Friday, March 4, 2011

'MY FAIR LADY"


It's a perfect movie. A non-stop feast for the eyes and ears, and a story that gets me, involves me -- I never lose interest -- not for a second, in what is going to happen her and to him.

I think the perfection was Alan Jay Lerner's doing.

I'll use "AJL" for Alan -- so this post won't seem like a gossip column.

I knew AJL -- we knew him -- we got to know him during the musical "Camelot." AJL liked JC's looks, his acting and singing. Even back then, AJL was very much under the influence of Max Jacobson, "Dr. Max," who took care of many celebrities, jet-setters back in the sixties. Dr. Max gave them customized concoctions of amphetamines. And we were IN that world, on the outskirts, partly because we were not on amphetamines.

The turning point in actor John Cullum's life was when he was on the stage every night in "On a Clear Day," attempting to sustain his own brilliant, "off the top of his head" first performance.

John Cullum learned the starring role after less than a week of secret rehearsals. (Louis Jordan had not been told he was "fired.") When we arrived in Boston we were ushered into AJL's suite. His clothes were in the closets and drawers; his medications were on the night tables -- empty injection bottles and syringes.

A small bit of behind the scenes info: AJL was staying on his boat with his latest girl friend Karen. We'd met her. She was there to interview him but ended up as his wife number five, of eight. AJL himself said marrying his lady friends was his way of saying goodbye.

The layers of information here and the basis for my admiration of what AJL did with the "My Fair Lady" film is based on me personally, first-hand, actually knowing what I'm talking about. There are many wild, unruly memories of "sophisticated" get-togethers, social as well as professional, with AJL, (and I was already sophisticated from being the wife of a gorgeous-looking leading man).

The film's director, George Cukor, was an experienced, established, excellent director, and with Hermes Pan (an amazing choreographer), Cecil Beaton's sets and costumes, Fritz Loew's music, musical director Andrew Previn and the lighting, editing, and yes, yes! -- with the perfect eye, perfect views given to us by the director of photography. -- with all these people, perfection was created.

Of course, part of it was the remarkable, seamlessness, the excellence off Marni Nixon's vocals, and how Audrey Hepburn, with her amazing talents, perfectly lip-synced so that even though I knew it wasn't Hepburn's voice, it felt as if it were her singing, speaking, acting, the wonderful words, the lyrics, the libretto, the screenplay that AJL wrote.. She was astonishingly good -- believable, sympathetic -- fascinating as Eliza.

And Rex Harrison -- I could write a page on the spontaneous responses -- his acting of the Henry Higgins character. Harrison insisted that his songs not be pre-recorded. What you see in this film is an actual performance.

And on down the cast list -- I have praises, applause, bravos for Colonel Pickering, Higgins' mother, Eliza's father, even the house maids -- it was perfect casting -- all them were wonderfully staged by the collaborating directors, and AJL. I feel his eye was everywhere.

Was it money that brought this film and the artists involved in creating it together? Oh sure, a lot of money was involved, but AJL had plenty of money that he earned, aside from what he had as part to the wealthy Lerner family.

AJL was not a June-moon-spoon poet. Every idea, every word, everything he did was felt out and thought out.

I think. THIS film was the moment in AJL-the-artist's life, when all that he knew, everything that he was, was at his fingertips -- within him, and therefore was his power, this power enabled him to bring it all together.

Yes, he was quirky. . I didn't like the white gloves AJL wore, but it had to do with his fingernails that he'd bitten to the quick. (He was trying to break himself of the habit.) I didn't like Max Jacobson vials, and needles, and knew it wasn't good for AJL (and all the other people in the casts and crews of his other projects).

"Gigi" was a brilliant film. "Camelot," on film, was for me somewhat disappointing, but on stage, because of Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Roddy McDowall, it was brilliant.

Even so, "My Fair Lady" was, it is the best film I've ever seen. (I read this aloud to JC, and he paused. He shook his head. He didn't like the last sentence.)

I've modified it. Because of who I am and how I've evolved, it is the best film I've ever seen.

2 comments:

Carola said...

I agree. Both film and theatre version are truly great.

Linda Phillips said...

I love all of this inside stuff. I saw Camelot twice. The second time was Burton's final matinee. I was madly in love with Burton and HAD to see him one final time.

I saw My Fair Lady a few months after it opened and again years later when Marni Nixon finally got to play Eliza at City Center.

As a kid in drama camp, I played the aunt, in the non musical of Gigi.

I love the movie version of My Fair Lady and to some extent Gigi, but I hated the movie version of Camelot. It just lost all of it's magic and I never understood why they did not cast Burton, Andrews and all of the other stage performers. They were so far superior to the cast they used for the movie.

Thanks for the inside scoop on the AJL story. Very interesting. I can only imagine the parts that you left out.

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