“Are you going to use my voice for songs at all? I’ll work hard on my voice,” Audrey said, adding that she would “have as many lessons as you like. It’s all part of the business, to learn to sing and dance.” Jack Warner and director George Cukor had told her that they had no doubt that she would render the songs magnificently and her voice would be used (but for a few minor interpolations). But this was an astonishing act of deliberate deception, and it would miscarry in a way that seriously diminished the effect of Eliza’s character in the picture.
On May 16, 1963, Cukor and Alan Jay Lerner had met privately with singer Marni Nixon to do a brief audition. She was asked to keep the matter regarding the dubbing strictly private. Audrey, who was still engrossed in singing lessons was unaware of this development. The decision had already been made to have Marni dub her voice and yet no one conveyed that news to Audrey, who continued to believe that, except for an occasional high note from Nixon’s recordings, her own voice would be heard in the picture. Audrey dutifully worked on her vocalises for a half hour or so every morning, and the weeks went by. To make matters worse, Cukor, Lerner and André Previn listened to Audrey’s singing and praised her lavishly, and Audrey, unfortunately, began to believe them. And when she completed the scene in which she performed “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” to a prerecorded track, the bit players and crew applauded loudly.
“Did you hear that?” Audrey asked Cukor excitedly at the end of the day. “They actually applauded!” “Audrey,” Cukor said gently, “they thought it was you.” Unknown to him, to Lerner and to Previn, the technician in charge of playback had indeed used her track instead of Nixon’s. “George,” Audrey replied, tears filling her eyes, “it was me.”
matthumphreyimages: Winding the clock back to a backstage portrait of the awesome @theladydockers at The Old Vic - during the run of Pygmalion. Such a fun show to work on, and one of my favourite people to work with - a truly generous, genuine, and talented human.
#artofbackstage #backstage #portrait #portraiture #downtonabbey #michelledockery #ladymary #theoldvic #pygmalion #flashback #funtimes
Why does Henry Higgins teach Eliza Doolittle to speak like a posh lady, instead of her teaching him to speak like a Cockney flowerseller?
What we think of as “good” English is the English historically spoken by people with the most power. The bumper crop of grammar texts and usage guides that started proliferating in the mid-18th century were part of an attempt by the growing middle class to access economic opportunities that were only available to people who spoke like Henry Higgins. At first, these were primarily a guide to speaking like the upper classes, although, over the years, various arbitrary preferences have found their way in and became crystallized as dogma, so much so that, to quote the linguist Stan Carey, “the aim of these non-rules is to maintain anachronistic shibboleths that allow an in-group to congratulate itself on knowing them.”
Can it be a rational decision for the Elizas of the world to modify their idiolect in search of more opportunity? Of course. But at a societal level, it’s deeply suspicious that Henry gets to grow up speaking in a way that automatically makes him a better job candidate, while Eliza will have to learn a different dialect than her friends and family if she wants a chance at the same jobs.
We don’t pick where and how we grow up, and we know that where and how you grow up influences your idiolect, so why is it acceptable to penalize people for something no one has any control over? The answer is simple if your goal is to keep power and economic opportunity in the hands of those who have always had it. We like to think we’re more enlightened and less bigoted than our ancestors, but as long as we believe that some idiolects are right and some are wrong, we’re not making much progress. “Standard English” is a loose assortment of idiolects like any other dialect, and valuing one over the other is a social construct that has nothing to do with linguistic merit.