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.