An arrogant phonetics professor takes a bet that he can
make a cockney flower girl presentable to high society.
My Fair Lady (1964)
Directed by George Cukor
Written by Alan Jay Lerner
Starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper, Jeremy Brett
Based on the stage play by Alan Jay Lerner
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Actor (Rex Harrison), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Adapted Score (André Previn)
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (Stanley Holloway), Best Supporting Actress (Gladys Cooper), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing
My Fair Lady is a surprisingly hilarious musical that still holds up today thanks to the fantastic chemistry and performances from Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Though it should've been Julie Andrews in the lead role (as she had played Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway production), Hepburn does a great job and Andrews had the last laugh by winning Best Actress for Mary Poppins that same year. But really this is a film about how we perceive and treat our inferiors, and what that says about us as people. And while Professor Henry Higgins (Harrison) is a funny, sarcastic protagonist, he's also a bit of a bastard.
Higgins is a phonetics professor, and is very persnickety about how the English language is used. When he overhears flower girl Eliza Doolittle (Hepburn) speaking in a messy, cockney accent, he insults the poor girl relentlessly and claims that, given enough time, he could transform her dialect and pass her off as a high society girl. Eliza, anxious to get off the streets and into a respectable job, decides to take Higgins up on the offer. What follows is a difficult road where Higgins aggressively transforms Eliza into a new woman. But along the way, Eliza begins to think for herself and realizes her own worth as a human being. And Higgins begins to realize that what he's really created is the only person he's ever cared for. It's a touching story that has just the right kind of dry, witty humor that I adore.
While I don't think this should've taken Best Picture at the 1965 Oscars (I think Mary Poppins and Dr. Strangelove are vastly superior films), My Fair Lady is a fun watch that doesn't abuse its intimidating runtime, and tells exactly the amount of musical story that it needs to. Harrison and Hepburn are great together, with the former playing the perfect sarcastic but lovable dick that we don't get to see very much in movies from this era.