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My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady the Fairest of Restorations

Wouldn't it be "loverly" to see Lerner and Loewe's classic retelling of George Bernard Shaw's "Pygmalian" transferred to DVD in its original cinematic glory? Well, "Just You Wait" until you see the job Warner Brothers did!

Seriously, this is actually a fairly straightforward transfer of the film as it was restored for a 1994 theatrical reissue. It's extremely satisfying.

My Fair Lady tells the tale of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who becomes the subject of a bet between pompous "phoeneticist" Professor 'Enry 'Iggins (Rex Harrison's Oscar-winning recreation of his stage role) and fellow linguist Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White). The bet: to transform Liza's ugly duckling into a swan fit to mingle with the upper crust of society.

Along the way, Liza (a loverly performance by Audrey Hepburn) who's treated like dirt by the haughty Higgins, blossoms like one of the flowers she used to sell, eventually falling in love with the hard-driving - and oblivious - professor.

For his part, Higgins considers Liza as merely a bet, a project, until late in the film when the transformed and confident Liza leaves him to his books and recordings - and he discovers to his chagrin that he's "Become accustomed to her face." This is about as close to a declaration of love this "ordinary man" who refuses to let a woman in his life can make, but it turns out to be enough. In an ending guaranteed to have feminists picketing the video store, Liza returns to Higgins who, in "gratitude," orders her to get him his slippers.

Okay, so this is a period piece...

My Fair Lady won eight Academy Awards in 1964, including Best Picture and Best Director, and it probably deserved most of them - though I'd have picked Mary Poppins as Best Picture if I'd been asked.

My Fair Lady is lavish and lush in the best Hollywood tradition, with a terrific cast and great songs.

The widescreen DVD looks great, and the colors are simply marvelous. It's a new high definition transfer of the restored film, and it shows.

Audio has been remixed into 5.1 Dolby Digital, and it sounds very good for a forty year old analog recording, though we thought the volume a tad low. Still, this is a great presentation!

And now that it's a two disc Special Edition, you get plenty of extras.

Disc One includes the movie and a commentary track featuring art director Gene Allen, singer Marni Nixon (who dubbed Hepburn's singing), and restorers Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz.

Disc two kicks off with a wonderful documentary on My Fair Lady, from its birth as a Lerner and Lowe stage musical right through the painstaking digital restoration process the film received. You'll be amazed at how they've given new life to what was a badly deteriorated film.

There's also a fascinating duo of songs ("Wouldn't it be Loverly" and "Show Me") that feature Audrey Hepburn's un-redubbed voice. This section left us in a real quandary: while Nixon's voice is clearly superior (she used to "dubble" for a variety of "non-singing" stars - including Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and Deborah Kerr in "The King and I"), Hepburn does a pretty credible job on her own and I would have loved to see the whole film with her voice untouched.

Still, producer Jack Warner had his reasons and far be it for me to paint a moustache on the Mona Lisa..

Other DVD extras include featurettes and footage giving "behind the scenes" look. And there are galleries of production stills, sketches, posters and the like.

With a little bit of luck, you'll enjoy it, too.

My Fair Lady, from Warner Brothers Home Video
173 minutes, widescreeen (2.35:1, enhanced for widescreen TV's)
starring Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Wilfred Hyde-White, Stanley Holloway, Jeremy Brett
Screenplay by Alan Jay Lerner, based on his and Frederick Loewe's musical, which is based on Pygmalion by G. Bernard Shaw
Produced by Jack L. Warner, Directed by George Cukor


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Updated May 13, 2006