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15 Loverly Facts About My Fair Lady

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For decades, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion looked like a play that could never be turned into a musical. Then, in 1956, it was adapted into the definitive musical. Sixty years ago today, My Fair Lady made its Broadway debut. Adapted from Shaw’s masterpiece, the new show dazzled critics and audiences alike—and, a few years later, was turned into an award winning movie featuring Audrey Hepburn. Here are a few facts about the crowd pleaser in honor of its birthday.

1. IT’S ROOTED IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY.

Pygmalion is named after a mythical artist who supposedly sculpted an ideal woman—only to fall in love with the statue. A product of ancient Greek folklore, this character would later be immortalized by the Roman poet Ovid, who wrote about him in Book 10 of The Metamorphoses. Similarly, the male lead in Shaw’s Pygmalion—phonetics professor Henry Higgins—tries to “sculpt” a lower-class working girl into a well-spoken English lady.

2. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW DIDN’T WANT PYGMALION TO GET THE MUSICAL THEATER TREATMENT.  

In 1908, composer Oscar Straus amazed audiences with The Chocolate Soldier, an operetta based on Shaw’s 1894 play Arms and the Man. But the success of this adaptation ultimately hurt the creator of its source material. During The Chocolate Soldier’s run, few theaters were willing to produce Arms and the Man—and Shaw’s wallet took a hit.

During his lifetime, several producers and directors told Shaw that Pygmalion might make for a terrific musical, but financial considerations kept him from letting anybody take a crack at converting it into one. As Shaw told Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehar, “A Pygmalion operetta is quite out of the question … Pygmalion is my most steady source of income: it saved me from ruin during the war, and still brings in a substantial penny every week.” Having been burned before, Shaw swore he’d never “allow a comic opera to supplant it.”

3. RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN TRIED (AND FAILED) TO MAKE A PYGMALION MUSICAL.

When Shaw died in 1950, producer Gabriel Pascal held the rights to Pygmalion. Over the next few years, he asked several writers if they could develop a musical adaptation. Most didn’t get very far. At one point, Pascal handed the assignment off to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. On paper, they looked like the perfect men for the job: The ingenious duo had defined and re-defined the American musical with classic shows like Oklahoma!, South Pacific, and The King and I. But despite their past successes, the challenge of Pygmalion proved too great. Apart from its heavy reliance on dialogue, the play—unlike most Rodgers and Hammerstein shows—didn’t come with an overt love story. Before long, they abandoned the project.

Undeterred, Pascal turned to the creative minds behind Paint Your Wagon: librettist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. In 1952, he asked if these two would be interested. Both said “yes,” but just half a year later, they also gave up. Then, in 1954, Pascal passed away at the age of 60. His untimely death returned Lerner and Loewe’s thoughts to Pygmalion. Deciding that the project was worth one more try, they painstakingly began writing what was to become My Fair Lady.

4. MALE LEAD REX HARRISON GOT THROUGH HIS SONGS WITH A FLEXIBLE “TALK-SINGING” STYLE.

When Harrison landed the role of Henry Higgins, it certainly wasn’t because of his singing voice. Indeed, the veteran actor told Lerner and Loewe that he’d never sung on stage before. Fortunately, Higgins’ songs weren’t too vocally demanding and, throughout much of the show, Harrison simply talked to a musical beat. “I was using the melody, but not singing it,” he explained to the BBC. “I mean, I could use [musical] notes, and sometimes when I was doing the play I used to use quite a lot of the notes. Sometimes I would use hardly any of the notes. But I was able to sort of jiggle it about.” (In the show's movie adaptation, the intricacy of the patter songs led to Harrison singing them live on set—an anomaly at the time.)

5. DIRECTOR MOSS HART TOOK TWO DAYS OFF TO WORK WITH JULIE ANDREWS ONE-ON-ONE.

When Julie Andrews, then just 19, was cast as Eliza Doolittle, the young actress found herself intimidated by the part. “[It] became obvious … that I was hopelessly out of my depth as Eliza Doolittle,” she said. To help his star find her footing, Hart canceled a weekend of full-cast rehearsals and gave Andrews step-by-step assistance. “For those two days,” she recalls, “… [we] hammered through each scene—everything from Eliza’s entrance, her screaming and yelling, to her transformation into a lady at the end of the play.” All that hard work really paid off: Once normal rehearsals resumed, just about everyone noticed a dramatic boost in Andrews’ confidence.

