Happy 30th Anniversary, The Fair Lady.It was such a treat to watch the newly restored collector’s edition on video. Every once in a while a film just clicks, and 30 years after it first came out this one is still a ”10.” Harry Stradler’s camera work is incredible — very stylish with a surprisingly modern feeling. The movie has a lot of energy, unforgettable songs — I was humming ”I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” while I was gardening recently — and characters that are absolutely wonderful.
Even as a poor flower seller, Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle is full of life and dignity. When Henry Higgins finally escorts her to the ball, she’s so regal it’s hard to believe she wasn’t born to royalty. And Rex Harrison is adorable. His Henry Higgins is the one I really love. Even when he’s at his worst, his honesty is refreshing. He’s very much like my husband, John — intense, wise, experienced, with an honesty that’s ridiculous.
It’s just so funny to watch Eliza and Henry get together. They come from opposite ends of the spectrum and can’t admit their love for each other. I can relate to that. I met John on the set of a movie I did for him called Once Upon a Time, and suddenly we found ourselves living together. The beginning of our relationship was very difficult. I can remember times when we didn’t even like each other, and I felt a lot of the same frustrations Eliza does when she sings ”Just You Wait.” But it was as if unknown forces kept us together. At the same time, I also felt he was like oxygen to me. Twenty years later, we’re still having fun.
<p. The press has always compared John and me to Henry and Eliza. They’ve painted John as this Pygmalion character, and in response, John named his company Svengali Inc. The joke is, if you look at the logo, he’s the puppet and I’m the puppeteer.
In the movie, too, the teacher-student relationship is just a facade for an unlikely romance. Yet despite appearances to the contrary, Higgins is the one who changes, not Eliza. That’s what makes the story so fascinating. In my relationship with John, it’s hard to say whether one of us has changed the other. I have no illusions of being the great love of John’s life. I’m one of three; the others were Linda Evans and Ursula Andress. As for his influence on me, I was only 16 when I met John. I wasn’t anything, I hadn’t yet decided who I was going to be. But John would sooner leave me out in the cold before he would make those decisions for me. He could never be interested in a totally dependent woman. Linda quit The Big Valley and stopped working for several years when she was with him, because John would rather have his wife at home. But I want to work, and if the opportunity comes up, I take it. I think My Fair Lady has held up even in this age of feminism because Eliza definitely has a mind of her own, and although she changes her language and style of dress to suit Professor Higgins, she never loses sight of who she is inside.
I love when Eliza sings in ”Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” about wanting warm feet and a room somewhere. Because her desires are so simple, Higgins is able to tempt her with chocolate as a pledge of faith. It’s so sweet. Chocolate would never work with me. Perhaps a pretty horse would. A+