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Film / My Fair Lady

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"You see, Mrs. Higgins, apart from the things one can pick up, the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins, because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will. But I know I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering, because he always treats me as a lady and always will."
Eliza Doolittle

My Fair Lady is a 1964 Warner Bros. musical film adapted from the 1956 Broadway musical of the same name, directed by George Cukor and starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison (reprising his stage role) as Henry Higgins.

In Edwardian London, pompous phonetics professor Henry Higgins is so sure of his abilities that he takes it upon himself to transform a Cockney working-class girl into someone who can pass for a cultured member of high society. His subject turns out to be the lovely Covent Garden flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who agrees to take speech lessons to improve her job prospects. Higgins and Eliza clash, then form an unlikely bond — one that is threatened by an aristocratic suitor.


  • '60s Hair: Eliza, after her makeover, has her sporting a 1960s take on late Edwardian coiffures, especially at the Embassy Ball.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Not enough, really. One peculiarity about the film is how it uses the old stage directions, even the meta jokes that don't work in a movie setting. Instances of this include Higgins doing a short jig at the horse race — a Call-Back to "I Could Have Danced All Night" — but without the knowing laughter of a live audience, he merely looks like a lunatic. He also sets a teacup on his hat, a gesture which would be funny on-stage, but looks really odd in this context.
  • Alliterative Name: Henry Higgins. Eliza, a Cockney girl, struggles with dropping H's and calls him 'Enry 'Iggins.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Just You Wait" and "Without You".
  • Bait-and-Switch: Higgins and Pickering are too stuffed to finish the last cake tart. Not to worry, says Higgins; he knows somebody who loves these. He marches right past a famished Eliza to feed it to a mynah bird.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Higgins said this out loud, and Eliza certainly thought he meant it in the trope sense, too. He didn't.
  • The Bet: Eliza would not have been accepted as a scholar by Higgins if it wasn't for Colonel Pickering's bet.
  • Big Fancy House: Higgins' pad.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Enforced when Higgins asks Alfie point-blank how much he wants. Alfie insists on beating around the bush, seemingly on principle.
  • Blessed with Suck: Alfred's windfall is a double-edged sword, as he's now forced to enter into legal marriage with "Mrs." Doolittle. As if 'avin' to act like a bloomin' gentleman weren't enough already.
  • Bowdlerise: The name of the oily language expert was changed from Nepomuck to Zoltan Kaparthy, because St. John Nepomuck (as Shaw was well aware) was a Catholic saint and patron of the confessional.
  • Break the Haughty: Mrs. Higgins' favorite sport with her son, and delights in Eliza putting him in his place in front of her.
  • Brick Joke: Alfred inheriting a fortune from an American philanthropist upon Higgins sarcastic recommendation earlier on.
  • British Stuffiness / Dull Surprise: "The Ascot Gavotte." The English sure know how to party.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He may be lord of the manor, but Higgins' weirdness is very apparent in public.
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live without Them: Eliza and Henry, to each other.
  • Catchphrase: Pickering's "I'm dashed." Eventually lampshaded by Higgins:
    Higgins: Oh, Pickering, for God's sake stop being dashed and do something!
  • Con Man: Alfie.
  • Corporal Punishment: Alfred Doolittle recommends Higgins to give Eliza a few licks of the strap if she doesn't comply.
  • Costume Porn: Eliza's gorgeous dresses after her transformation.
  • Curse Cut Short: Freddy of all people does it during his first song when he is just about to quote Eliza's Precision F-Strike in song when Mrs Pearce opens the door.
  • Dances and Balls: The Embassy Ball.
  • Dark(er) Reprise: "Just You Wait" gets a reprise shortly after "You Did It". This time, It's Personal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mrs. Higgins is all about deflating her son's ego with sarcastic one liners.
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Henry Higgins embodies this trope, having said 'So here I am, a confirmed old bachelor and likely to remain so' and so much more. The only hang up is whether he can actually be considered deconfirmed by the end. However, most people agree he had at least befriended and came to care about Eliza by the end. Since he is such an extreme case that, by his own admission, he'd never even had a successful friendship with a female before, this could still be enough of an about face to qualify him.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Several times Eliza calls Higgins out for showing no empathy for her.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: “Just You Wait”, in which Eliza wishes death on Professor Higgins in return for his rudeness.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Freddy is a decent suitor—albeit in what would be considered stalking by today's terms— who fell in love with Eliza at the ball but she doesn't harbor the same feelings for him and eventually drops him by the end to platonically reunite with Higgins.
