Saturday, May 19, 2012

Eliza Doolittle Day

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By Diane Forrest

Every year on the first Saturday in May the run for the roses takes place in Kentucky.  I’m talking about the Kentucky Derby.  While I know nothing about horses, or horse racing, and I’m not fond of mint juleps, I love to see the wonderful hats the ladies wear.  Even though I don’t have any hats, they really don't look good on me; I love them and always wish that I had been born during the Victorian era where they were so popular.   A gorgeous hat, some gloves and a lace parasol are the ultimate in chic.  I don't think there has ever been a more perfect outfit worn to the races than the one Eliza Doolittle wore in the movie My Fair Lady.  In fact all the women were dressed to the 9's in black and white.

In 1912, one hundred years ago, famed playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote a play entitled Pygmalion.  In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion was the creator of a statue which came to life and was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights.    His play was about a Professor of phonetics,  Henry Higgins, makes a bet that he can train a bedraggled Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her to assume a veneer of gentility, the most important element of which, he believes, is impeccable speech.

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After Mr. Shaw's death in the 1930’s, the rights were purchased by film producer Gabriel Pascal who wanted to make it a musical.  He teamed with Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner who wrote the music and lyrics, and titled it My Fair Lady.  In 1956 the first Broadway production was performed with Julie Andrews as Eliza, and Rex Harrison as Professor Higgins.  It was proclaimed the best play ever, and is still regarded as such.  In 1964 a movie was made with Audrey Hepburn in the role as Eliza, and I can't imagine anyone else in that role.

Eliza is a young English cockney speaking lady who sells flowers on the street.  It is her goal to learn how to speak and act refined so that she can open a flower shop and sell flowers to the fine ladies of the town.  She seeks instruction from Professor Henry Higgins who not only teaches her diction, but also how to behave like an aristocrat.   Her transformation is perfect and her goals are achieved.

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In my opinion this is a movie/play about anyone can achieve whatever they want if they set their mind to it and work hard to get it.  Today is Eliza Doolittle Day.  Why not celebrate it by setting some goals for yourself, or just watch the movie.  You can see the movie on You Tube; however it is in 10 to 20 increments, so it may take a while to watch it all, but it is worth it.

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