Tag Archive: Rex Harrison


I’m starting this new segment today, called Question Time. This is not a quiz, for that would require a general knowledge of the particular subject. No, this is more to do with a matter of opinion. More specifically, your opinion, for anyone that’s interested. So play along and enjoy.

My Fair Lady (1964) * &

Eliza Doolittle (AH)
Q° 1. Julie Andrews played the role of Eliza Doolittle, on Broadway (USA) and West End (UK) in the late 50’s, in My Fair Lady, a stage musical adaptation of the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. In Hollywood’s grand cinematic musical adaptation of My Fair Lady (1964), the role of Miss. Doolittle went to Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn gave a brilliant performance, but, for the songs, her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon.
Would you have preferred :-
a) to hear what Audrey Hepburn’s vocals actually sounded like in lieu of Nixon’s?
b) to see Julie Andrews play the role in the movie version as well, instead of Hepburn?
-or-
c) not change anything about the movie?

Q° 2. In the end of My Fair Lady (1964), Eliza goes back to Professor Higgins. If it were set in the 60’s itself, instead of the Edwardian period, should she :-
a) have gone back to him?
b) hooked up with young Freddie, who was infatuated with her?
-or-
c) lead an independent life altogether without either of them?

Q° 3. In 1965, at the 37th Academy Awards, Rex Harrison took home the Best Actor trophy for My Fair Lady (1964), while Julie Andrews bagged the Best Actress Oscar for Mary Poppins (1964). Audrey Hepburn was not even nominated. Do you feel Audrey Hepburn should have won the Oscar that year? Or at least been nominated for My Fair Lady (1964)?

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Roman ruins (During the Roman Spring of 2005) in the Roman Forum

Roman ruins (During the Roman Spring of 2005) in the Roman Forum

The Ides of March, i.e. the 15th of March, happens to be the middle of the first month according to the ancient Roman Calendar, whence the month of March use to be the first month of the year (back then there were only 10 months in a calendar, and 51 days of the winter season were not accredited to any month), March also signified the start of Spring, thus back then there use to be many a religious observations and festivals culminating with the Ides of March. Ironically, the Ides of March is also coherent with the death of Julius Caesar, the man responsible for re-formatting the calendar, making it easier, i.e. the Julian Calendar.

From Roman times to today: The Calendar

The Roman Calendar (made in 753 BC)  is attributed as being the brainchild Romulas, the founder of Rome. The calendar began with the spring equinox, thus making March the first month, and the Ides of March (15th of March now) the middle of the Month, and in the first calendar year, Ides of March might have been a full moon day as well. Since this calendar had only 10 months, and no consistent dates, it was revived in 713 BC by King Numa Pompilius. Whereas he added two more months, but days per month differed, and for leap years, he added days to more than one leap month. Then, the high priest of the College of Pontiffs, Pontifex Maximus, lengthened the year by inserting an extra month, thus now having 13 months a year, around the early 1st century BC. 

In 45 BC, Julius Caesar re-revised the calendar, making it much easier, called the Julian calendar. He had the year consisting of, 365 days, divided by 12 months, abolishing the extra month, and a leap year added every four years, to the month of February.

Then it was re-polished up a bit in 1582 AD, by Pope Gregory XIII, which majority of the world uses as the civil calendar today, except for, apparently, countries like Saudi Arabia (uses the Islamic calendar for all purposes), Ethiopia (uses mainly the Ethiopian calendar), Iran and Afghanistan (uses mainly the Persian calendar). Two countries, mainly use the civil calendar, but also use their own for religious reasons, i.e. in India (along with Indonesia’s Java and Bali regions) some people use the Indian national calendar (a 1957 reformed Hindu calendar) as well ; and in Israel (they also use the Hebrew calendar).  

Hail Caesar !!!

With Julius Caesar in Jardin des Tuileries, Paris (April 2009)

With Julius Caesar in Jardin des Tuileries, Paris (April 2009)

