Tuesday, March 03, 2009

My Fair Lady?

Columbia Pictures has entered into an agreement with CBS Films to create a new motion picture of the Lerner and Loewe classic musical "My Fair Lady," to be produced by Duncan Kenworthy and Cameron Mackintosh, it was announced today by Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, presidents of Columbia Pictures. CBS Films will be actively involved in the development of the new film. Keira Knightley is reportedly in talks to star.
I really enjoy My Fair Lady. So what will distinguish this remake. (In other words, "For the love of God, WHY?")
The new film will use the original songs of the much-loved Broadway show, and will not alter its 1912 setting, but Kenworthy and Mackintosh intend where possible to shoot the film on location in the original London settings of Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Tottenham Court Road, Wimpole Street, and Ascot racecourse. The filmmaking team will also look to adapt Alan Jay Lerner's book more fully for the screen by drawing additional material from Pygmalion - - George Bernard Shaw's play that served as the source material for the musical -- in order to dramatize as believably as possible for present-day audiences the emotional highs and lows of Eliza Doolittle as she undergoes the ultimate makeover, transforming under the tutelage of Professor Henry Higgins from a Cockney flower girl to a lady.

Kenworthy said, "When George Cukor shot his wonderful film entirely on sets inside Warner's Burbank soundstages, Lerner and Loewe's smash hit musical had been running on Broadway for seven years, and the film was appropriately reverential and inevitably theatrical. With forty years of hindsight, we're confident that by setting these wonderful characters and brilliant songs in a more realistic context, and by exploring Eliza's emotional journey more fully, we will honor both Shaw and Lerner at the same time as engaging and entertaining contemporary audiences the world over. The casting of Eliza is crucial, and we are currently in discussion with a major international star to play the role."
Some thoughts:
  • So they are keeping the wonderful music and setting.
  • They are changing the show's book.
  • Bringing a more realistic viewpoint to the story isn't a negative.
  • Bringing more of the Shavian sensibility, more of a Pygmalion take on the musical's book is welcome.*
  • While I have nothing against Ms Knightley, I am unaware of her singing ability. 
  • What I hear on the soundtrack album for The Edge of Love, does nothing to reassure me.
  • Then again, Audry Hepburn's singing was overdubbed by Marni Nixon.
While I look forward to this production with mixed feelings, I'll most likely pay full price to see this movie.

In the words of Erika Olson: "If Never Let Me Go also ends up being a dismal failure, Knightley should be just fine as she's already working on a return to form, of sorts.  She's the frontrunner for the lead in the remake of My Fair Lady. And you know what that means... more corsets!"

* Shaw wrote an epilogue to the play in which he left no doubt that Liza wisely married the penniless Freddy, not Henry. She has no romantic notions left by the end of her tenure at the Higgens residence.

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