Manolo says, it is Tuesday, time to see what the Manolo is…
The Manolo, who last evening engaged in the spirited round of Twittering with his internet friends about the topic of My Fair Lady, has gone back and reviewed the evidence. In doing so, he has reached the twin conclusions:
Conclusion the First: Eliza Doolittle is the prostitute.
This is the unspoken subtext of both the Broadway play and the movie, one, which acknowledged, even in passing, gives more depth and richness to the story.
What is the Manolo’s evidence for this seemingly heterodox idea? The vending of fruits or flowers in Covent Gardens was long considered the pretextual occupation of the prostitutes. The most famous of such ladies of ill repute was Nell Gwyn, the mistress of Charles II, who began her career as the Covent Garden seller of oranges.
There is other evidence, not the least of which is that the father of Eliza, Alfie Doolittle, attempts to sell his daughter to Professor Higgins for the few pounds, with the little bit of luck…
And there is much more, if only one looks.
The acknowledgment of Eliza Doolittle’s scarlet past deepens and explains her reluctance to return the love of Freddy. It is not her low birth which makes for the problematic match, for indeed, low birth can be ignored if love is true.
It is that Eliza herself knows that she cannot be with Freddy, ever, for that even if she were to love him in return, her previous occupation renders her untouchable. (Only the kings, such as Charles II, have the power to render this stain socially nugatory.) If Eliza loves Freddy, she must protect him from her past by rejecting him. There is no other way.
Conclusion the Second: Audrey Hepburn is most horribly miscast as the Eliza Doolittle.
Yes, she is the lovely-lovely girl, sylph-like and elegant, but she is not the credible street girl. When the Professor Higgins removes the costumery and the faux dirt, she is already unapproachably beautiful, incapable of being improved upon. Thus, Professor Higgin’s triumph of transformation is revealed as negligible, reduced to the mere diction lessons and dress fittings.
Worse, Audrey Hepburn is the uninteresting actress. Indeed, she is the xenon of actresses; the inert noble gas, unable to react with any other substance.
Witness the beginning of this scene…
Do any of the Manolo’s friends accept that Audrey Hepburn could ever, for the single second, be the “impudent hussy”?
And because she cannot convincingly play the impudent hussy, because she can only and always be Audrey Hepburn, the movie is poorer for it.
Who then should have been Eliza Doolittle?
Julie Andrews is the immediate reply, but even this, to the mind of the Manolo, is not completely satisfactory.
The role deserves someone more lively and exuberant, some who can be both the impudent hussy and the convincingly transformed high-society Eliza.
Debbie Reynolds? Mary Martin? The young Liza Minelli? The Manolo admits to being confounded.