 Ever since I was kid, I’ve known who Julius Caesar was, and was aware of Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Mainly due to my late grandfather (my maternal grandfather), who loved throwing famous quotes and clichés at us. His most favourite was ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him’, the first line uttered by Mark Antony, from his speech at Caesar’s funeral from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This speech is famous for, not only the way Mark Antony ends up praising Caesar, but also how he manipulates it to inform the general public of the conspiracy, and finally verbally attack the opponents. A style used by a lot of politicians running for office today. If, when it comes to cinema, ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, from Gone with the Wind (1939), happens to be the most quoted line in history of film; and Casablanca (1942), is famous for having the most amount of quoted lines within one movie; in literature, this 16th Century play definitely has, not only the most amount of famous quotes in one text, but also the most famous line ever quoted. Some of the other famous lines from Julius Caesar, include; ‘Et tu, Brute?’ (You too, Brutus?), ‘Beware, The Ides of March are upon us’, ‘Then fall, Caesar’ and ‘Did not great Julius bleed for justice’ sake?’, to mention a few. My late grandfather would sometimes, out of the blue, all of a sudden say, ‘Hail, Caesar !’, Yes, ‘guess eccentricities run in the family. He was a person of great taste, when it came to literature, music and cinema (Westerns mainly). Healthy as ever for his 82 years, he died when a speeding car killed him, 10 years and 10 months ago to date. Julius Caesar was killed today in 44BC. I visited The Roman Forum, now in ruins, in the spring (April) of 2005, during my month long Eurotrip. And I saw Caesar’s grave (just some red bricks now) where he was cremated, and saw the ruins of the portico of Theatre of Pompey, where the senators plotted and killed Caesar.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

I did this play for Bachelors in Delhi University, back in the late 90’s. 

JC On Celluloid 

Many a actors have played Julius Caesar in many a movies since the birth of Cinema, besides the stage and the small screen. From Charles Kent (the silent era, 1908) to Claude Rains (1940’s) to John Gavin (late 50’s) to Alec Guinness (the 70’s) to Timothy Dalton (the 90’s) to Alain Delon (2008), there have been more than a 100 JC’s on the big screen alone within those hundred years.  From the ones I’ve seen till date, the most powerful performance happens to be that of Rex Harrison in Cleopatra (1963).

Now, a new cinematic venture, on the life of young Julius Caesar, is in production, titled Emperor: Young Caesar. The film will depict Caesar’s early years from 92 BC to 71 BC. Caesar was born in the month of July (Julius), in 100 BC.

I am really looking forward to this movie to be directed by Burr Gore Steers (nephew of novelist, the late Gore Vidal and also of the former US first lady, the late Jacqueline Kennedy), whose directorial debut, the dark comedy, Igby Goes Down (2002), was very good movie, that I liked, though not excellent. I really hope he does an excellent job here.

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Julius Caesar on Celluloid

Julius Caesar on Celluloid

 Pix: Top Left -Marlon Brando (playing Mark Antony) in the poster of the film Julius Caesar (1953), based on Shakespeare’s acclaimed play, along with other cast members below him. Let me be a little clearer here, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, does not deal with Caesar’s life. The play is actually about the plot and murder of Caesar and the aftermath. And Caesar generally is almost always depicted in heavy robes, while Mark Antony, a soldier, in a mini tunic. 

Top Right (main picture)- Poster of film Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) depicting Vivien Leigh (who plays Cleopatra) and Claude Rains (JC); (inset picture) ex-James Bond (of the 80’s), playing JC, actor Timothy Dalton in Cleopatra (1999), I watched this back in the late 90’s, and it was one of the worst television movies I have ever seen till date, and Dalton was just as bad.

Bottom (main picture) Rex Harrison playing JC in Cleopatra (1963), among the best films I’ve seen till date; (inset picture) Alain Delon in the French comedy,  Astérix aux jeux olympiques (2008). 

– Nuwan Sen’s Historical Sense – Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense.

Today happens to be the birth anniversaries of three distinguished artists from three different fields of the world of arts. One was a prominent British actor, Rex Harrison; another a controversial Italian film director, Pier Paolo Pasolini; and last but not least a teenage music sensation of the 70’s, Andy Gibb.

The Actor & The Film Director

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Rex Harrison (1908-1990)

I’ve known Rex Harrison, ever since I was a little kid, especially thanks to his roles of Professor Henry Higgins from My Fair Lady (1964), and Julius Caesar in Cleopatra (1963). I have a vague memory of having watched Doctor Doolittle (1967) as a kid as well, but I don’t remember it at all, except for a talking parrot, and lots of animals in a dried up deserted location. I’m not that familiar with Harrison’s works from the 1930’s & 40’s, but have loved most his work from the 50’s & 60’s.

My favourite Harrison character happens to be from My fair Lady.

Professor Higgins

Professor Higgins happens to be a very uniquely brash yet likable, highly sophisticated yet ill mannered, dignified yet indecent, eccentric yet admirable, Edwardian gentleman, who doesn’t know how to treat a lady. A Professor of phonetics, who’s appalled with the modern day butchering of the English Language, which he upholds with the highest regard.

Love the bugger !!! Whoops!! (my apologies to Professor Higgins) Mainly for his penchant for the highly polished use of the English Language. I wonder what he’d say, if he’s existed today. Worst if he were to meet an Australian. Higgins would die of a heart attack. “Poooor Professor Higgins” (sing along).

