My Fair Lady by Diane Gaston

This Saturday I caught My Fair Lady on TMC.

My first introduction to My Fair Lady was from a record (those vinyl things that look like an oversize DVD ). The local grocery store ran a special on show tunes, each week an album of a different musical. My sisters and I played the My Fair Lady record, as well as the others, over and over until the words were embedded in our memories. Of all the show tunes, though, My Fair Lady was my favorite.

Shortly after, the play came to the National Theater in Washington, DC, and my sisters and I were allowed to take the bus all-by-ourselves into the city. I remember the adventure of this solo journey more than I remember seeing the play, even though it was my first experience of going to a “real” play.

I wish I could have loved the movie of My Fair Lady, but I never have. It never matched what my imagination created for My Fair Lady when I listened to our soundtrack from the grocery store. The performances are marvelous, especially Rex Harrison and Stanley Holloway; however, I never thought Audrey Hepburn (who I love in her other movies) was the right Eliza. (Julie Andrews, who created the role of Eliza on Broadway, ought to have had the part)

My favorite character was Freddie (played by Jeremy Brett), who I felt had the best song, On the Street Where She Lives. I thought he was so romantic, just wanting to be on Eliza’s street, ready to do her bidding. He still was the most handsome fellow in the movie.

The story is, of course, set in Edwardian times, a beautiful fashion period, like the Regency, and a time, like the Regency, where class differences were noteworthy. Watching the movie, I realized the set rather imprinted on me what a London street ought to look like. There were lots of white buildings and wrought iron. When I went to Covent Garden, I think I expected Eliza Doolittle’s Covent Garden. In any event, I loved the movie set. I loved how the set looked when Freddie walked down the street where Eliza lived. That felt like London to me.

After watching the movie, I just have to believe that My Fair Lady was one early experience that fostered my love of England and, ultimately, of the Regency.

What early experiences led you to love the Regency?

There’s a touring company performing My Fair Lady. It is coming to The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC this December and maybe to a city near you.

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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14 years ago

I remember the adults (parents, aunts, uncles, cousins) in my extended family listening over and over again to that record. But what I remember most is my horror at discovering that the last line of the play (although my memory may be playing tricks here) is when Eliza returns and Professor Higgins says “Eliza, fetch me my slippers”. Even at that tender age I didn’t find that romantic (I imagined that next he’d tell her to sit up and beg or roll over so he could scratch her tummy). I liked Shaw’s ending to “Pygmalion” better — and when I saw the movie thought that Eliza got the better deal in Shaw’s original play if Freddy did indeed look like young Jeremy Brett rather than the old and rumpled Higgins.

14 years ago

Books. I’d have to say books led me to my love of the Regency. Seeing P&P; however, clinched it for me.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I love musicals! Some favorites are “1776” and “Camelot,” though really I like almost any.

I’m actually headed down to Dallas this afternoon to see a film costume exhibit that includes two replicas of gowns from the film version of My Fair Lady. The Ascot gown and hat, and the Embassy Ball gown (the originals are missing). I can’t wait!

Cara King
14 years ago

Diane, my image of London street was also shaped by My Fair Lady, and by the musical Oliver. (The bits when he’s in the nice house, not the thieves’ den!) 🙂

I love musicals, too… It was one more way as a kid I wasn’t like the other kids…they’d listen to rock bands, and I’d listen to Man of La Mancha and Sound of Music.

As for early experiences that led me to love the Regency…my first step was loving the England and London of children’s books (via E Nesbit, Joan Aiken, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Noel Streatfeild, etc) and musicals (My Fair Lady, Oliver, Camelot). Then I read Pride and Prejudice…and eventually more Austen, and Heyer. Austen and Heyer together was the one-two punch, and I was a goner. 🙂

Susan/DC wrote:
what I remember most is my horror at discovering that the last line of the play

I actually remember quite clearly that I was watching My Fair Lady on TV with my family, and my mom went on to explain the ending to me — that it was sort of an in-joke between Higgins and Eliza, and meant he loved her — see how she smiles! — so, luckily, I wasn’t as let down as you were. 🙂

Have fun at the exhibit Amanda! Sounds wonderful!!!


