Song of the Day #4,445: ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?’ – Audrey Hepburn

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#9. My Fair Lady – 1964
(#8 on the AFI list)

My one memory from a childhood viewing of My Fair Lady is Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle, newly refined, slipping in to her former dialect at a horse race and shouting “Move yer bloomin’ arse!” to the horror of the upscale crowd around her.

That is indeed a standout moment in a movie that is filled with good humor, great songs, and delightful performances by the entire ensemble cast.

My Fair Lady started its life on Broadway as a Lerner and Loewe musical. Rex Harrison, who won a Tony for his performance of Professor Henry Higgins on stage, reprised his role for the film. Julie Andrews, Broadway’s Eliza Doolittle, was turned down for the film role because producer Jack Warner felt she wasn’t sufficiently well-known to movie audiences.

Audrey Hepburn was at the peak of her fame, and though she initially advocated for the casting of Andrews, she ultimately took the part. Producers weren’t happy with her singing, however, so they had Marni Nixon dub her vocals. Nixon was the busiest ghost singer in Hollywood. She also dubbed the vocals for Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music, just to name three movies on AFI’s Top 25.

I’m sure Andrews would have been marvelous in a screen adaptation of My Fair Lady, but it’s hard to argue with Hepburn’s wonderful performance. For the first half of the film, she barks out her Cockney accent and is so brazenly ill-mannered that you can barely recognize the elegant beauty of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Harrison, too, is a marvel. His songs are elaborate and hilarious, and he perfectly captures Higgins’ pomposity and arrogance while somehow making him at least a little bit likable.

My Fair Lady was an unqualified success, hailed by critics as a brilliant adaptation of the beloved stage musical, and a big draw for audiences. It was the second-highest grossing film of 1964.

The film that beat it? Mary Poppins. I guess Julie Andrews did have the chops for a major film career after all.

My Fair Lady was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. Harrison is another of the nine actors to win a Tony and Oscar for the same role (I mentioned Yul Brynner last week, and a third will show up in next week’s posts).

Hepburn didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, one of the Academy’s most infamous snubs. That year’s trophy went to, you guessed it, Julie Andrews.

All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air
With one enormous chair
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Lots of chocolate for me to eat
Lots of coal makin’ lots of heat
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Oh, so lovely sittin’
Abso-bloomin’-lutely still
I would never budge till spring
Crept over me window sill

Someone’s head restin’ on my knee
Warm and tender as he can be
Who takes good care of me
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?
Loverly, loverly, loverly, loverly

(All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air
With one enormous chair)
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Lots of chocolate for me to eat
Lots of coal makin’ lots of heat
Warm face, warm hands, warm feet
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?

Oh, so lovely sittin’
Abso-bloomin’-lutely still
I would never budge till spring
Crept over me window sill

(Someone’s head restin’ on my knee
Warm and tender as she can be)
Who takes good care of me
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly
Loverly, loverly, loverly?

Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?
Loverly, loverly, loverly
Wouldn’t it be loverly?

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,445: ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?’ – Audrey Hepburn

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I must confess that, to the best of my knowledge and memory, I’ve never seen My Fair Lady either as a show or movie. Clearly a blind spot I should correct one of these days.

  2. Amy says:

    Oh how I love this film! Do you remember seeing Rex Harrison perform this part live in a touring production of the show? It’s one of my earliest memories of going to the theater, but you may have been too young to remember it. Needless to say, he was amazing! I disagree that he’s a little bit likable. I find him extremely so. 🙂 This is also a first-rate adaptation of Pygmalion, with some of the lines almost verbatim. Not only is the movie a delight, but the satire is sharp. One of my absolute favorites.

  3. Peg says:

    I love this movie. As I’ve mentioned before Audrey Hepburn was my favorite actress of all times so I was delighted to see her in this part. You were very young Clay when we saw this on stage and Im glad Amy has fond memories of Rex Harrison’s Henry Higgens. I would have put this one closer to the number one spot.

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