What’s most interesting is the fact, when Eliza Doolittle (played by my all time favourite star, the adorable Audrey Hepburn) has an argument with him, throws his bedroom slippers at him and leaves, for being treated as doormat, he genuinely has no clue as to why she was so mad at him. You actually feel sorry for “Poooor Professor Higgins”. And I love the way he screams for his “Mother!!!”. Well, they really don’t make such uniquely crafted, timeless, unforgettable characters anymore.

My Fair Lady, was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (the title of the play’s refers to a tale from Greek Mythology).

Julius Caesar

Hail Caesar!! Another great role, where he is seduced by the bewitchingly beautiful Cleopatra (played by an equally bewitching beauty, Elizabeth Taylor). It’s not just Caesar and Marc Anthony (and the actor playing Anthony, i.e. Richard Burton), but we, the people who have watched this movie, too were seduced by both Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was Cleopatra incarnate, can’t think of any one better to play this milk bathen beauty. But Caesar wasn’t just seduced by her beauty, he saw her as an equal, an intellectual, powerful and fit to rule a country. He was seduced by her knowledge of the world, geographical locations, and her modernist views to have equality beyond borders so the world would be a peaceful place to live without any more wars. Yet, ironically, she ended up being the woman responsible for burning of a thousand ships. Very powerful roles from all three cast members. As a teenager I read Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra, and for my Bachelors I studied Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Love both these plays, and Cleopatra, the movie that’s not based on these plays, but historical accounts. 

Rex Harrison also appeared in a pretty good (not great) Bollywood gem heist of a movie in the late 70’s, Shalimar (1978), with an international cast from various different countries. 

Rex Harrison Films

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Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975)

Unlike Rex Harrison, film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, is not somebody I knew as a child. Makes sense as majority of his flicks happen to be not really eligible for innocent little minds. It’s somewhere in in the early mid-90’s as a teenager, that I first heard of Pasolini, but it was much later that I finally actually got a chance to watch his masterpieces, i.e. within last decade.     

Pasolini, and fellow Italian director Fellini, happen to be two of the most controversial characters of modern cinema, cinema of the 50’s, 60’s and the 70’s. They were a rare two, who dared to challenge censorship laws, and their works contained very graphic content, in reference to sex, nudity, violence and very mature unorthodox concepts itself. The two directors were also famous, having worked together a few times before,  for a spat during the making of a project called ‘Satyricon’ in the late 60’s, to the extent that Fellini renamed this surrealist movie and released it as Fellini – Satyricon (1969).  I’ve actually watched more works of Fellini than Pasolini. Like Salvador Dalí was to art world, both Fellini and Pasolini were supremacist surrealist in the world of cinema.

Two of the best films of Pasolini’s I’ve watched, happen to be, Teorema (1968) and Il Decameron (1971)

Teorema

Teorema, was unusual story of a stranger (Terence Stamp) who comes to live with a bourgeois Italian family in their beautiful luxurious villa, and manages to seduce everyone sexually. The father, the mother, the two teenage children and the family maid.

Il Decameron

Il Decameron is anthology film based on nine stories from Decameron, by the 14th Century poet Giovanni Boccaccio. Pasolini, himself was a poet and writer. Pasolini’s lover, actor Ninetto Davoli, appeared in small roles in many of Pasolini’s films, including a small role in Teorema, and a more significant role in Il Decameron. 

Am yet to watch his most controversial, and last, movie,  Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975), based on the famed Libertine novel by Marquis de Sade (18th Century French aristocrat, philosopher and writer). But I have watched a movie based the Marquis’ life in prison, called Quills (2000) starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet. 

Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in 1975 under mysterious circumstances, post the release of Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma.

Pasolini directed films

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Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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Andy Gibb (1958-1988)

Andy Gibb

Andy Gibb was a teenage pop music sensation of the 70’s & early 80’s. The youngest (4th) of the Gibb brothers, the elder trio formed the band Bee Gees. Andy Gibb’s success was always overshadowed by the fame of his older brothers, and never got a chance to join the famed group. Especially as he was a whole decade younger that his three elder brothers (who were all born post WWII, mid to late 1940’s). Andy Gibb never got the recognition the Bee Gees enjoyed. Soon drugs and depression took over, and was root cause for his decline, and ultimate demise. Although towards the end of his life he did clean up, and drugs were out of his life, his depression remained, and just after celebrating his 30th Birthday on the 5th of March 1988, he was admitted to hospital for chest pains. Five days after his 30th Birthday Andy Gibb passed away.   

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Nuwan Sen’s Musical Sense

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