‘My Fair Lady’ 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – Audrey Hepburn And Rex Harrison Musical Classic Is A 4K Dream Come True

When a musical really connects with an audience, it connects in a significant way. Using the classic Pygmalion tale as a jumping off point, the 1956 Lerner and Loewe stage musical My Fair Lady was such an acclaimed production that it led Warner Bros. to purchase the rights to the film from CBS (temporarily) for a sum that was simply shocking for the time. Fortunately, with George Cukor, the director of hits such as The Philadelphia Story and A Star Is Born, behind the camera and a swoon-worthy cast to its credit, the film proved to be a wise investment. Audrey Hepburn had been on a hot streak since breaking out in a major way with Roman Holiday, and Rex Harrison was coming off an Oscar nomination for his work in Cleopatra. The film not only became the second-highest grossing movie of 1964 – only a million behind Mary Poppins – but it was also nominated for twelve Academy Awards, ultimately winning eight of those including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor. It is generally considered to be an American classic, which is why we are so thankful to be revisiting it in a remarkable 4K presentation. 

Audrey Hepburn makes quite an impression as Eliza Dolittle, a young woman with a harsh Cockney accent trying to make her way through life by selling flowers on the street. She does not have unrealistic dreams; she only desires to one day be able to work in a flower shop, but her working-class accent proves to be a seemingly insurmountable barrier. Her prospects change somewhat after a chance encounter with Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a scholar in the field of phonetics who claims to be able to determine an individual’s prospects in society simply by hearing their voice. After a tense initial encounter, Eliza realizes it could possibly improve her life if she worked on her vocal presentation, which Higgins agrees to do after confidently boasting to his colleague Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) that he could teach Eliza to speak so well that she could be mistaken for a duchess. The unlikely pairing will get into many a spat during her training, but from the tension will arise an unexpected affection. 

Hepburn was a beloved quantity at this point in her career, but as Eliza Dolittle shows off her most endearing broad tendencies. While not quite as egregious as Dick Van Dyke the same year in Mary Poppins, she plays to the back of the house as she makes exaggerated expressions with her mouth in the course of her lessons. She obviously blends seamlessly into the sophisticated woman she trains so hard to be, which makes her backslides into her rough Cockney roots such a hilarious time. Rex Harrison is quite respectable in the Henry Higgins role, the taskmaster who chastises Eliza for being so brash while finding her general vibe really enchanting when it comes down to it. My only personal issue with this pairing is that neither of them really seem like the perfect match for the other. Hepburn has enough natural charisma to make the role radiate warmth, but the match up with Harrison does not make the dynamic burn any hotter than just Hepburn on her own. There is still much to enjoy with the romance, it just does not light the screen on fire. 

The remainder of the ensemble are quite capable in their roles, especially Stanley Holloway as Eliza’s father, Alfred P. Doolittle. Much like his daughter, Alfred goes on an amusing transformation as he wrestles with his own moral code and how that informs his identity. Many of the other key figures make an impression as they get our two destined leads to where they need to be by the end of their journey. The real draw for many is the music within, and there is no shortage of songs to fill up the nearly three-hour runtime. While some numbers probably could have been shed to make the narrative a little tighter, there are so many that take up space firmly in your head like the wistful “Wouldn’t It Be Lovely?” and the bouncy “The Rain In Spain.” My Fair Lady is a show with some outdated lessons, but there is something timeless about the way this film unfolds in such an assured and loving manner that makes it a classic for so many. 

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Video Quality

Paramount Home Entertainment presents My Fair Lady with a miraculous 2160p Dolby Vision transfer sourced from a 8K scan of the original 65mm film elements. For my money, My Fair Lady ranks among one of the strongest presentations I have ever seen for a film on 4K UHD. The film features some miraculous colors within the costumes and settings that pop off the screen with a vibrant intensity. The Dolby Vision offers a depth and stability of color that is frankly mind boggling. You only need to take a look at the lush colors in the flowery opening titles to see what a stunning sight this presentation is overall. The same could be said of the natural earth tones that present with an immense complexity around the abode of Henry Higgins. The black levels are simply perfect with nothing in the way of crush present, and white levels are solid as a rock with no trace of blooming. 

The level of detail and clarity is stunning with the appropriate amount of natural film grain intact. The grain resolves quite well without ever being clumpy or unsightly. The texture on display in the costumes and within the production design are a revelation. Even facial details like dirt from Eliza’s early “low class” days present with impressive clarity. This presentation is true to the original look of the film without the added resolution making any settings seem out of place. The film is entirely free of dirt and damage, which makes the feature feel like it could have been made yesterday. There does not appear to be any jarring digital anomalies such as compression artifacts, banding or any other such nuisances. This presentation is an award-worthy effort from the team at Paramount. 