Diane Gaston
14 years ago

susan/dc, I never quite got the romance in My Fair Lady and Higgins’ last line made me wonder why she didn’t go for the handsome Freddie, who was so smitten with her.

I loved Camelot. Oh I thought that was so romantically tragic.

Amanda, I wish I could go to that exhibit with you. The costumes in My Fair Lady were beautiful, especially Eliza’s ball gown. And Audrey Hepburn did wear clothes so well.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

My first major role as a professional actress out of college was as Eliza in a production of Shaw’s Pymalion. I had a wonderful time playing Shaw’s Eliza, but my director who was terribly young (23 to my 28) tried to direct Higgins to strip Eliza of her clothes when she arrives back at his house in front of Colonel Pickering. When I complained that it wouldn’t have been proper for a man of Higgin’s class to do that even to a guttersnipe like Eliza, he declared “Don’t get all historical on me Elizabeth!”

Christine Wells
14 years ago

Diane, I love anything with Audrey Hepburn in it, and Rex Harrison was superb as Henry Higgins! I agree, though, the ending left a little to be desired:)

I was about 7 years old when I first saw My Fair Lady. I loved the Cinderella quality of the story and the humour of it. And yes, I think it probably contributed to my love of English historicals, though I’d have to say Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer made the most impact on me. Thanks for a lovely trip down Memory Lane, Diane!

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I’d love to give some kind of impressive intellectual reason for getting interested in the Regency, but I’d be lying. You see, when I was in high school, I outgrew teen romances (though I still loved the Sunfire historical YA romances), but if I brought home a regular historical romance with one of those 80’s bodice ripper covers, I’d get lectures. My mom never forbade me to read anything, but she could moralize to such a degree that it was no longer fun to read a book or watch a show she disapproved of. (I love my mother, but she is a VERY strict old-school Baptist.)

So I brought home traditional Regencies. I got my grown-up love stories, sometimes with a touch of sexiness, and I got to read them in peace. (I did occasionally hide books from her, and I also discovered innocently packaged but hot books like THE VALLEY OF HORSES, too.) Eventually I became interested in the era in its own right, but at first it was about getting to read romance in peace.

Even my current interest in the Napoleonic Wars isn’t as intellectual as I’d like it to sound. Basically, I came home from Fellowship of the Ring, asked online friends what else the amazingly hot Boromir actor was in, and got pointed at the Sharpe movies. Which, in between my appreciation of Sean Bean, reminded me that I’d always liked Regencies with a strong military component, and gradually led to me researching military history and reading Cornwell and O’Brian.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

“Don’t get all historical on me Elizabeth!”

Priceless, Elizabeth. I’ll have to remember that phrase.

My love of Regency certainly did not come about from any intellectual endeavor, I assure you all.

Tracy Grant
14 years ago

I love musicals, and my fa mily went to a lot (on stage and movies) when I was growing up. We also had a lot of reconrds. I think my introduction to “My Fair Lady’ was the record as well, followed by the movie on tv (and I think in a theater as a revival) and then the stage show. When I was taking voice in high school, I worked on “I Could Have Danced All Night”. I defintiely am not a great singer, but I did okay with that song, and it was surprisingly easy to sing it with an English accent.

“My Fair Lady” defintiely contributed to my fascination with Britain, but my love the Regency really start with the Olivier/Garson “Pride & Prejudice” when I was six. Yes, I know the costumes are all wrong, but I loved the story and then my mom read me the book and then we read the rest of Austen and I moved on to Heyer and then other Regnecy-set stories.

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

You had at the title, Diane. My Fair Lady is one of my top three fav movies of all time. I love, love, love Audrey. My first fav song was “I could’ve danced all night,” but my latest fav is “.”

I like Freddie’s character far more in Shaw’s play Pygmalion. I felt the movie character had simply no teeth.

I’d take irascible, egoistical, illogical Henry Higgins any day over Freddie. Rex Harrison was PERFECT!

And that library? To lust for!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

But that song of Freddie’s was so romantic, Keira. It has to be one of my favorite songs of all time.

