Ovid would have never dreamed that his story of the sculptor Pygmalion, who falls in love with his Statue of Galatea, would one day be transformed into the most successful musical of all times. In 1912, this story from antiquity inspired George Bernard Shaw to write his comedy »Pygmalion«, in which a simple flower girl becomes a lady of high society by learning perfect pronunciation and good behaviour. The first film adaptation of this popular play was made in 1938 by Gabriel Pascal. Though composers the likes of Franz Lehár sought the rights to a musical version of »Pygmalion«, Shaw refused to grant them. Only alter his death did his executors give Pascal permission to turn it into a commercial musical. After numerous rejections by reputable authors such as Cole Porter and Noël Coward, Pascal was finally able to get lyricist Alan J. Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe to collaborate on his idea. »My Fair Lady« celebrated its premiere on Broadway in 1956. Its success surpassed all expectations, thanks not least of all to Rex Harrison in the role of Higgins and the young English actress Julie Andrews as Eliza. The movie version, directed by George Cukor, was a box-Office Sensation, netting $ 74 million and being awarded eight Oscars - though none for Audrey Hepburn, who replaced Julie Andrews as Eliza, Andrews picking up the coveted award that year for her role in »Mary Poppins«.
The cranky phonetician Prof. Henry Higgins runs into the flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who speaks a thick Cockney Slang, outside the Opera at Convent Garden. He makes a bet with his colleague Colonel Pickering that in a matter of weeks he can turn Eliza into a lady and present her in high society. Eliza’s father, the dustman Alfred P. Doolittle, tries to profit from the venture himself. Alas, Eliza turns out to be such a stubborn pupil that her teacher is about to give up on her. But in the end Higgins does success in training her to speak properly. Eliza, now dope up like a lady, makes her first appearance in high society at the horse races in Ascot. The young Freddy Eynsford-Hill is so charmed by her occasional ribald comments that he immedi- ately falls in love with her. A few months of hard work later, Eliza is the centre of attention at a grand ball. Pickering has to own up that he’s lost the bet. Eliza, for her part, suddenly realizes that Higgins only rares about the bet and that she herself was of secondary importance. She leaves his house to return to her former life – only to discover that she no longer fits in. She finds refuge at the home of Higgins’s mother. A final argument ensues before Higgins reluctantly admits that he’s »grown accustomed to her face.«