6. THE SHOW HAD A NUMBER OF WORKING TITLES.

At first, the show went by Liza, which eventually evolved into Lady Liza. However, Harrison didn’t care for either name because he felt that they both relegated his character to second fiddle status. A number of alternatives were then tossed around—including Fanfaroon, a British slang term meaning “one who brags about himself.” Finally, Loewe and Lerner lifted the words my fair lady from the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down.” This three-word title satisfied Harrison, and the rest is history.

7. A DEAD PENGUIN WAS THE ORIGINAL RUN’S BACKSTAGE MASCOT.

A dedicated Shaw fan, Harrison wanted My Fair Lady to resemble its source material as closely as possible. At rehearsals, he habitually brought along a Penguin edition copy of the Pygmalion script. Whenever a line of My Fair Lady’s dialogue didn’t seem right to Harrison, he’d look up and shout “Where’s my Penguin?”

One day, Lerner decided to have a little fun with this. “I went to a taxidermist,” he told the Glasgow Herald, “and purchased a stuffed penguin. The next time Rex cried out ‘Where’s my Penguin?’ the stuffed bird was rolled on to the stage … and everyone howled with laughter.” Apparently, Harrison took it with good humor. After the incident, he stopped asking for his Penguin script—and kept the deceased avian in his dressing room as a mascot.

8. THE RAIN IN SPAIN STAYS MAINLY IN THE … HILLS AND MOUNTAINS.

Get your facts straight, Henry Higgins! In one of Act I’s most popular songs, Higgins, Eliza, and Colonel Pickering declare that “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” But catchy as it may be, the little number is not meteorologically accurate. Every year, Spain’s northern hills and mountains receive far more rainfall than the plains to the south.

9. THE VERY FIRST PREVIEW WAS ALMOST CANCELED.

Before it came to Broadway, My Fair Lady had its opening preview in New Haven, Connecticut on February 4, 1956. Unfortunately, Rex Harrison nearly derailed the production. Earlier that day, there was a last-minute rehearsal with the orchestra—which Harrison had never heard before. As soon as they started playing, the actor’s self-doubts about his singing voice immediately resurfaced. “Mossy,” he said to Hart, “I’m not opening tonight and, as a matter of fact, I may never open.”

Hart decided to dismiss his cast and pull the performance. But Mother Nature had other ideas: A powerful snowstorm kept word of the show’s cancellation from getting out. Unaware of the backstage chaos, many ticket buyers showed up early. With a crowd gathering and the theater threatening legal action, Hart called everyone back. By then, though, the players had dispersed pretty widely. As assistant stage manager Jerry Adler recollects, messengers were dispatched “to restaurants, gyms, and even announced at a movie theater mid-screening that actors from My Fair Lady should report back to the theater.”

After everyone was tracked down, the curtain finally went up. To put it mildly, the audience got its money’s worth. Each number was met with uproarious applause—especially “The Rain in Spain.” There was so much clapping after the song that the actors felt compelled to take an unscripted bow before moving on.

10. FIFTEEN MINUTES OF MATERIAL WAS CUT.

The Connecticut crowd may have loved what they saw at the preview, but My Fair Lady’s creators thought there was room for improvement. To shorten the show's runtime, seven songs were deleted. Among them was a tender ballad called “Say a Prayer for Me Tonight.” Conceived as a solo for Eliza, this song later appeared in the movie musical Gigi (1958)—which Lerner and Loewe scored.

11. THE ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING TOPPED THE BILLBOARD CHARTS.

For 15 weeks, the show's album held down the number one slot. Within its first year alone, the My Fair Lady cast recording became the best-selling album that Columbia Records had ever seen, netting $5 million that year. Over the next 10 years, it would sell a then-impressive 5 million copies.

12. FOR THE 1964 FILM VERSION, AUDREY HEPBURN’S SINGING VOICE WAS DUBBED OVER.

When Warner Bros. decided to make an adaptation of My Fair Lady for the silver screen, the studio asked Rex Harrison to reprise his role. Julie Andrews, in contrast, received no such invitation: The actress was not yet a household name, so producer Jack Warner passed her over for the better-known Audrey Hepburn.

Hepburn’s inexperienced pipes caused some concern. Upon landing the role of Eliza, she began working tirelessly on her songs with a vocal coach. Still, director George Cukor decided that Hepburn would have to be dubbed over. Ultimately, 95 percent of Eliza’s singing in My Fair Lady was performed by Marni Nixon, who’d done similar dub work for The King and I (1956) and West Side Story (1961).