  • Dresses the Same: In the Ascot scene in the film.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Higgins mercilessly drills Eliza day and night. Meanwhile, his servant staff fawns over his ordeal.
  • Dr. Jerk: Henry Higgins himself, though he's technically a professor of linguistics and not a doctor per se.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Eliza is extremely angry over how Higgins gets all the praise for fooling everyone at the Embassy ball.
    "Yoooooooooooooooooooooouuuuuuuuuuu did it! ♫"
  • The Edwardian Era: 1912, to be precise. (Makes one rather wonder about Freddy's likely fate.) The scene at the racetrack, where everyone except Henry Higgins wears black and white, is based on the real fashions of the time; they were still in mourning after the death of the old King. A recent touring production went even further by dressing everyone in black only and using a paperboy announcing the King's death as a scene-changing device.
  • The End: A title card reading "The End" concludes the movie.
  • Entertainingly Wrong:
    • At the beginning of the movie, Professor Higgins correctly decries the fact that people's accent and the way they speak acts as a social class divider and keeps them in their place, particularly the lower classes. However, his solution isn't to wish that people stopped judging others simply based off their accent; it's to want to get rid of dialectical idiosyncrasies and lament that everybody isn't taught to "speak properly."
    • During the Embassy Ball, Zoltan Karpathy (a rival dialectician) is asked by the Duchess to determine Eliza's background. He can quickly tell Eliza's perfect English is the result of coaching, but he assumes that her manners are innate, coming to the conclusion that she's a foreign aristocrat instead of a lower-class Englishwoman.
  • Epic Movie: Huge cast, lavish sets and costumes, long (nearly 3 hours), highly promoted, award bait? Yep, it was an epic movie.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Higgins might experiment on the desperate and vulnerable for the sake of his own amusement, but Zoltan — a hatchet man who likes to mix with socialites — is low even for him.
  • Every Proper Lady Should Curtsy: At the ball, all females curtsy to the Queen of Transylvania.
  • Excessive Steam Syndrome: The thick steam in the bathroom where Eliza gets a forced washing by Higgins' servants.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: On the stairs, when Higgins calls Eliza a heartless guttersnipe and attempt to storm off to his room, he accidentally switches on a phonograph which destroys his dramatic exit.
  • Fainting: At the horse race, one lady faints after hearing Eliza shout "Come On Dover! Move Yer Bloomin' Arse!"
  • Fanfare: "The Transylvanian March".
  • Fee Fi Faux Pas: Eliza's outburst at the races, to her (and Henry's) embarrassment.
  • Fictional Holiday: In Eliza's dream ("Just You Wait"), the King is so enraptured by her voice that he declares Eliza Doolittle Day.
  • Flat Joy: Those prim-and-proper racetrack patrons sure are excited to be there. Can't you tell?
  • Gem-Encrusted: The embassy dress is loaded with jewels.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Professor Higgins is impeccably polite in the rudest way possible.
  • Getting the Boot: Alfred Doolittle's friends gets thrown out of a pub this way for not paying the bill.
  • Gilligan Cut: In the film, after Pickering pulls the plug on the Embassy Ball. ("This experiment is OVER.") He's wearing a tux in the next shot.
  • Girls Love Chocolate: Eliza can't say no to chocolates. Higgins exploits this to lure her into Linguistics training like you would train a dog with treats.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Pickering and Higgins.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: One of its Oscars was for Costume Design.
  • Gossipy Hens: The rumor about Eliza being of royal Hungarian blood spreads quickly amongst the crowd at the ball.
  • Got Me Doing It: The voice exercises start getting to poor Pickering after a while. "'Ave you troid the ploin cayke?"
  • Grammar Nazi: Higgins is introduced to us with an entire musical number ("Why Can't The English Learn to Speak?") complaining about people's bad grammar and pronunciation. A bit more justified as the story goes on, as he's a phoneticist who teaches people to speak with proper diction for a living; however, he's still a Jerkass about it.
  • Grief Song: "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face" arguably, since it's a combination of grief and anger. Doubles as Love Epiphany.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Higgins' defense to Eliza's charge that he still treats her like rubbish. In point of fact, he treats everyone like that — and he's proud of it, too.
    Higgins: The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you've ever heard me treat anyone else better.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Henry is very misogynistic, though he insists he's not. In fact, he's got two whole songs dedicated to whining about how much he dislikes women ("A Hymn to Him" and "An Ordinary Man"). The end of the play may have helped him get over it, but again, it's up to viewer interpretation.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Both Higgins and Pickering have that "confirmed bachelor" vibe thing going for them.
