This is one of those videos that falls into the "sort of remarkable" category. It's about musical theater, but even if you don't care much for that sort of thing, it's hard to imagine that most people wouldn't recognize the historic nature of how amazing this is.
Rex Harrison famously starred in My Fair Lady in 1956, one of the iconic roles in Broadway history, and later repeated the role in London's West End and then won the Oscar as Best Actor in the 1964 film version. In 1981, the show got revived for Broadway and a national tour with Harrison re-creating his starring role as Henry Higgins.
(Side note: that production was notable for another performer re-creating her original role. When the show was first done on Broadway, actress Cathleen Nesbitt played Prof. Higgins' mother. He was no young up-and-comer at the time, but a highly regarded, long-established actor of 48. She in turn, playing his mother, was 68. When the musical was revived for that 1981 production and Rex Harrison -- then 73 -- was again starring, the question was who could play his mother (and be believable). Well...Cathleen Nesbitt was still around, and she returned to once more do the role At the age of 93! I saw the show when it was in Los Angles, and it was terrific. The joy, of course, was to see Harrison in his most-famous role. But the most fun may have been to see Cathleen Nesbitt. She was wonderful. The only concession to her age was that in her entrance to the Ascot race sequence, she was led in by two "young gentleman" escorting her arm-in-arm.)
Anyway, for that 1981 revival, Rex Harrison apparently appeared on some television show, and performed "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." I thought from the video description it would live on stage, but alas it's only in a TV studio. Still, it's nice to see.
But that's okay. Because it's not the Oh-my-God "sort of remarkable" part of this.
It's that the video then blends into Rex Harrison -- live on stage -- during the original Broadway run of My Fair Lady performing the same song!!
Yes, we've seen him do it in the movie, but this is the original. This is where it all came from. This is how it was first staged. This is history. And for all the times we may have seen the film, Harrison's impeccable performance is well-honed by that point, from hundreds, if not thousands of performances. And done in a magnificent setting. Here there's an almost-rawness to the performance, and set against a simple stage backdrop and looking down from a high angle, we get a far better sense of a man all alone on stage, acting, seeing a legend at work.
The audio is somewhat okay and video quality isn't great -- but everything else about this is just tremendous. Footage of My Fair Lady at the time, one of the landmark shows in Broadway theater history, is rare. A couple of television small appearances, and one or two TV specials, but that's it, nothing on stage that I've ever found. Until this.
[Update: It's worth reading the comments discussion below. I may have reversed the videos, and it's possible that the first one in a TV studio is from 1957, while the second on stage is from the 1981 revival. I don't know. Even if so, it's great to see Rex Harrison perform his iconic role live on stage -- but the historic aspect is obviously not as high, if that's the case.]
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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