Meanwhile, being replaced by Hepburn was arguably the best thing that could have happened to Julie Andrews: It freed her up to star in a little movie called Mary Poppins. At the 1965 Golden Globes, Andrews was nominated for Mary Poppins, and Hepburn was nominated for My Fair Lady. Andrews was victorious, and after claiming her award, Andrews wrapped up her speech by saying, “Finally, my thanks to a man who made a wonderful movie and who made all this possible in the first place: Mister Jack Warner.” To his credit, he laughed right along with everyone else. Andrews would go on to win an Oscar for her performance in Mary Poppins, too.

13. AT ITS TIME, THE MY FAIR LADY MOVIE WAS THE HIGHEST-GROSSING PICTURE IN WARNER BROTHERS HISTORY.

Following its release on Christmas Day 1964, the film version of My Fair Lady brought in a studio-best $72 million. At the following Academy Awards, it won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Harrison), and Best Director (for Cukor). By comparison, the musical’s original Broadway production brought home six Tonys—one of which provided Harrison with yet another Best Actor title. 

14. HARRISON’S PROFESSOR HIGGINS HELPED INSPIRE A POPULAR FAMILY GUY VOICE.

A hardcore musical theater buff, Seth MacFarlane has long revered Harrison—and particularly his performance in My Fair Lady“In college, I had sort of worked up an impression of Rex Harrison in order to get girls,” show creator MacFarlane once said. While developing a voice for Stewie Griffin—Family Guy’s maniacal baby—he decided to go with a snobby British dialect that sounds distinctly Higgins-esque.

15. JULIE ANDREWS IS CURRENTLY DIRECTING A 60TH ANNIVERSARY REVIVAL IN AUSTRALIA.

To celebrate 60 years of Ascot races and dancing all night, Sydney’s world-famous Joan Sutherland Theatre asked Andrews if she’d consider directing a new production of the show that helped make her a star. Andrews said she was thrilled to accept. My Fair Lady is, as she puts it, “a beautifully-constructed musical, which is its strength, really.”

Andrews won’t be the revival’s only link to the 1956 version. The show, which opens this August, will also base its sets and costumes upon designs used by the original creative team. 

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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15 Educational Facts About Old School
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DreamWorks

Old School starred Luke Wilson as Mitch Martin, an attorney who—after catching his girlfriend cheating, and through some real estate and bitter dean-related circumstances—becomes the leader of a not-quite-official college fraternity. Along with his fellow thirtysomething friends Bernard (Vince Vaughn) and newlywed Frank (Will Ferrell), they end up having to fight for their right to maintain their status as a party-loving frat on campus.

The film, which was released 15 years ago today, marked Vaughn’s return to major comedies and Ferrell’s first major starring role after seven years on Saturday Night Live. Here are some facts about the movie for everyone, but particularly for my boy, Blue.

1. THE IDEA ORIGINATED WITH AN AD GUY.

Writer-director Todd Phillips was talking to a friend of his from the advertising industry named Court Crandall one day. Crandall had seen and enjoyed Phillips's movie Frat House (1998) and told his director buddy, “You know what would be funny is a movie about older guys who start a fraternity of their own.” After being told by Phillips to write it, he presented Phillips with a “loose version” of the finished product.

2. SOME OF THE FRAT SHENANIGANS WERE REAL.

While Crandall received the story credit for Old School, Phillips and Scot Armstrong received the credit for writing the script. Armstrong put his own college fraternity experiences into the script. “We were in Peoria, Illinois, so it was up to us to entertain ourselves," Armstrong shared in the movie's official production notes. "A lot of ideas for Old School came from things that really happened. When it was cold, everyone would go stir crazy and it inspired some moments of brilliance. Of course, my definition of ‘brilliance' might be different from other people's.”

3. IVAN REITMAN HELPED OUT.

Ivan Reitman, director of Stripes and Ghostbusters, was an executive producer on the film. Phillips and Armstrong wrote and rewrote every day for two months at Reitman’s house, an experience Phillips described as comedy writing “boot camp.”

4. THE STUDIO DIDN’T WANT VINCE VAUGHN.

Vince Vaughn in 'Old School' (2003)
DreamWorks

It didn’t seem to make a difference to DreamWorks that Phillips and Armstrong had written the role of Bernard with Vince Vaughn in mind—the studio didn't want him. After his breakout success in Swingers, Vaughn had taken roles in dramas like the 1998 remake of Psycho. “So when Todd Phillips wanted me for Old School, the studio didn’t want me,” Vaughn told Variety in 2015. “They didn’t think I could do comedy! They said, ‘He’s a dramatic actor from smaller films.’ Todd really had to push for me.”