    • Higgins even uses that exact phrase, then shudders at the idea of marriage. He also has a hard time admitting Eliza "might" be attractive when he suggests she marry herself off (cue flamboyant flourish), laments that women aren't more like men, and while all this might have been intended as Belligerent Sexual Tension it's taken so far that the idea of a sexual/romantic relationship between him and Eliza becomes ... a stretch.
    • Higgins asks Pickering where one can find a Ladies' Dress Shop. Pickering replies so quickly, Higgins asks how he would know. Pickering clears his throat and says "Common knowledge" (despite having just arrived in London from years living in India). Then again, the store he quoted, Whiteleys department store, had been in operation for well over fifty years by the time of the play.
    • If you insist, you can interpret Higgins' "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man" number as evidence.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Eliza mimes one during her "Just You Wait" number when she refers to Higgins falling sick.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • As they prepare for the ball, Pickering downs a glass of port and curses Higgins for his constant serenity. Before they leave, however, Higgins peeks over his shoulder and quaffs some alcohol, too.
    • "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." He's a most forgiving man.
  • "I Am" Song: "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "An Ordinary Man".
  • Imagine Spot: During "Just You Wait", when Eliza is singing about how she'll become a great lady admired even by the King, the screen goes blurry-edged and the events she describes start happening around her. At the end of the song, the screen clears and the imaginary people all disappear.
  • I Meant to Do That: In the midst of being thoroughly castigated by Eliza, Higgins springs up from his chair and claims credit for her self-confidence. What a chode.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Eliza at the start of the story. The later battle to get her bathed kind of proves her innocence.
  • Innocent Innuendo: She sent the boy for her belongings, but she said she won't need her clothes *wink*
  • Insufferable Genius: Even Higgins' own mother can't stand him.
  • Intermission: The movie has an act break as Eliza, Higgins, and Pickering leave for the Embassy Ball, coming in earlier than it does in the play (which placed its intermission after the Embassy Ball).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Henry. He's quite a dick to pretty much everyone, but he has the occasional moment of kindness and comes to care for Eliza in his own way. Higgins is still an ass by the end, but he's starting to become better.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Higgins is actually very aware that he's a jerk, but despite this, there's plenty of times where he genuinely doesn't realize how cruel and offensive he's being towards Eliza.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Higgins finally confesses to Eliza that he's going to miss her... then quickly follows it up by saying Pickering misses her, too.
  • "I Want" Song: Eliza's "Wouldn't It Be Loverly?": she wants a cozy warm room, a comfy chair, and lots of chocolate.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: While singing "Without You", Eliza nearly tells Higgins he can go to Hell — but replaces it with "Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire" (echoing Higgins' speech exercise from earlier).
    You, dear friend, who talk so well
    You can go to...Hertford, Heresford and Hampshire!
  • Lighter and Softer: Much more so than the original Shaw play.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Ascot Gavotte," wherein upper-class gents and ladies sing about "a ripping, absolutely gripping moment" with all the enthusiasm of a funeral host.
  • Maybe Ever After: Eliza and Henry are reconciled at the end, but are they a romantic couple now, or what? The answer is only hinted.
  • Meaningful Echo: Eliza has her first big breakthrough in pronunciation with the phrase "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain," leading directly into the song, "The Rain in Spain". At the story's climax, as she sings "Without You" she tells Higgins: "And there still will be rain on that plain down in Spain / Even that will remain without you."
  • Meaningful Name: A name like Doolittle totally makes sense for someone like Eliza's father. Eliza herself, on the other hand...
  • Misogyny Song: "An Ordinary Man" and "A Hymn to Him".
  • Missing Mom: Seeing as Eliza's father marries, and his side comments about his old wife are along the lines of "You look just like her, Eliza" and "Just like her, you never give me money!" it can be safely assumed Eliza's mother is dead.
  • Mistaken from Behind: At the market, Alfred P. Doolittle mistakes a flower girl for Eliza from behind.
  • The Musical
  • Mysterious Middle Initial: Alfred P. Doolittle.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Eliza realizes the true reason that Higgins continues looking down on her even after becoming sophisticated is that he only sees her as a lowly flower girl.
