Audrey didn’t have the range for even minimal scaling but using Nixon became injurious, not just because she was already famous as the singing voice of Deborah and Natalie, but also because the abrupt insertions of her voice exacerbated Audrey’s limitations. Negating some of Nixon’s impeccancy, Audrey’s beauty does elevate “I Could Have Danced All Night,” despite the nanosecond delays noticed between her mouthing and Nixon’s voice. Since passing in 1993, Audrey’s been given a pass by receiving plaudits for the performance. Hope one is fooled by the mushy revisionism: she was fairly trounced by the critics of influence in 1964 and by the more discriminating section of the public, while Andrews reaped the sap benefits of commiseration. (Some years later an Academy member told me that when he checked the ballot, “I was really voting for Julie’s work in ‘The Americanization of Emily.’”) Then there’s that bore of bores Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s father; putting him to sleep would be a justifiable act of euthanasia. The two pluses in Cukor’s inorganic mess are Gladys Cooper as Higgins’ mommie and Jeremy Brett, whose Freddie is so appealing that you start to believe Eliza’s gone nutty for not preferring him over the misogynist professor. One of the credits in “My Dead Lady” is the ultimate incomplete insult: “From a play by George Bernard Shaw.”

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 10:39 AM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

^^Pretty perfectly stated. Of course, JA's Oscar isn't the only revenge. MARY POPPINS did far greater box-office than did MFL, and her other musical film that went head-to-head with it, did even better. Jack Warner predicted that MFL would be the most-successful film in motion picture history; and, it should have been. It was the most successful Broadway musical to date, and its original cast album the biggest selling LP (any genre) in history. His mistake was casting the wrong leading lady and hiring the wrong director. How silly of him not to know that the title was the star? It did as well as it did, because of its title. People, actually stayed away because of his casting decision. It seems almost unbelievable now, but at the time, it was major news. Today, entertainment news is 24/7. Back then, you rarely heard entertainment related stories on the nightly news, and his casting was a big story, than continued for quite some time.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:00 PM   
 By:   Eric Paddon   (Member)

As to it being worse than MAN OF LA MANCHA, I rate that on the basis of its source. The source of MY FAIR LADY is far superior to the source of MOLM. The degradation from stage source to film, is greater for MFL, than MOLM, imo. I don't find MOLM all that great, on stage. Kiley was great, for sure; but for me, he was it. There were things about the film, I preferred. Loren, for instance. In the case of MFL, everything about the show was better than the film. Simply, everything. As I said, it was bigger on stage. The only case of a film transfer where that is true, that I can recall. The numbers were bigger, the sets more impressive, the overall production more exuberant, and the performances far more exciting. It was exciting, from start to finish. There isn't a single exciting moment in the film. Just three plodding hours of who gives a sh*t.

Loren was IMO one of the worst things about MOLM as a film. So bad as a singer that small wonder the best number of the score for her character got cut!

MFL may have been "bigger" on a stage, but as I've watched the film many times over the years I've never seen it as a musical where being an outsized spectacle was where its strength rested. MFL is a dialogue and score driven show where the individual performances count most and in that case, what was presented on film did the material justice on those levels. Again, as one who never saw a stage production of it, I'm taking the view that the film succeeded in making me appreciate the source material in ways that inferior film transfers like MOLM (or Camelot) could never do.

 
 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:25 PM   
 By:   Gordon Reeves   (Member)



Gents, much appreciato for your impassionately UNrestrained yet still thankfully respectful take on the musical topic under scope (and forgive us our mem'ry trespasses, PJ - we recall on another thread where you posted the stage designs of MFL to give a wondrous whiff of that spectacle's vision whilst on the boards and somehow misconstrued it as that being your intro, not the London version).

There's no denying the points you both advance have their own weight and we're hardly gonna pretend to be afflicted by any of that nitwit nonsense called 'objectivity' (especially since Mr. Cukor happens to also be our favorite director). As to that, one could conceivably quibble, Sybil, about his beaming aboard that particular enterprise at Mr. Warner's behest (tho one hasta wonder if the latter's overall conception was seriously impaired in MFL's case, did he rate any brilliantly-belated kudos for shepherding "1776" onto the screen? Those two would spawn a thousand Ph.D (Piled High and Deeper) theses' just comparing the two, no?).



