My Fair Lady was a big hit in 1964. It won eighth Oscars and remains a classic to this day. However, there was a bit of controversy between Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews, who starred in Mary Poppins that same year. In recent interviews, Andrews downplayed the rivalry.
The controversy lasted long enough to make it onto Blu-ray editions of My Fair Lady. Paramount Pictures released the film on 4K UHD on May 25. The release included the previous Blu-ray bonus features in which Andrews addressed the fallout with Hepburn.
Julie Andrews originated Audrey Hepburn’s role in ‘My Fair Lady’
Andrew played Eliza Doolitte on stage, but when Warner Brothers made the movie, they wanted a big star like Audrey Hepburn. Disney was taking a chance on Andrew for her first movie, Mary Poppins. Andrews said she wasn’t expecting to reprise her My Fair Lady role on film.
“To be honest, I didnt hold out that much hope that I was going to get the role,” Andrews said. “I wished for it and wanted it but I don’t think I thought I would get it. So it wasn’t as desperately awful a disappointment as people think that it might have been.”
Audrey Hepburn still didn’t sing in ‘My Fair Lady’
Hepburn was a big name actor, but the studio still wanted a voice like Andrews. They ultimately hired Marni Nixon to sing the songs in My Fair Lady. Former head of Warner Brothers Post Production Rudy Fehr remembered coming between director George Cukor and music supervisor André Previn.
The music department lined up eight very good singers, made voice tests. I was in the projection room with George Cukor the director, André Previn the musical director. 10 days after that I get a call from Jack Warner. He said, ‘Rudy, I’m going nuts between these two guys. They will not make up their minds who to use as a voice for Audrey Hepburn. Did you hear the tests?’ I said, ‘Yes, I did.’ ‘Who do you like?’ I said, ‘In my opinion there’s just one girl who is perfect for this part and that is Marni Nixon.’ He said, ‘She’s got the job.’ That’s the way it was handled.”
Hepburn herself threw some shade at the practice. In an interview from 1964, she told a reporter, “I must say I take my hat off to the marveous people in Hollywood who twiddle all the knobs and who can make one voice out of two.”
The rumor that plagued Julie Andrews’ Oscar win
Hepburn would not get an Oscar nomination for My Fair Lady. Andrews would win an Oscar for Mary Poppins. Rumors since that time were that the Academy voted for Andrews because she had lost out on My Fair Lady. At the time, Andrews rejected that theory.
“I’d like to think that I won it for good reasons rather than for those,” she said in an archival interview.
However, in a newer interview, Andrews conceded she thought the rumors might have had something to do with it.
“I’ll never know to this day whether it was sentiment that won it for me or whether the performance in Poppins really did,” Andrews said. “I think it’s the sentiment myself.”