    Eliza: The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: At no point in the movie do the main characters share a hug or kiss which goes along with the idea of being no more than Platonic Life-Partners. There are a couple of moments that can be seen as romantic, but they're all ambiguous enough that Eliza and Henry can just come across as (very conflictive) friends.
  • No Sympathy:
    • The servants express more compassion for Higgins than his hapless student (Doesn't rest / Doesn't eat / Doesn't touch a crumb!) Cut to Higgins munching on cakes while Eliza is wasting away.
    • While trying to practice with marbles in her mouth, Eliza accidentally swallows one, but Higgins simply replies "Doesn't matter, I've got more", and puts more into her mouth.
  • Nursery Rhyme: The title, of course, comes from "London Bridge is falling down", a snatch of whose melody is heard at the beginning of "Get Me To The Church On Time".
  • Obsession Song: "On the Street Where You Live". Considering that Freddy continues to wait outside for several weeks. (The text of the musical says that he arrives at the house after Ascot. Six weeks later is the Transylvanian Embassy Ball, and the day after that is the first time we see Freddy again. He's been on that street for SIX WEEKS.) One really should consider that he has no other polite way of contacting her, due to Higgins and her position in his household.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Henry Higgins’ speech about “the majesty and grandeur of the English language” that he gives to Eliza just before “The Rain In Spain.” After months of treating Eliza as though she were an experiment, and torturing her relentlessly, it’s pleasantly surprising to see him, in that one moment, act towards her with tenderness and encouragement (“and conquer it you will”). And even she seems to realize it, as well, as immediately after this speech, she has her first big breakthrough in RP, leading directly into “The Rain In Spain.”
  • Parasol of Prettiness: Eliza takes one to the races.
  • Parental Abandonment: Eliza's father pushes this into borderline abuse levels as he not only leaves all of his children to fend for themselves, he takes their hard-earned money for himself to waste on alcohol. (And he brags about this, no less!) The line immediately following his proud description of his parenting style? "You've got a good heart, Alfie..."
  • Pass Fail: The plot is driven by Higgins' bet that he can train a rough, low-class flower girl into passing as a member of the aristocracy.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • After a full day of nonstop, grueling exercises, an exhausted Higgins finally offers Eliza a few soft words of encouragement. At this, her voice instantly transforms into an impeccable upper class accent.
    • Alfie gets one when he cajoles Eliza to be self-reliant, as "she's a lady now."
  • Pimped-Out Dress:
    • Eliza wears an exquisite black and white dress to the races. It is decorated with ribbons, laces etc.
    • The gown Eliza wears for the Embassy ball. It is really gorgeous and bejewelled, but the cut is simple and rather sleek.
  • Pink Product Ploy: The CBS/FOX releases from 1983 have pink backgrounds, as do the DVD covers from 2004 and 2009. (The 1983 Laserdisc cover actually uses a 1964 poster which was pink to begin with, and was reused for the 2004 DVD.)
  • Plank Gag: Happens during the "With A Little Bit Of Luck" song, since Alfie Doolittle is singing in what seems to be a construction area and there is inevitably someone who swings a plank around and someone else gets hit by it.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Eliza and Henry. Maybe.
  • Princess for a Day: Eliza gets to be a lady for several months. She gets the pretty clothes and better food, but her training is rather hellish, and she is also implied to have same obligations in the household.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil: It seems Higgins' contempt for his pupil lies in the fact that he abandoned academia; Zoltan uses his linguistics abilities "more to blackmail and swindle than teach." Zoltan says of the Greek Ambassador's birth origin "I keep his secret, but I make him pay. I make them all pay.", so the character himself seems to confirm the blackmail accusation.
  • Pygmalion Plot: A given as the original play was based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion. Higgins teaches the poor, lower-class Eliza to act and — especially — talk like an upper-class lady, on a bet with his friend Colonel Pickering. He succeeds, but Eliza, tired of being treated as an experiment, rebels against him and leaves. Higgins eventually realizes that he has "grown accustomed to her face," just in time for her to return.
  • Rags to Royalty: From rags (a poor common flower girl verging on homelessness) to the upper middle class. And she was able to be taken for nobility (people assumed she was a foreign princess).
  • Remaster: CBS' poor preservation of the original camera negative necessitated some extensive and highly-lauded restorations, one released to theaters and home video in 1994 (the year of the movie's 30th anniversary), and another presented in 2015 (as part of a belated celebration of the 50th anniversary).
  • Rich Language, Poor Language: Poor, lower-class, Cockney-accented Eliza learns to speak "proper" English and pass herself off as an upper-class lady.
