A little Wednesday rant
On this day in 1956 Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady opened on Broadway. It was a rousing success, setting a record for the longest run of any show on Broadway up to that time. It was followed by a hit London production, a popular film version, and numerous revivals. My Fair Lady has frequently been called “the perfect musical” (according to Wikipedia).
One wonders if its plot involving a cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so that she may pass as a lady would resonate today. Would people today even get it? I imagine they would say, What’s wrong with the way Liza speaks? That’s how they talk on TV. What’s a “lady” anyway?
I mean it never ceases to amaze me how the people who are hired for on-air jobs reading the news ever got those jobs in the first place. They all say “git” for “get” and make grammatical errors right and left. And they all look like they are going out clubbing as soon as they get off work. It’s a little much at 7 a.m.
Remember how in the old days actors took speech lessons to learn how to enunciate and to get rid of unattractive accents? Remember how actors were chosen because they had distinctive or melodious voices? Think of Henry Fonda or Jimmy Stewart or Irene Dunne or Olivia de Havilland or Errol Flynn. Half the time you can’t understand what people are saying in movies anymore. And you thought Marlon Brando mumbled? They all sound like Jean Hagen in Singin’ In the Rain and no one gets that joke either.
Of course, Shaw was making fun of the whole ridiculous upper/lower class set-up, but I do wish we would remember with Professor Higgins that:
“… you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.”
Not to be harsh, but My Fair Lady does seem to have lost its relevance. And that’s a shame.