Stage-to-screen transfers of Any sort are always devilishly tricky to harmoniously transform from its original realistically-restricted medium to its more expansive cinematic cousin; those of us who were wowed by the film performances immortalized in "The Great White Hope" are always reminded they're but a pale reflection of the majesty James Earl Jones & Jane Alexander so unforgettably brought forth on, ah, the Great White Way wink.



We imagine such is so where MFL's concerned. As to that - tho Higgins is forever enshrined in Mr. Harrison's image - we saw a simply superlative version of "Pygmalion" at the El Lay Music Center in 1978 (directed by Canada's Stratford Festival's Robin Phillips and top-lining Robert Stephens & Roberta Maxwell) that remains the singular example of an utterly original interpretative take on Mr. Stephen's part that had not an iota of Mr. Harrison's celebrated perf anywhere in sight.



And also having seen Mr. Kiley's return to the role around the same tyme in the same city, we can hardly unconcur with your conclusion his seminal characterization IS what made the show soar (tho a coupla of the songs just may have had something additional to do with it).

All of which is to say what?

How the hell dew we no - we're still makin' all this up as we go along. smile



Could it have been better, more improved?

Given whatever planet of personal perspective you're coming from, of course.

What remains may be a vague echo of a more perfect version but we'll take what we've got (along with TGWH) simply because it's preserved at all.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:26 PM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)


Loren was IMO one of the worst things about MOLM as a film. So bad as a singer that small wonder the best number of the score for her character got cut!

MFL may have been "bigger" on a stage, but as I've watched the film many times over the years I've never seen it as a musical where being an outsized spectacle was where its strength rested. MFL is a dialogue and score driven show where the individual performances count most and in that case, what was presented on film did the material justice on those levels. Again, as one who never saw a stage production of it, I'm taking the view that the film succeeded in making me appreciate the source material in ways that inferior film transfers like MOLM (or Camelot) could never do.


I detested the original Aldonza. Hated her voice, so for me, Loren was an improvement, and I believed her, in the role. However, you're completely missing my point about MFL (or, I'm not stating it well enough). You have a film, produced in a major widescreen format, bigger than anything a stage could possibly create; and we're given nothing to fill it. When Alfie was getting married in the morning on stage, it was filled with joyous choreography and great dance music. All of which is cut from the film. Covent Garden looked real on stage, and like a set on film. Eliza's mastering "the rain in Spain" gave you chills in a theater, and just lies there, on film. There was a buzz of excitement throughout the running time of the show, and none from the film.

Anyway, you appreciate the source material of MFL, because if is far superior source material to MOLM or CAMELOT. The material remains, perfect. It's the execution that is flawed. In CAMELOT, for example, it has a sublime score, but that's it. In CAMELOT's case, the source is flawed; and, on film, so is the execution. On stage, its cast made up for its flaws. A sublime score, sublimely rendered.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:32 PM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)


There's no denying the points you both advance have their own weight and we're hardly gonna pretend to be afflicted by any of that nitwit nonsense called 'objectivity' (especially since Mr. Cukor happens to also be our favorite director). As to that, one could conceivably quibble, Sybil, about his beaming aboard that particular enterprise at Mr. Warner's behest (tho one hasta wonder if the latter's overall conception was seriously impaired in MFL's case, did he rate any brilliantly-belated kudos for shepherding "1776" onto the screen? Those two would spawn a thousand Ph.D (Piled High and Deeper) theses' just comparing the two, no?).




Tied with Kubrick as my least-favorite director. I'm pretty sure I don't like a single film by Cukor.

Other than his allowing his director to butcher the film and casting Blythe Danner, he scores points with me. He scores the most points for THE MUSIC MAN, which is cinematic perfection; and about a trillion times better than MY FAIR LADY.

 
 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:37 PM   
 By:   Gordon Reeves   (Member)

Yep-per, we're QUITE aware the Cukor train shall ne'er be on-track where either of us are concerned, PhillyPally, sooooooo we shan't Even touch that subject even if we were out way past Pluto!wink

(Then again, we kinda figger yer one of those hombres like Gable who're glad he got bounced from GWTW!!!) big grin

We'll haveta give TMM a look-see, tho ...