5. RECYCLED SHOTS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY WERE USED.

The film was mainly shot on the Westwood campus of UCLA. The aerial shots of the fictitious Harrison University, however, were of Harvard; they had been shot for Road Trip (2000).

6. VINCE VAUGHN FANS MIGHT RECOGNIZE THE CHURCH.

In the film, Frank gets married at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena, California. Vaughn and Owen Wilson were in that same church two years later for Wedding Crashers (2005).

7. WILL FERRELL SCARED MEMBERS OF A 24-HOUR GYM.

Frank’s streaking scene was shot on a city street. As Ferrell remembered it, one of the storefronts was a 24-hour gym with Stairmasters and treadmills in the window. “I was rehearsing in a robe, and all these people are in the gym, watching me. I asked one of the production assistants, ‘Shouldn’t we tell them I’m going to be naked?’ Sure enough, I dropped my robe and there were shrieks of pure horror. After the first take, nobody was at the window anymore. I took that as a sign of approval.”

8. FERRELL REALLY WAS NAKED.

Ferrell justified it by saying it showed his character falling off the wagon. “The fact that it made sense was the reason I was really into doing it, and why I was able to commit on that level," Ferrell told the BBC. "If it was just for the sake of doing a crazy shot, then I don't think it makes sense.” Still, Ferrell needed some liquid courage, and was intimidated by the presence of Snoop Dogg.

9. ROB CORDDRY WAS NOT NAKED, BUT HE STILL HAD TO SIGN AWAY HIS NUDITY RIGHTS.

Old School marked the first major film role for Rob Corddry, who at the time was best known as a correspondent for The Daily Show. He had a jewel bag around his private parts for his nude scene, but his butt made it into the final cut. He had to sign a nudity clause, which gave the film the right to use his naked image “in any part of the universe, in any form, even that which is not devised.”

10. SNOOP DOGG AGREED TO CAMEO SO HE COULD PLAY HUGGY BEAR IN STARSKY & HUTCH.

Phillips admitted to essentially bribing the hip-hop artist/actor, using Snoop Dogg’s desire to play the street informant in the modern movie adaptation of the classic TV show (which Phillips was also directing) to his advantage. “So when I went to him I said, 'I want you to do Huggy Bear,' he was really excited. And I said, 'Oh yeah, also will you do this little thing for me in Old School a little cameo?' So he kind of had to do it I think."

11. SNOOP WANTED TO HANG OUT WITH VINCE VAUGHN ON SET, BUT NOT LUKE WILSON.

Snoop Dogg in 'Old School' (2003)
Richard Foreman, Dreamworks

Vaughn and his friends accepted an invitation to hang out in Snoop Dogg’s trailer to play video games on the last day of shooting. Vaughn recalled seeing Luke Wilson later watching the news alone in his trailer; he had not been informed of the get-together.

12. WILSON WAS TEASED BY HIS CO-STARS.

Vaughn, Wilson, and Ferrell dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack”—years before Phillips directed The Hangover—because they would always make fun of each other. A particularly stinging exchange had Ferrell refer to Legally Blonde (which Wilson had starred in) as Legally Bland. Wilson said it didn’t make him feel great. Wilson retorted by telling Ferrell that "the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!"

13. TERRY O’QUINN SCARED HIS SONS INTO THINKING THEY WERE TRIPPING.

Terry O’Quinn (who went on to play John Locke on Lost the following year) agreed to play Goldberg, uncredited, in what was a two-day job for him. He neglected to inform his sons he was in the movie, and when they saw it, one of them called their father. “I got a call from my sons one night, and they said, ‘What were you doing in Old School? We didn’t even know you were in it!’ They said, ‘We’re sitting there, and the first time we see you, it’s, like, in a reflection in a window. And when we saw it, and we both thought we were, like, tripping or something!’”

14. THE EARMUFFS WERE IMPROVISED.

Before filming, Vaughn worked with Ferrell to figure out their characters' backstories and how they knew each other; he credited that with helping him figure out who Bernard was, which led to several ad-libbed moments. “The earmuff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to earmuff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are,” Vaughn explained.

15. FERRELL AND VAUGHN DIDN’T LOVE A SCRIPT FOR A SEQUEL.

Armstrong had written Old School Dos in 2006, which saw the frat going to Spring Break. Ferrell said that he and Vaughn read the script but felt like they would just be “kind of doing the same thing again.” Wilson, on the other hand, was excited over the new script.

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15 Fun Facts About Army of Darkness
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

On February 19, 1993, Army of Darkness—the third installment in Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell's Evil Dead franchise—made its way into U.S. theaters. You probably know all about Ash’s boomstick, but on the occasion of the hilarious horror comedy's 25th anniversary, it's worth a closer look.

