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Tuesday June 10, 2008 5:34 pm

My Fair Lady: One Remake Over the Line?




Posted by K.C. Morgan Categories: Adaptation, Musicals, Casting,

Audrey Hepburn - Eliza Doolittle

There is a certain merit in re-introducing young generations to the classics, in keeping with the times and re-inventing the old to make it seem young and fresh again. But at some point, some where, is there a line which can be crossed? Are some things not already so perfect, so pristine and so well-done that they manage to stand the test of time? Aren’t there some things which no one could possibly ever re-create? It’s true the Sistine Chapel has looked the exact same way since 1512…yet no one could really consider re-vamping this most famous ceiling so that it has a much more modern appeal. Buckingham Palace famously houses a queen, and yet no major changes have been made to this edifice in her entire eighty-two year lifespan. Some things are made to stand alone. Just don’t try telling that to Hollywood…or lazy scriptwriters.

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Variety

The summer so far has been rife with remakes, with adaptations, with very long-awaited . Many are jumping on the current “everything old is new again” bandwagon. Right now, everything once scripted is now considered fair game. And I’m fairly unhappy about it all. Or at least, I was. Now, I’m completely and utterly infuriated. As far as Hollywood remakes go, Tinseltown just stepped one movie over the line with their lavish plans to remake one of the most acclaimed, best loved and well-known musicals of all time: My Fair Lady.

My Lady Lady image

The 1964 film, an adaptation of the play Pygmalion, was (at its time) the grandest and most lavish musical ever made. The stunning sets, the glittering costumes and the famous score have since become the stuff of cinematic legend - one of those musicals that somehow managed to transcend its own genre and become a truly classic masterpiece on film - so much more than just a musical flick. Starring the charismatic and the unforgettable Rex Harrison, under the direction of George Cukor, My Fair Lady swept the ‘64 Oscars and remains - to this day - one of the most popular and beloved films of all time.

My Fair Lady won for Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Score, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design. Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle was famously snubbed by the Academy, not even receiving so much as a nomination, though the critics soundly praised her performance. The popular choice for the role was Julie Andrews, who unlike Hepburn had the pipes to perform every aspect of the role. Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar in 1964 for her work in another period piece, Mary Poppins. I don’t hear anybody talking about remaking that popular flick - but that’s probably because Disney has the script hidden away in one of their vaults.

Keira Knightley

If the remake news itself wasn’t bad enough, get ready for the casting gossip: reportedly, Keira Knightley has signed on to play Eliza Doolittle. As for Professor Henry Higgins, those behind the film really hope to snag reclusive method actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Neither of these actors (who have little to recommend them other than English accents and popular film careers) have ever starred or even appeared in a musical, or in fact any singing venue of any sort. Currently, talk of directors centers on three names: Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese or Roger Mitchell.

I have nothing personally against Miss Knightley, Mr. Lewis or any of the aforementioned celebrated directors. All have had long, award-winning careers and all have their own merit as stars of the screen and stage, be it in front of or behind the cameras (as the case may be). I have something personally against the idea - the very idea - of anyone re-creating a film version of My Fair Lady. Re-releasing it, sure. Digitally re-master the flick if you please. Let’s indeed bring the 1964 version back to theaters a la the first Star Wars trilogy. Let’s! But let’s not re-paint the Sistine Chapel cinematically. Let us not take a movie which is already perfect in costume, design, music, acting and singing and sully it up with a remake which can never, ever hope to capture the majesty and magic that was the original event.

Not all remakes are a good idea, no matter how much it may seem so in the original inception. Does anyone remember the horrifying debacle that was the Psycho remake? Hmmm? This frame-by-frame do-over of Hitchcock’s horror masterpiece was soundly abused by critics and theatergoers alike - but in fifty years, will some scriptwriter who can’t come up with their own idea again think that perhaps Psycho should be re-done? Quite possibly, it will happen. And quite surely, it will fail.

Some things, you just can’t ever re-create…no matter how much we might wish it were so. Some things are made to stand alone. My Fair Lady is just such a flick. And seriously, honestly, beseechingly - enough with the remakes already. The writers went on for months to prove their worth - and now, all we have to show for it is uninspired, unoriginal films. Let’s get something new.

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