14 years ago

I LOVE My Fair Lady! It is just a lovely musical creation. And I have to agree with Keira – that library is amazing and what about Mother’s conservatory? Musicals like Oliver and My Fair Lady probably had a lot to do with my early love of all things British. But I would have to say the three years I lived in a small English village as a child had the most to do with it. I saw my first stirrup cup for a fox hunt in that village. I got up at dawn and helped to saddle the horses (I was 9, horse crazy, and had a job at the local squire’s racing stables.)and then they all met at the pub and had their stirrup cup before dashing off to the hounds. Most of the ladies rode sidesaddle. It was just so cool to see. The village was just this postcard of rural England with all of these neat characters. Then I started reading Georgette Heyer when I was @12 and the rest, so to speak, is history!

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

If I had to do my life again, I’d like to be DogLady.

Diane, I agree with you about Freddie’s song. It’s tres romantic. But his character doesn’t have teeth.

14 years ago

I’ve loved musicals for a long time, but I didn’t see either the film or the live version of My Fair Lady until I was an adult. I do remember that we owned the record of it, back in the days of vinyl, but I don’t remember listening to it very often. The musicals I most remember from the early days are Jesus Christ, Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Godspell. (Hmm. Detecting a bit of a theme there.)

I’ve also acted in a few musicals over the years–my favorite role was Mordred in Camelot. In part because a) he is totally evil, which is so much fun, and b) it was written for an actor whose singing was even worse than mine.

I got into English things through reading English literature and reading English history. For a while my two favorite historical periods and places were Victorian England and Medieval Japan. But after meeting Cara, I quickly became obsessed with the Regency (and more broadly, Georgian England).


14 years ago

Well, I’m familiar with My Fair Lady, but I never saw it, heard it. Yeah, I don’t get around. LOL

I was introduced to the Regency period purely through the romances I picked up. My first couple books were contemporaries. . . then I picked up my first couple historicals. But somewhere after that I discovered there were differences between some of those books set in England that I was reading. . . even before I really knew what I was doing, I realized I was gravitating towards the ones I discovered were Regencies.

Today, I’m really thankful that I didn’t read Jane Austen in school, I probably still wouldn’t have picked up hers today. LOL I still can’t get myself to rereading Wuthering Heights and Tale of Two Cities. 🙂 Maybe one of these days. 🙂


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Acting in musicals… My favorite bit part has to be gypsy bellydancer in Man of La Mancha.

Cara King
14 years ago

My favorite bit part has to be gypsy bellydancer in Man of La Mancha.

Ooh, I love Man of La Mancha! When I was eleven that was my favorite musical in the whole world…

BTW, I was a major list-maker when I was a kid. You know, “my fifteen favorite authors.” (Ten wasn’t enough). “Another fifteen really really great authors.”

I do recall one point, as a teenager, when my five favorite musicals were Man of La Mancha, Oliver, Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and Annie. But then I had to keep changing it — adding in Evita, and Music Man, and My Fair Lady, and Camelot… I guess I really should have made that list fifteen long as well!

BTW, I too totally love the song “On the Street Where You Live.” There’s someone unusual in the melody, I think, as well as amazingly beautiful, that really makes it stand out…

Oh, man. Now I have to go make a list of my current fifteen favorite musicals. Curses on you, Diane! 🙂


Cara King
14 years ago

Okay, here’s the list of what may be my current fifteen favorite musicals, in no particular order:

A Little Night Music
By Jeeves
Fiddler on the Roof
Flora the Red Menace
Man of La Mancha
Me And My Girl (the Fry version)
Music Man
My Fair Lady
Phantom of the Opera
Singin in the Rain
Sound of Music

There. Now you all know how “base, common and popular” I am! 🙂 Sometimes I wish I were the sort of person who preferred brie and “A Civil Contract” and “Anyone Can Whistle,” but I’m not…

I cannot tell a lie. I like Taco Bell.

Cara (who knows Megan will never want to talk to her now)

14 years ago

Cara wrote:

I cannot tell a lie. I like Taco Bell.

It wasn’t really her fault, though…there was this insane, talking chihuahua, who accosted her and forced her to eat it. (Er, forced her to eat Taco Bell, not himself…to my knowledge she has never eaten a chihuahua…)

Yo Quiero!


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

Ah yes, Fiddler on the Roof. Loved, loved Tevya. Every one of his songs and struggles are written on his face. Stellar acting.