1. ARMY OF DARKNESS ISN'T THE ENTIRE TITLE.

The film’s title is stylized onscreen as Bruce Campbell vs. Army of Darkness. This phrasing was Sam Raimi’s homage to the defunct Hollywood tradition of putting stars’ names in movie titles (like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein)—but the studio feared the long title would confuse moviegoers, so it was shortened for official purposes to just Army of Darkness.

2. EVEN THE SHORTER TITLE WASN'T RAIMI'S FIRST CHOICE.

Army of Darkness is the third installment of the Evil Dead series and the first to take place during the Middle Ages. Raimi’s original title for Army of Darkness was The Medieval Dead.

3. BRIDGET FONDA FINALLY GOT TO WORK WITH RAIMI.

Bridget Fonda makes a cameoas Ash’s girlfriend Linda during the beginning flashback sequence. She is the third actress in three films to play Linda (following actresses Betsy Baker and Denise Bixler). Fonda—a huge Evil Dead II fan—had originally auditioned to be in Raimi’s previous film, Darkman, but didn’t get the part.

4. ASH'S CAR HAD A LOT OF SCREEN EXPERIENCE.

The 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 allegedly appears in all of Sam Raimi’s films.

5. DARKMAN MADE ARMY OF DARKNESS POSSIBLE.

Raimi wanted to make Army of Darkness immediately following 1987’s Evil Dead II, but he struggled to find funding to finish his trilogy. The financial success of Raimi’s 1990 film, Darkman, eventually convinced Universal Studios to split the $12 million budget with executive producer Dino De Laurentiis.

6. A SUBTLE SCIENCE FICTION REFERENCE PLAYS A KEY ROLE.

The words Ash must utter to safely retrieve the Necronomicon (“Klaatu verata nikto”) are actually a variation on a phrase from the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that film, “Klaatu barada nitko” is the phrase one must say to stop the robot Gort from destroying Earth.

7. THE SKELETON DEADITES WERE AN HOMAGE.

Their design is a tribute to visual effects legend Ray Harryhausen.

8. THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN MAKES AN APPEARANCE.

Billy Bryan, the actor who portrays the second monster in the medieval pit, also portrayed the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters.

9. SAM RAIMI'S BROTHER WORE A LOT OF HATS.

Ted Raimi—who makes cameos in all of his brother’s films—appears as three different background characters in Army of Darkness. He is first seen as a sympathetic villager, then as a dying soldier during the final battle, and, finally, as an S-Mart employee in the last scene.

10. RAIMI HAD TO FIGHT FOR AN R-RATING.

In keeping with the gory first two films in the series, Army of Darkness received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. It was subsequently bumped down to an R rating after the filmmakers pointed out that the ostensible gore in the film was happening to skeletons.

11. PLAYING EVIL ASH WAS TOUGH FOR CAMPBELL.

It took makeup artists three hours to get Campbell ready for shooting.

12. RAIMI STORYBOARDED EVERY SINGLE SHOT IN THE MOVIE HIMSELF.

About 25 shots in the final battle are taken from storyboards originally used in the 1948 Victor Fleming film Joan of Arc, which were brought to Raimi’s attention by visual effects supervisor William Mesa. Mesa got them from a friend, who got them from Fleming himself.

13. THERE'S AN EASTER EGG FOR TREKKIES.

Star Trek fans will recognize the location where Ash learns the “Klaatu verata nikto” incantation. The scene was shot at the iconic Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California, where the famous “Arena” episode from Star Trek was also shot. The movie also shot in the Bronson Canyon area of Griffith Park in Los Angeles that served as the Batcave for the 1960s Batman television show.

14. THE STUDIO CHANGED THE ENDING.

Bruce Campbell stars in 'Army of Darkness' (1992)
Universal Pictures

The original conclusion of the film—which Universal Studios deemed too negative—featured Ash taking too much potion to get back to the present day and waking up in a future, post-apocalyptic London. The ending can be seen on subsequent director’s cuts of home video versions of Army of Darkness.

15. EVEN AFTER YEARS OF TRYING, A SEQUEL NEVER MATERIALIZED.

Beginning in 2015, Bruce Campbell reprised his role as Ash in the Ash vs Evil Dead TV series. While fans of the Evil Dead franchise love it, Raimi spent years trying to get a sequel to Army of Darkness off the ground. On the commentary track for the first season of Ash vs. Evil Dead, Raimi even shared a few of the discarded ideas he had for the film.

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