best of the ’60s: LADY and the MAN
1960s musical extravagance possibly reached its height with the two films which serve as the subject for this post — My Fair Lady and The Music Man. One is costumey, over-the-top, jaunty fun, and the other is silly, Iowan, heavily-choreographed fun. Firstly, let’s talk Eliza Doolittle. Thanks to Audrey Hepburn‘s classic Hollywood brilliance, her performance transcends whatever musical goofiness ensues around her, of which there is quite a bit. Sure, it’s jam-packed with great musical numbers (“Wouldn’t it Be Loverly,” “I Could’ve Danced All Night,” and “The Rain in Spain,” to name a few), but it definitely has its downsides — ugh, someone take out Freddy stat. Rex Harrison‘s famous speak-singing is an amusing trifle, to be sure, but was it really more worthy of the acting Oscar than Hepburn’s performance, which was neglected for a nomination entirely? Ah, the great mysteries of the academy’s decisions past. But fighting through the obvious sexism and ignorance in every subtext of the big costume musical, there’s the slightest hint of female empowerment, and I think Maria von Trapp would be proud of her singing sister, Eliza.
Call me crazy (or at the very least biased due to my Midwestern upbringing and my penchant for participating in marching band), but I thoroughly enjoy the film version of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man every time I see it. I fully understand that it’s not a great cinematic piece of art, but the spectacle of it all it hard to fight. From Shirley Jones‘ fantastic voice in “Goodnight My Someone” to my favorite scene in the movie, “Marian the Librarian” (totally ’60s and totally amusing choreography), a great deal of the movie is nothing to sneeze at. Throw in little Ronny Howard as impedimenty Winthrop, and it’s at the very least worth a view. Now between this and My Fair Lady, it’s a tough call as to which one is the superior film. Though I’d say The Music Man offers more for quality musical numbers (I could’ve done without most of the men’s numbers in My Fair Lady), the 1964 romp offers a stronger story and a more endearing heroine.