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:41 PM   
 By:   PhiladelphiaSon   (Member)

Yep-per, we're QUITE aware the Cukor train shall ne'er be on-track where either of us are concerned, PhillyPally, sooooooo we shan't Even touch that subject even if we were out way past Pluto!wink

(Then again, we kinda figger yer one of those hombres like Gable who're glad he got bounced from GWTW!!!) big grin

We'll haveta give TMM a look-see, tho ...


Wait...are we to assume you've never seen THE MUSIC MAN?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! "What in hell are you waiting for?!"

 
 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 12:58 PM   
 By:   Gordon Reeves   (Member)



"Assume away!!!" wink

eek

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 1:07 PM   
 By:   Eric Paddon   (Member)

I detested the original Aldonza. Hated her voice, so for me, Loren was an improvement, and I believed her, in the role.

I can only go by the cast album and the London cast album (which is a near complete rendition of the play itself) but I did think Joan Diener knew how to do the proper vocal range of the character and make the character believable based on that. If Loren can't do "What Does He Want Of Me?" then she's woefully deficient in the part on that basis alone.

Perhaps I'd share your view of MFL as a movie had I seen one of the earlier stage productions, but both were before my time and the film is what introduced me to the material and made me realize how the material is terrific. Even if I had, I'm not altogether sure that not taking advantage of cinematic opportunities for "opening up" would have made me come down hard on the film, because I'm the type who can get more sideways if a number is cut or reorchestrated to bad effect or poorly cast. Just my own subjective standard there.


 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 2:50 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

The “energy” of Rex’s Higgins is also bogus — so rehearsed as to be minus any spontaneity. As with Rosalind’s “Auntie Mame,” every line, every inflection, intonation, wave of an arm, adjustment of hair or coat, every raised eyebrow are fixed for posterity; it’s not acting, it’s mechanics.

One might say that this comment is so rehearsed -- and oft-repeated? -- as to be minus the power to convince me. Nevertheless it is his opinion, and I respect it.

I strongly disagree with you, though, Ralph. Both Russell's and Harrison's "acting performances" are superb. I'd also point out that EVERY performance by EVERY actor is "fixed for posterity", whether you like a mannerism, an arched eyebrow, a guttural growl, etc., etc.

"My Fair Lady" is not, by any stretch, one of my favorite musical films. A critic for The Charlotte Observer put it best in his review by praising its production values but noting that it lacked something -- "excitement" -- and that seeing it was something like going to church. You knew you ought to go, but the sermon just wasn't "enough" to satisfy you.

I find "Auntie Mame", on the other hand, a pure delight because of Russell's broad interpretation of her larger-than-life character. The film sparkles and she is the primary reason.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 3:00 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)



"Assume away!!!" wink

eek


Seriously?

One of Hollywood's most astonishing "got-it-rights" and you never saw it?

What was it Gomer Pyle used to say? For shame, for shame!

 
 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 3:05 PM   
 By:   Lee S   (Member)

I was born too late to see the original stage production, so I cannot compare the movie to the play as a total experience. (As a matter of full disclosure, I will also state upfront that I love the movie.) Having listened to the three albums (Broadway, London, Soundtrack), I think Rex Harrison sounds far more natural and less "rehearsed" in the movie version. The stage recordings are still great, but he seems less at ease with relating to the music. By the time of the movie version, he had completely eliminated the singsongy quality from his soliloquies and turned them into pitch perfect (in more ways than one) monologues that fit the character even better.

 
 Posted:   May 16, 2013 - 3:10 PM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

I've commented in other threads about the futility of contrasting a joyous theatrical experience with a torturous movie experience because the movie did not match the play's emotional impact.

Musical film adaptations of Broadway musical plays are NOT Broadway musical plays. They are not "live". The actors are not reacting to the visceral feedback from the audience.

The theatrical experience is, and should remain, unique (pro OR con).

The movie experience should be judged on its own merits (not by the way a story was experienced on Broadway) and whether or not a person was entertained by the film.

 
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