  • Right Behind Me: At the end of "Just You Wait", Eliza realizes that Higgins was standing behind her, watching her singing about his death. Awkward...
  • The Scapegoat: Following Eliza's spat with Higgins, Freddy gets chewed out for the high crime of being the first man who crosses her path.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: See the image; when first introduced Eliza's very dirty and wearing torn-up, worn clothing. The exact words of the trope are used by her father on first seeing her as a 'lady'. She even catches the attentions of Prince Gregor, and his mother the Queen of Transylvania is even charmed by her beauty. Not to mention the effect she has on Freddy.
  • Shot at Dawn: Eliza gleefully fantasizes about this happening to Higgins, who is very casual about the whole business before keeling over.
  • Snobby Hobbies: Exemplified by the "Ascot Gavotte" scene. Eliza's 'test' involves attending the Ascot horse races, where the créme de la créme of Edwardian English society is in attendance: the ladies in fine dresses, extravagant hats and parasols, and the gentlemen in gray tuxedos and top hats, everyone with binoculars at hand to watch the horse racing.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: What happens when you combine Eliza's blue language with a posh accent.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Higgins sarcastically writing a letter of recommendation for Alfred Doolittle, calling him "one of the original moralists in England." An American philanthropist dies and bequeaths a fortune to Alfie to advocate for moral reform.
  • Stealth Insult: Eliza gets Higgins with a few. Higgins isn't so good at being stealthy with insults, but doesn't understand why he has to be. Which is about the best you can hope for from Higgins. "I've learned something from your idiotic notions."
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Fed up with her keeper, Eliza returns to the old neighborhood after her blossoming into a lady, but no one recognizes her.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In "Without You"
    And you, dear friend, who talked so well,
    You can go to — Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire!
  • Talk About the Weather: While in public, Higgins advises Eliza to stick to mundane topics: the weather, and everyone's health. It backfires. Mrs. Higgins, disgusted with every word that comes out of her son's mouth, echoes this advice in the end.
  • Television Geography: The Covent Garden set moves the Bow Street facade of the Royal Opera House to face the road between St Paul's Church Covent Garden and the flower market, when in fact it's on the other side of the flower market entirely and doesn't face it.
  • Third Wheel: Pickering's presence seems off in some of the scenes that focus on the Higgins-Eliza relationship.
  • Those Two Guys: Harry and Jamie, Alfred Doolittle's friends and fellow dustmen.
  • Training from Hell: Linguistics training from hell, although not as over-the-top as some examples. She has to practice for hours, often without proper explanation of how to form the correct sounds.
  • Treated Worse than the Pet: Played for Laughs. After the staff sing that "poor professor Higgins doesn't eat, doesn't touch a crumb", he is seen finishing his tea while he insists to an exhausted, hungry Eliza to repeat her lesson again. Nearby, Colonel Pickering is stuffing his face with pastries; kindly, he asks Higgins if he tried the plain cake and gives him looks insinuating he should let Eliza eat, but in vain. After finishing, the Colonel tries again.
    Colonel: By Jove, Higgins, that was a glorious tea. Why don't you finish the last strawberry tart? I couldn't eat another thing.
    Higgins: Oh, I couldn't touch it.
    Colonel: Shame to waste it.
    Higgins: Oh, it won't be wasted. (Eliza looks up eagerly) I know somebody who's immensely fond of strawberry tarts.
    (He picks up the tart and starts turning around, apparently towards a radiant Eliza. He walks in front of her and crosses the room to give the last tart to his myna.)
  • Trashcan Bonfire: When Eliza returns to the market as a lady, she joins the poor in the street who gather around a bin fire.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Invoked when Pickering calls the police to report Eliza's departure. When he's asked to explain what she does in the house, Pickering is left floundering as he realises that Eliza doesn't actually have a "job" in that sense, so he ultimately declares "That's not important; what is important is that she get back here so that she can keep doing it."
  • Westminster Chimes: A modified version begins every iteration of "Poor Professor Higgins".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: About 20 minutes before the end of the film, Col. Pickering offers to go off and find the missing Eliza with the help of his Home Office friends. He exits the home set — and is never seen in the movie again. We can safely assume his trip to the Home Office was All for Nothing.
  • "You!" Exclamation: Higgins when finding Eliza at his mother's place.


Video Example(s):


A Hymn to Him

Professor Higgins wonders why a woman can't be more like a man.

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Main / MisogynySong

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