The restored version of George Cukor's Oscar-winning musical, My Fair Lady, based on Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's classic hit, received its world premiere at the l9th Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 1994.
The initiative to restore the l964 movie for its 30th anniversary came from Ken Ross, V.P. of CBS/Fox Video, which has owned the rights to the musical since l971. Ross hired ace restorers Robert Harris and James Katz, the team responsible for restoring Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus. The initial budget was half a million dollars, which by the end escalated to 700,000. “Nothing was spared by Jack Warner in making the movie,” said Ross in an exclusive interview with Variety, “and nothing was spared in restoring it for the public in l994.”
Indeed, every dollar spent shows in the new, glorious edition of one of the best-known adaptations of a stage musical in Hollywood's history. While there are no new scenes, Harris and Katz made a new restoration negative, painstakingly reconstructing the film's color scheme and soundtrack by using the most sophisticated technologies.
Everything that was good about My Fair Lady three decades ago is even more impressive in the new version. “People who have seen the film have never seen it like this,” says Katz, “and those who have never seen it will be blown away by the performances, music and production values.” How many musicals can boast such delicious ingredients as Lerner's witty script, Loewe's splendid music, Cukor's elegant mise-en-scene, Cecil Beaton's marvelous costumes, Gene Allen's art direction–and Rex Harrison's definitive performance as Prof. Higgins.
The Toronto gala presentation ended on an ironic note, when Marni Nixon, who provided the “voice” for Audrey Hepburn, introduced Hepburn's own rendition of “Wouldn't It Be Loverly,” reconstructed from outtakes Harris and Katz found in the vaults.
My Fair Lady will receive its American premiere in N.Y., Sep 19, at the Ziegfeld, where two days later it will begin a nine-day run. The restored version will be shown in 70 mm (in Dolby Stereo) in five other cities (including L.A. on Sep 23). The 35 mm version (in Dolby Stereo Digital) will be presented in eight other cities, prior to its video and laser disc releases, Oct. 19.
“The best for the best,” says Ross with a big grin on his face, “although she is 30 years older, this fair lady is now more loverly than ever.”