Today, May 20, 2014, we honor a character from a musical play and a
Queen of England! (Okay, maybe a day late for her!) Yesterday, May 19,
2014 was a federal statutory holiday called, “Victoria Day,” in Canada.
On my home calendar, they accidentally had it on the 20th! This extra
special day first came about for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s 35th
That historic day had begun at midnight, with a ‘gun salute.’ I wonder
now if it was to wake everyone or maybe the party goers cavorted all
night and were already awake?
Annual celebrations included ‘pre-dawn serenades,’ athletic contests
or competitions, ‘torch-light processions,’ picnics and all-out 19th
Century revelry. This Canadian Patriotic Holiday makes it sound like
the United States’ Fourth of July celebrations!
There were two names listed, both French for Quebec’s celebration of
“Fete de Dollard” which lasted from the period of the “Quiet Revolution”
until 2003 and “Fete de la Reine,” (party for the Queen) which continues
to this day.
Also, there is another fascinating woman who really is ‘featured’ today:
“Eliza Doolittle Day!”
Both these notable women could be considered ‘heroines,’ of sorts.
One who was the creation in the imagination, originally, of George
Bernard Shaw in his play, “Pygmalion.” In 1938, a film adaptation of
the original stage play was produced.
When it was revised to become a musical, in 1956, Lerner and Lowe
had collaborated on the lyrics and plot line. It became a very well-
respected and beloved Broadway musical. It still circulates among
high schools, colleges and independent acting theaters.
When in 1964, Lerner and Loew’s musical was transferred into movie
form, it “shone” with the star, Audrey Hepburn. I think that I may
have written in a former post, awhile back, that Julie Andrews was
dismayed not to have been asked to be in either “My Fair Lady” or
“Camelot’s” film versions. Both had directors who chose ‘non-singing’
female leads in Vanessa Redgrave and Audrey Hepburn.
Just for your information, Marni Nixon was the young woman who voiced
all of Eliza’s songs, in the 1964 film adaptation, “My Fair Lady.”
I love how she delivers the song, “Just You Wait (Henry Higgins).”
Audrey Hepburn, as an innocent waif, did an excellent and well-received
portrayal of the character simply described as ‘the flower girl.’ Her
name was Eliza Doolittle.
So, this is the character for whom we celebrate today!
The male lead, playing the character of Professor Henry Higgins, is Rex
The part of Colonel Hugh Pickering, was played by Wilfrid Hyde-White.
Another fine actor and singer was Stanley Holloway portraying Eliza’s
father. He belts out the song, “I’m Getting Married in the Morning”
in his full blown version of a ‘cockney’ accent.
The songs are lovely memories for me, hopefully for some of you.
The whole concept of the transformation of Eliza, ‘the flower girl,’
into a fine lady of ‘high society’ in Edwardian London came from a bet
or a ‘wager’ between the two men, Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering.
They happen to be ‘phoneticists’ or linguistics. They study phonics and
Higgins is the one who thinks he can change Eliza by using phonetics
and recordings to eliminate her ‘cockney’ accent. She is able to complete
this transformation into a refined and formal lady by a set time, to
attend a Ball. She falters as a stilted, yet genteel, lady at the Ascot
I remember, at age 9, going to see this “breath-taking” movie at the
theater with my family. It really enchanted me with the way the whole
story went, along with the costumes that were lovely. Not only for the
Ball, but the race track, too. My brothers and father did not complain,
it is funny, thinking back to that time. Sometimes, I think about the
many action movies we would go to where I would not say that I didn’t
really want to go. As a sign of the times, there were less choices
and one did what their parents ‘told them to do!’
Another amusing thought is that if “Eliza Doolittle” met the Queen
Victoria, what those two minds would have come up with! Especially
with one who was considered one of the longest reigning Monarch’s
of the British colonies and a simple ‘street urchin’ who had spunk
and a feisty nature indeed. I imagine there may have been some mutual
admiration for their strengths of character.
Now go on!
Celebrate with birthday cake and British tea or have a glass of wine to
cheer these women on!