Audio Quality

Paramount has delivered a stellar Dolby TrueHD 7.1 lossless presentation that is simply immaculate. The music is the driving force of the narrative and it comes through clearly and in a robust manner from beginning to end. The luscious overtures and other musical elements really come alive in its handling of the different core elements with great precision. The track balances vocals with the environmental sounds with magnificent clarity. The speakers really come to life when elements such as the murmur of a crowd or the stomping of horses race by. There is even a decent amount of low-end support that adds a bit of sonic texture to precise elements within the narrative. Paramount has provided a top-notch, spacious audio presentation that presents the film quite capably. The disc also comes with a host of subtitles options including English (SDH) subtitles.

Special Features

  • More Loverly Than Ever – The Making of My Fair Lady Then & Now: A 58-minute featurette in which various creative figures and film historians take you on a behind-the-scenes journey on the making of this classic film from adapting the stage material, staging the numbers, dubbing over certain singing voices and so much more. This is a fantastically produced piece that honors the movie quite well. 
  • 1963 Production Kick-Off Dinner: A 23-minute piece in which the press was invited to the ostentatious beginning of the production where they were allowed to interview Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Producer Jack Warner also delivers some insightful remarks to the crowd. 
  • Los Angeles Premiere 10/28/1964: A five-minute look at the dazzling night in which celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Natalie Wood, Rock Hudson and more packed into a theater to catch the film for the first time. 
  • British Premiere: A two-minute look at the star-studded British premiere of the film which includes some royal guests. 
  • George Cukor Directs Baroness Bina Rothschild: A nearly three-minute look at the directing style of Cukor which sounds a bit harsh to these ears. 
  • Rex Harrison Radio Interview: A minute-long piece in which the actor discusses the filmmaking process. 
  • Production Tests: Alex Hyde-White provides some commentary for material totaling seven minutes that give a glimpse at the production tests for the lighting, makeup and hair, and screen tests. 
  • Alternate Audrey Hepburn Vocals: Alternate versions of Show Me (2:48) and Wouldn’t It Be Loverly (4:26) are provided here with Audrey Hepburn vocals intact so you can judge which you prefer in the end. 
  • Comments on a Lady: Two minute-long pieces are included here in which Andrew Lloyd and Martin Scorsese offer come comments on the film. It is always a blast hearing Scorsese talk about film preservation. 
  • Galleries: Various collections of images are included here such as sketches, production stills, publicity materials and more. 
  • Trailers: A vast assortment of trailers are included such as various teasers with city-specific tags, Awards trailers, numerous reissue trailers and more. 
  • The Story of a Lady: A five-minute featurette which reflects on the worldwide success of the film, the role of Warner Bros. in the conception of the film, finding the right cast members for the story, the expansive production and more. 
  • Design For a Lady: An eight-minute featurette which takes a closer look at the lush production design and costumes including how the creative team crafted and executed the iconic imagery. There includes a lovely discussion with Costume Designer Cecil Beaton. 
  • The Fairest Fair Lady: A nearly ten-minute featurette which once again takes a closer look at the production including the costumes, wrangling the extras, and more. 
  • Rex Harrison BFI Honor: A two-minute piece in which the actor reflects on some of his most significant roles in his career. 
  • Rex Harrison Golden Globe Acceptance Speech: A nearly minute-long acceptance speech that serves as an interesting bit of film history. 
  • Academy Awards Ceremony Highlights 4/5/65: A two-minute reel of moments from the ceremony including the Best Director win for George Cukor, the Best Picture win, and the Best Actor win for Rex Harrison. 
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Final Thoughts

My Fair Lady is one of those timeless classics that you can revisit again and again while still finding new elements to love with each viewing. Audrey Hepburn is impossibly charming in the lead role with Rex Harrison proving to be a good partner, even if the chemistry is not undeniable to my eyes. There are some lovely tunes throughout that will take up residence in your head long after the film has reached its end. Paramount Home Entertainment has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray that is perfect in all respects and solidifies itself as the ultimate way to view the film. Paramount also ports over a Blu-Ray disc packed with supplemental features that any fan of the film will enjoy. Highly Recommended 

My Fair Lady is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and Digital. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Paramount Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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