And the pointless remake of the day is…

Posted by · 3:58 am · June 6th, 2008

… “My Fair Lady.” Variety reports that Columbia is putting together a new version of the classic Lerner & Lowe musical, George Cukor’s 1964 filmization of which copped the 1964 Best Picture Oscar. 

The studio is calling it an “update,” something of a misnomer considering it will in fact retain the 1912 London milieu of the original. Their reasoning for this move escapes me, but Columbia co-president Doug Belgrad claims:

“This update will preserve the magic of the musical while fleshing out the characters and bringing 1912 London to life in an authentic and exciting way.”

I thought we already had the various interpretations of Shaw’s “Pygmalion” (not least Anthony Asquith’s still-surprisingly-fresh 1938 film) for character depth, but apparently we need another. London theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh is also on board, and his justification for the project strikes me as even more tenuous than Belgrad’s. Apparently the story of Eliza Doolittle’s metamorphosis from Cockney guttersnipe to society belle “couldn’t be more timely in a contemporary world obsessed with overnight celebrity.” To which I can only ask, if the story is so relevant and contemporary, why not really update it?

While I have a lot of affection for the 1964 film, and Audrey Hepburn’s performance in particular, I admit it doesn’t hold up as well cinematically as, say, “West Side Story” or even “Mary Poppins.” But I think its creakiness is somewhat rooted its stagey, literary origins. For all Cecil Beaton’s scenic prettification of the material, it’s fundamentally a comedy of manners and language, and Cukor’s film nailed that neatly enough first time round. 

I have no doubt the remake will sound and look as gorgeous as the original, if not more so. (For one thing, it will be shot on location in London, an advantage the 1964 film didn’t have.) Keira Knightley is being pencilled in as Eliza, which strikes me as sound, if not very surprising, casting – though I suspect she’ll be as unconvincing portraying a crude, mangy-looking streetgirl as Hepburn was. But I’m struggling to see what another period adaptation of the material has to bring to the table.


→ 7 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

7 responses so far

  • 1 6-06-2008 at 6:39 am

    Joel said...

    Does it REALLY surprise you, Kris? I mean, really? A movie is coming out this year named “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” that includes singing and dancing–you guessed it–chihuahuas, and you’re saying THIS surprises you?

  • 2 6-06-2008 at 7:43 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    It doesn’t surprise me so much as irk me, Joel. Still, I do my best to keep an open mind – who knows, maybe Beverly Hills Chihuahua will be fifty flavours of awesome.

    By the way, please take note that not all the posts are written by Kris – I don’t claim to speak for him!

  • 3 6-06-2008 at 11:23 am

    Walter Hollmann said...

    Funny, my friends and I were just discussing unnecessary remakes the other day, and I mentioned how certain movies would never be remade, and used My Fair Lady as an example. Oops.

    Still, how ever will they compete with Rex Harrison?

  • 4 6-06-2008 at 12:35 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    I suppose Hugh Laurie would be the best option. I doubt they’d be that imaginative, though.

  • 5 6-06-2008 at 2:17 pm

    Bryan said...

    It will be interesting to see whether Keira Knightley is going to sing or if they pull another Hepburn-Nixon maneuver.

  • 6 6-07-2008 at 2:17 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m pretty sure she’ll do her own singing – it seems to be de rigueur in contemporary musicals, even when the star can barely carry a tune. (I’m looking at you, Renee Zellweger.)

    If you’re curious, the Guardian website has a clip of Knightley singing in the upcoming Dylan Thomas biopic The Edge of Love … she’s, er, not particularly good.

  • 7 6-09-2008 at 9:18 am

    Joel said...

    I apologize. It wasn’t that I think that Kris writes everything. I thought I saw his name instead of yours.

    And I doubt that BHC will be any good. But we shall see.