My Fair Lady

Year: 1964

Studio: Warner Brothers

Screenplay: Alan Jay Lerner
(based on the play, "Pygmalion," by George Bernard Shaw)

Director: George Cukor


Brief Synopsis:

"My Fair Lady," based on George Bernard Shaw's play, "Pygmalion," is the story of how a professor of the English language, Henry Higgins, transforms Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower seller, into a proper English lady. The story begins with Higgins making a bet with a colleague that he can teach "proper English" and society manners to the "lowly" Eliza. Higgins succeeds and, in the process, discovers that he needs Eliza.

"My Fair Lady" won eight Academy Awards, including the awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor.

Detailed Synopsis:

Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), an English linguist, is standing outside a theater when he hears and is fascinated by the sounds of Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a poor, illiterate young Cockney woman. Higgins, speaking to a colleague, Colonel Pickering, complains about Eliza's destruction of the English language and tells Pickering that within a few months he could transform Eliza into a "proper" lady by teaching her to speak English correctly. Eliza is greatly insulted by Higgins' comments but the next day she visits him, offering to pay for English lessons.

Higgins agrees to help Eliza but only if she will put herself completely in his control. She agrees and moves into Higgins' home.

Higgins forces Eliza to do vocal exercises all day and he doesn't relent with his demands even when Pickering tells him to be more humane. Eliza's only rewards are chocolate treats from Higgins when she "performs" well.

Eventually, Higgins feels Eliza is ready to be tested so he takes her to the races. Higgins and Eliza manage to fool the other socialites at the races until the end of the race when Eliza, excited by the event, blurts out an expletive in reaction to the outcome of the race.

Afterwards, Higgins continues his harsh treatment of Eliza, hoping to prepare her for her next social event, an elegant ball. The night of the festivity arrives and Eliza looks and sounds like an English princess. Everyone is impressed and enchanted with Eliza except for an Hungarian linguist who had once studied with Higgins. He is certain Eliza is an imposter and he is determined to discover the truth about her background. Higgins, smug with his accomplishments with Eliza, leaves the Hungarian alone with her.

After Higgins and Eliza return home, Pickering and Higgins discuss Eliza's "performance," excluding her completely from the conversation. Higgins tells Pickering that the Hungarian, after examining Eliza, announced that he was certain that she was Hungarian royalty. Pickering and Higgins laugh over the situation and celebrate Higgins' success, totally forgetting that Eliza is in the room. Hurt and feeling used and alone, Eliza leaves Higgins and only then does he realize that he needs her.

Higgins goes after Eliza and asks her to return to him. She does but Higgins' behavior towards her remains essentially unchanged.